Politics (Sorry) Not a Very Interesting Post…

That old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” it’s sure proving its curse value right now.

Last night something like 85 cities across the United States erupted in support of the African American man, George Floyd, who was killed by a white cop. I can’t begin to “write” about this. Part of my brain refuses to perceive it and that’s OK. It doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions but they are the opinions any person with a conscience should have. What happened to Floyd is wrong. Rioting is not demonstrating. Outsiders are involved. People are frustrated from being “locked down” because of C-19. It’s a perfect storm, and, selfishly, maybe, though I couldn’t change anything anyway, I’m glad I live here.

One big problem right now in the United States is the absence of leadership. Last night (the night before, the night before and the event itself) should have brought the president to the front of the “ship of state” to make a statement that would calm the nation. In the times he has spoken about it, he’s made it worse, giving tacit permission to far right groups to travel to hot spots and aggravate the situation. Last night he was invisible which was certainly for the best. Some of the best rioting was in front of the White House, but the occupant wasn’t home.

This vacuum has left leadership up to the governors of the various states. That and the C-19 debacle has given me a lot of respect for the governor of my state and many other states. Our system of government has many flaws but one thing that has proven NOT to be a flaw during this chain of disaster is the descending line of authority from BIG (the president) to SMALLER (the states) to SMALLEST (cities and towns). Since there’s a vacuum at the top, the “lower” order of leadership has stepped in, particularly in California and New York City. I guess when things are working, elements of the Constitution remain silent, invisible, but when things break? We get Goveronor Cuomo suddenly in the public eye making policy for our own good.

Not long ago I wrote a friend in Italy that he couldn’t understand what’s happening in this country without being here. He’d written me, giving me advice, implying that I might not know which candidate to vote for in November. He wrote to the effect that there is no real choice between Biden and Trump and that the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. In my mind I said to him, “You have no idea what you’ve said.” When I answered, I told him that he’d have to be here to understand and that we are currently involved in a kind of civil war. Since I wrote him, that civil war has escalated. I wonder what he sees now from where he sits, somewhere in Italy?

Anyway, I haven’t said anything here everyone doesn’t already know. I don’t have any answers. I don’t understand why skin color matters to anyone — sure, there it is, but so what? I don’t like being dismissed as a “White Person” and it’s obvious to me that no one would like to be dismissed as a Black person or a Latino person or an Asian person. There’s nothing more superficial than skin color, in a certain sense. In other senses, though, it has meaning, cultural meaning. Not all whites come from the same background, have the same heritage. That’s true of every single one of us whatever color we are. Any thinking person knows this. I cannot for the life of me understand why this isn’t obvious to everyone.


Two Months In…

I’ve reached a turning point with this virus and it seems many other people in this country have too. How that turning point turns might be an individual thing. I’m not angry, I’m not looking to get back to going to bars and clubs (what?), nothing like that. I know that because of my age and because of my pseudo-allergy which causes asthma, sometimes called Samter’s Triad and sometimes called Aspirin Exacerbated Respiratory Disease, I’m part of the vulnerable population. I also feel that because I have an income and I do not need to go to work, I should not be out there taking chances that could potentially take a hospital bed away from someone less lucky than I am.

But it’s getting to me. The other day — Memorial Day — when Bear and I got out of Bella at the Refuge, I started to cry. There was no reason. It was a nice morning, a cool day, a beautiful day. I had things on my mind. A demonstration/parade was being held and there was a chance it could turn ugly (it didn’t). Businesses in my valley are hurting and desperate to open up with the argument that there are just not that many cases down here. In fact, the number of cases has been steadily rising and people without symptoms can pass the virus along. I’ve decided not to deal with a couple of businesses who have publicly denied the reality of C-19. It’s one thing to want to reopen and willingly follow the guidelines; another to deny science and reality.

The last normal weekend before this started was the weekend of the Crane Festival, Monte Vista’s second biggest whoop-dee-do. The biggest whoop-dee-do — the Stampede — has been cancelled. My friend Lois and her son Mark were here for the festival and we had a great time. At the festival craft and nature show, I saw some people I like very much but seldom have the chance to see. There was much hugging and catching up and physical proximity. I spent a long time talking to a woman from Albuquerque who was there with a variety of raptors. It was great. Perfect human contact.

It’s just so strange that a week later, everything changed. I made my last in-person, walking around the store visit to the supermarket that week. It was eerie and awkward. Systems hadn’t been devised yet. No one really knew what to do or how to do anything. The push to sew masks hadn’t happened yet but was about to. Then there was this intense and hopeful and determined effort to help the hospitals and support the lockdown. People seemed to have been behind the whole idea of “flattening the curve.”

Six weeks in, people are “over it.” “The curve is flattened, let things get back to normal,” as if the governor of our state had made everyone stay home, at gun point. As if “flattening the curve” was a “cure” or vaccine for C-19.

In reality my life hasn’t changed a lot, but the strange political landscape and knowledge that this is going to go on for a while, well, it’s affected me. I’m going to have to figure out a way to “re-open,” so to speak, my own creative life because I’m figuring on this lasting until next spring. Summer’s are never easy for me anyway, and at least I have winter to look forward to.

Then, maybe???

This evening the sky was beautiful, golden, intense, and summery. The wind was fresh, and I went outside to talk on the phone with a friend. I would have taken Teddy for a walk, but I rode the bike-to-nowhere VERY far across some Spanish mountains, and I’ve learned that riding the bike FAR and walking don’t make for a very comfortable night’s sleep. I went back to watching a film I started last night and that I was enjoying. Bear came in from the back yard and I asked, “Do you want a cookie?” I got up to get her one. She didn’t stop in the kitchen. She went back outside. I followed her. There, in an orange, golden pink and azure sky from which a light rain was falling, was a rainbow, the first one of summer.

I’m Not “Woke”

Yesterday I imagine most people saw the video of the woman in Central Park who refused to leash her dog even though it was clearly posted that, entering that area, an area called “The Ramble,” dogs must be leashed.

And why? A little research showed me why. It’s a refuge. In that immense and convoluted canyon of humanity there is a bird refuge. According to the guy who made the video, Christian Cooper, one of the most elegantly articulate people I’ve ever heard (he used the word “scofflaw”. Who uses that? The English teacher heart in me soared a little), 230 different bird species have been seen in that part of Central Park. When the event happened Cooper was birdwatching. It was 7:30ish in the morning.

Personally, I couldn’t spend more than 24 hours in New York City without feeling claustrophobic. I’ve tried. It’s the opposite of “my” landscape. It’s the “Big Filled.” So, my heart reached out in sympathy for the 230 bird species and the man who was there to see them. First point.

Second point. I believe in leashing dogs where there is signage. I walk my dogs in a bird refuge. I don’t want them going after the birds (and they would. They’re dogs). I don’t want them defecating there, either, so I carry poop bags. Dog poop is NOT the same to the natural environment as wild animal poop. There’s a reason the fox population has suffered from dog Parvo leading to an overpopulation of rabbits, etc… Nature knows how to work. We don’t.

When I go to my places and a person has an unleashed dog I’m furious. Bear is a power, a force of nature, and she doesn’t like other dogs. By keeping her leashed, I am protecting other dogs. She won’t hurt them, but I still don’t want her to chase them and throw them down. I also want to be responsible for my dog’s behavior where other animals live. Dogs are predators. I’ve had dogs who stayed with me on a trail, but neither Bear nor Teddy will. I’ve also let my dogs run where there is nothing at stake.

So, here’s this selfish woman letting her dog run in one of the only places in NYC where there are birds and birders and the whole nature thing that sustains life and the human soul. Grrrrrrrrr…..

Then the man, whom I couldn’t see but who was taking video, asked her to stay back from him. C-19 right? She kept approaching, yelling at him, spraying (through her mask) particles and rage. As she screamed, she held her little dog by the collar, choking him until he cried out in pain.

Still she did not leash him. Instead she called the police on 911 (the emergency number) and demanded (yes) they come and rescue her from an African American man who was attacking her.

That was it. I suddenly understood something I’ve never understood before. She actually BELIEVED that the cops would come and save her from the African American man. She said nothing about what was going on, only that an African American man was after her. She BELIEVED that was enough to summon the cops.

And that, I saw, clearly and sorrowfully, is White Privilege.

Why didn’t I see it before?

I never taught a class that was predominantly white. Most of my classes were Latino, white and African American — literally AFRICAN American very often. What I HAVE seen in my own life are African American students believing that when I asked them to do something difficult I was setting them up for failure because of White Privilege. That was never the case. Yesterday I understood the angry and paranoid assumptions many of these students brought with them to my classes, their inability to look at a white teacher as an individual person.

How did that all work out back in the day? Well, invariably I stood my ground. I knew where those students wanted to go and I knew my job was to get them there, even if I had to fight with them. It always worked out but it was never easy. They stood in their own way most of the time. I think I was terrifying to them.

A few years after teaching one particularly challenging community college class with a student who would angrily disrupt a lecture or discussion every single class period, until the other students were fed up with HER, I was sitting outside my office at San Diego State in a plaza area with picnic tables. I saw that student at another table tutoring (Equal Opportunity Tutoring) another African American student. I was happy to see that she’d succeeded in transferring (in spite of herself) and that she was helping someone else.

Later, immersed in grading papers, I felt a tap on my shoulder, “Professor?” said a meek voice. I turned around and it was that girl. “Can I sit with you a minute?”

“Sure,” I said. “I saw you tutoring over there. Awesome.”

“I owe you a big apology. You weren’t trying to make me fail back there in that class. You knew what was ahead of me because you teach here, too. You knew what I’d be expected to do. That wasn’t no ‘Whiteman’s book’ either.”

She was speaking of Brave New World. “No, it’s everybody’s book.”

“I get that now. Anyway, I’m sorry and thank you for teaching me.” She gave me a hug and went away.

I saw that whole experience watching that video yesterday. The African American man in the video was pure class and intelligence. The woman was hysterical way beyond the scope of the situation. I don’t know what was going on in her head but it seems to have had little or nothing to do with reality. In many ways it reminded me of the tirades this particular student had leveled at me during class time. Accusations of racism, threats to report me to the department (that she carried out, resulting in my being observed a couple of times that semester and leading to my being asked not to teach Brave New World any longer as it was too difficult for the students [fucking college juniors for the love of God]), and attempts to create “sides” among the students. That didn’t work. That student assumed that the leadership of the college would agree with her. I don’t know if they did or not, but she was right in the bias; they expected a white teacher to be unable to relate to students of color. I was lectured about this. Students in the class were interviewed, too, resulting in the administration deciding that I was fine, the class was fine, it was that this student just had a problem with me. They offered to put her in another class, but she didn’t want to go.

SO…the woman in the video lost her job, had her dog taken from her and can no longer go to Central Park. The man in question said in an interview,

“It’s a little bit of a frenzy, and I am uncomfortable with that,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. “If our goal is to change the underlying factors, I am not sure that this young woman having her life completely torn apart serves that goal.”


I wrote something on Twitter yesterday in response to a comment made by a friend. I got this this morning.

I am not “woke.” I’m the same person I have always been. I was disgusted by more things in that encounter than the racism. The woman in the video demonstrated the lack of respect for nature I abhor. She mistreated her animal. She acted as if she was above the law. All those things disgust me. That she believed the cops would come to her aid “against” an African American man was just the cherry on the sundae.

I believe that as human beings we need to respect our world and all that is in it. What IF she’d leashed her dog? What IF she’d asked the man what he was doing there so early? What IF he’d introduced her to the idea of birding? What if she had been stunned to learn that there are 230 different species of birds frequenting that area? What if she had an inkling of life beyond herself, some curiosity, some optimism? She’s (to me) the same person demonstrating because the governor says the County of Alamosa has to wait 10 more days to open because it’s had a sudden up-tick in C-19 cases and it’s a good idea to wait and see. She’s the person that made me leave the classroom. “You can’t give me a B! I’ve never had a grade lower than an A!”

“Your emotions, make you a monster…”


Someone asked me recently if I was getting tired of being confined. I haven’t actually BEEN confined. For me this is not a lot different from my normal life. What’s missing is socializing with my friends but that happens very occasionally anyway. But psychically yeah, I feel confined.

I don’t think I’m alone. I think other people have had a challenge “knuckling down” to creative work. No artist can expect to be creative all the time. I know that, but there’s something different about this hiatus. Part of me doesn’t give a shit about anything at the moment. I think part of this is related to in execrable political bullshit that has grown up around it and OFFAL’s use of this virus to further his political agenda.

This morning I saw a video of hundreds — thousands? — of overweight young white people in a shallow pool in Missouri. The scene resembled the time LONG ago when I pulled out my trash compactor and saw thousands of maggots writhing on a piece of lunch meat. Among the things I’ve learned during this moment is that extraverts are really different from introverts. We might be different species.

That people are willing to deny clear, demonstrable evidence of danger to themselves and others so that they can stand around in lukewarm water with a bunch of strangers is completely incomprehensible to me.

Tomorrow, the big city in the San Luis Valley — Alamosa — is having a protest/parade in honor of Memorial Day (allegedly). The irony of THAT is more than I can handle. It will be an armed protest designed to “protect businesses from law enforcement and the health department.” The people involved actually believe they are honoring the fallen military and fighting for the rights of the American people in doing this. From where I sit, people are likely to stay away from Alamosa tomorrow, but who knows?

Thank god for the Big Empty.

Yet Another Quotidian Update, this One Without Beans

Every summer I have to make this adjustment from going out with the dogs in the middle of the day and surrendering to going out in the evening. Last evening Teddy and I headed out to the Big Empty. Normally I’d just take the easy way and wander around the hood through the golf course, but it was Sunday meaning league golf. So, why not head out and see what our friends the geese, blackbirds, meadowlarks, mountains, sky and light were doing at 7:30 pm?

The Refuge was beautiful. Mt. Blanca was lit by the sun coming from the west, every valley and cornice visible and luminous. The little bit of remaining snow tinged golden in the late-day light. Teddy, of course, was very happy to get the chance to take his inventory of goose excrement. According to him, there was no new carnivore scat to report.

He really wanted to see the bunny again.

I’ve been communicating with the director of the Rio Grande County Museum and something she wrote made me feel the urge to get on with the project — Swiss Immigrants in the San Luis Valley. Sit down, sit down. I know you’re excited and can’t wait, but I have no idea when or if this will happen. I started writing my little talk and, as I did, I began to wonder if the community could endure a series on this topic because I think that would be epic (literally).

Most important, I became absorbed in what I was writing for the first time since the virus. I’ve gotten a lot of good stuff done in these two months but none of it was really interesting. Maybe this is a step in the evolution of living with this thing. Maybe this is a stage a lot of other people are reaching, maybe it’s (along with money) a reason for the strong urge to “open up” the country. Down here that’s a huge thing. Tourism and potatoes are the biggies in this economy and people down here — where most businesses are small businesses — are eager to get on with life. We’ve had a total of 75 identified cases and one death down here which, for me, is an argument AGAINST opening to tourism but…

I made my every-two-weeks trek for groceries yesterday, ski buff at the ready to pull up over my nose and mouth. As I waited in the parking lot, I saw that most people going in and out of the store were wearing masks. It hit me that IF people did not resist that small thing, the business of opening up might be OK.

In other news, Ancestry DNA has revealed yet another amazing trait: I like coffee. Don’t be fooled by “You said you have 1 to 2 caffeinated drinks a day.” It is one giant cup of espresso = 6 little espresso cups. 😀

Although I promised no beans, Tu Fu wanted to share this with you.

Night in a Room by the River

Evening rises toward the mountain trails.
as I climb up to my high chamber

Thin Clouds lodge along the cliffs.
A lonely moon rocks slowly on the waves.

A line of cranes flaps silently overhead,
and, far off, a howling pack of wolves.

Sleepless, memories of war betray me.
I am powerless against the world. ❤


Somewhat Ranting Response to an Article about Stupid Americans

Yesterday I read an article posted by a friend on Facebook. It stimulated a ranting response of the type no one wants clogging up their timeline, the kind that co-opts a news feed. She’d posted a thought-provoking quotation and a link to a Medium (blog post) article, How Freedom became Free-dumb in America (Free-dumb). I was intrigued by the quotation, so I read the article.

The author claims to look at the United States from an international perspective. His big concern is the stupidity of many American people, particularly those who are — now — brandishing weapons, espousing conspiracy theories and ignoring science. He writes about this moment when many Americans are pushing to go back to “normal” in the face of a disease we can’t cure and cannot prevent. He’s looking for the cultural source for American stupidity and anti-intellectualism. The author makes many good points, but also returns to many of the usual subjects; Slavery and Nietzsche’s “Superman”. I hope you’re shaking your heads because I was.

Anti-intellectualism has a long history in US culture. My best guess for that is that many of us came from countries where education was for the rich elite who were considered by many immigrants as “the enemy.” This isn’t an 18th century thing. I contended against this as a college teacher in California. Many of my community college students — mostly Latino girls, but not exclusively — had to fight their parents for the chance to attend a junior college. Along with this was the reality that many students didn’t value their education as anything beyond the way to get a higher paying job. Education for the sake of learning? Not really mainstream American culture as far as I can tell. My students constantly asked me why I made them read things like “The Allegory of the Cave” or any other “old” thing. They didn’t see how it was going to help their career. It wasn’t as if they knew what their careers would be or who they would be at age 40 or even what they might encounter (in a class, in life) that would delight them or awaken them. They didn’t know.

Bringing me to another point the author of the article has made, that Americans value equality above all else. I’ll say right here that the words “freedom” and “equality” are so abstract I could sit and write all day and never get to the heart of either concept. I don’t even know for sure what they mean. I do know this. Equality among humans can exist only under the law. We’re not equal. My neighbor is tall, long-legged, slender. I’m short, short-legged and a little chubby. My other neighbor is nearly 80 and can run. I can’t run at all and I’m 11 years younger. I can paint and write novels, neither of them do those things. My Aussie neighbor, who can run, can knit sweaters and socks and sew dozens of face masks. I’d rather die. My other neighbor has wonderful children and grandchildren. I’m in awe of that, but I don’t want them. Equality? No. Absolute equality implies uniformity. That isn’t how it is (thank goodness). As for “freedom”? I won’t even Try. I think the author of the article is right, though.

Equality — vague as it is — is a big deal here but it doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. In a society that relies on a democratic process it generally means that ignorant people have the same voice as educated people. I might not like the results of that, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Since grad school, I’ve been fascinated by the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville, a French nomad (there I got the word in) who visited the great American experiment in the 1830s. One of the points he made (though he loved the idea of democracy) was that it is a system that will ultimately lead to mediocrity and dictatorship by the ignorant. That didn’t stop him from preferring it to other systems, but he made that point. These were the days when Lasseiz Faire capitalism was the THING and the industrial revolution was taking off. That people could make a LOT of money from the labor of others in industry was pretty cool. It seemed to be a great thing for everyone — employment for more people and more disposable income all around. It brought huge problems with it but how was anyone to know that at the beginning?

De Toqueville also contrasts democracy with socialism which, I think is a mistake. Democracy is a political system; socialism is a method for distributing wealth. They are really not comparable in spite of the fact that this comparison persists. It makes my teeth itch.

The author of Free-dumb then brings in Nietzsche for some reason that I don’t totally grasp, but it has something to do with Berlin. There is a LOT more to Nietzsche than the fact that Hitler admired him. That was never Nietzsche’s fault. When I was 17, I read Also Sprach Zarathustra for the first time. That is the book in which the idea of the Superman is introduced. Reading Zarathustra was far more than reading a book; it was an EXPERIENCE. I can still SEE myself sitting at one end of my mom’s dark tan brocade French provincial sofa (1969). It was a summer day. I’m wearing cut-off jeans and a top. I’m reading passages to my dad who sat on the other end of the sofa. “Listen to this, Dad.” I found Zarathustra incredibly beautiful, life affirming, life defining. Even reading it later, I NEVER saw the Superman as anything more than the fulfillment of individual human potential, the self in harmony with its true nature, nature which the Superman has taken the time to discover. In Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche condemns German anti-semitism. But it’s inconvenient to remember this when we blame Nietzsche for Hitler.

The author of Free-dumb rants about the distinction between “freedom from” and “freedom to” saying other nations have embraced “freedom to” while Americans “always” embrace “freedom from.” Again, what? I think it’s a false dichotomy but convenient. It’s true that many immigrants came here to get freedom FROM and brought with them a primal mistrust of government for a lot of good reasons. Still, freedom FROM religious tyranny implies freedom TO worship as they pleased.

Then, as randomly as he brings in Nietzsche, the author of Free-dumb brings up the word “slavery.” No one in the modern world is going to stand up and say, “Slavery is good!” It’s not going to happen. But that word is sure to stimulate the usual knee-jerk reaction against slavery. Americans are also not the only people on the planet to have owned slaves. Slavery existed far longer than it has not existed. The abolition of slavery is the REALLY big deal, but here’s the conundrum. It’s a lot harder to deal with THAT than it is to be angry about slavery. It’s a context that’s way too big. One of my own ancestors was a prisoner of war in Scotland, put in chains, shipped to Barbados where he worked on a sugar plantation as a slave. When he was released, he went to the colony of Maryland where he…grew tobacco and owned slaves. That right there is far more complex than slavery vs. freedom from slavery. What SHOULD happen now is an investigation into the voluntary slavery of consumerism, but…

“Generally speaking, only simple conceptions can grip the mind of a nation. An idea that is clear and precise even though false will always have greater power in the world than an idea that is true but complex.” Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America 

The author of this article is focused on the Americans who are demonstrating right now for what they call “freedom,” and who regard the stay at home orders, the wear a mask orders, all of that, as tyranny. I agree completely with the author when he says they’re stupid. They are the very “tyranny of ignorance” de Tocqueville warned about. When I look at these douchebag bleach drinkers who are chomping to get back to work because the odds (one plays the odds with one’s life? Russian roulette is a close parallel) are against them getting sick and dying, I see voluntary slaves, people who have been conditioned to believe that their stupid ass little jobs are going to get them somewhere. They seem not to have thought deep enough to see that there is no “somewhere” without life. They don’t realize that the money that’s “given” to them by the government to help them out and get them through (even though it’s been mishandled and fucked up) is the very money they paid in taxes! 

I believe American freeDUMB is related to the pervasive (and beloved) ignorance of many? most? American people and a lack of curiosity about other cultures or anything remotely intellectually challenging. All this is fostered by “American First” thinking. Globalism doesn’t exclude the United States. It includes all of the other small worlds that exist on this large world. It’s too bad that we have created a society that is “us” and “them.” The bleach drinkers people haven’t thought about the word “freedom” beyond it meaning they get to do what they want. Their pervasive paranoia, fed by conspiracy theories, justifies (to them) their actions. They don’t seem to question anything individually, personally, against a higher standard than convenience.

As de Tocqueville wrote, “Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom…. The subjection of individuals will increase amongst democratic nations, not only in the same proportion as their equality, but in the same proportion as their ignorance.” 

My own doctor, Heidi Helgesen at the Rio Grande Hospital Clinic, a tiny hospital and clinic in Del Norte, Colorado wrote this morning, “The government did not take away our rights. It didn’t even challenge our rights, it gave us the power and opportunity to exercise our freedom of choice and good will, to prove that “we the people” are in this together despite all the pressure to be partisan and divisive. In this battle every individual who has chosen to wear a mask in public, bought groceries for their neighbors, danced and played games with their children, developed an online curriculum, ordered out from a local restaurant, bought milk or bison or beef right from the farmer, driven a semi across the country with critical supplies, attended ZOOM after ZOOM meeting, figured out how to make due with less of a paycheck, acted as a surrogate family member for the vulnerable and sick, wrote inspirational messages on hospital sidewalks, compounded hand sanitizer and sewed masks is a hero. Please don’t stop being a hero now. Don’t give into the negative. Don’t buy into the manipulation of the facts, the drama and “The Plandemic.” Be free by being safe, responsible, kind and respectful.

That’s my rant for the day (I hope) ❤


Consuming, Breaking, Consuming, Breaking, Consuming, Breaking, ad infinitum

My smoothie blender just broke. It’s a (first world) problem because my breakfast consists of a smoothie. No, it’s not an apocalypse, but it does make me think. I have an electric beater that works like new but I got it as a wedding present in 1972. I got the blender last year. I know all about “planned obsolescence” but it’s still really annoying.

I read something on Twitter yesterday that said something to the effect that if an economy depends on people going out and buying stuff they don’t need, it’s time to rethink the nature of the economy. I’ve thought that for a long time. I recently watched an old film (I hadn’t seen) called Tenure. Among other things, it made me wonder why so many films about teachers are about English teachers, but that’s not my direction here (I’d love to hear answers to that question, though). On this teacher’s desk, in one shot, very inconspicuously, was a little green and white sign that said, “Want Less.”

What if? What if we wanted less? What if our economy weren’t based on things breaking, forcing us to replace them? What if we developed an economy that wasn’t driven by consuming things? I’ve thought about that for years, but the recent semi-forced alteration in my shopping style has made me ask that question again. I’m very conscious of “consuming” in the most literal sense.

This past Sunday I went to the store to pick up my order which included 22 bananas. Even as I determined that to be the number of bananas I’d need for a month (adding some to my stash of frozen bananas), I wondered how it would be for whomever flitted around City Market in gloves selecting my stuff. I imagined them counting, “19, 20, 21, 22. 22 bananas? Why twenty-two?” I’ve already frozen 8 of that order of 22 bananas.

And the cream, all those white bottles in the door. I hedge my bets on cream by selecting several different brands then leaving the message in my “cart” that I’m cool with substitutions… BUT if I have a choice, I don’t buy this brand. I buy the one in the paper carton. THIS is absurdly packaged. It’s in a recyclable plastic bottle enshrouded by a label that’s essentially a single-use plastic bag. It bothers me and I’m not all that “green.” Same with OJ. I like to buy the OJ in the paper cartons, but sometimes I end up with a plastic bottle that my grandmother would have found a millions uses for.

The two brown paper bags in my fridge? Coffee beans ordered in bulk from Solar Roast Coffee. That coffee goes with the cream or vice-versa.

I understand that food and beverages are meant to be consumed. But small appliances?

If we were not a consumer society (what else would we be? I’m trying to figure that out) our landfills wouldn’t be overflowing. We wouldn’t have to put every single thing in a brand new, never used, only-to-be-used-once little plastic bag with a zipper thing on top. The Walmart parking lot wouldn’t be packed with cars ALL THE TIME. I remember one day hiking in the hills near San Diego. A beautiful, cool, Sunday afternoon. The chaparral park was beautiful. Perfect temps, endless walks, a couple small mountains to climb. I was — as was often the case — all alone out there except for the company of my dogs. As I crossed a bridge that spanned a canyon, I thought, suddenly, “Where is everybody?”

Later, as I drove home on the freeway (I-15) I looked over at a shopping area that filled the canyon by the highway. There were two mega-stores. Fryes, an electronics “super-store” and Walmart. Both parking lots were PACKED. People were parked on the streets. I could see them in my mind’s eye, pushing their carts, realizing their hunter-gatherer dreams by comparing items and prices and putting the BEST ONE in their cart. I imagined them doing this as desiccated skeletons. I thought of a painting, but soon after I passed the San Diego School of Baseball (which was right beside this tangle of wares) I forgot the image. It passed through my mind again this morning.

I don’t have an answer for this. I’m a consumer, too, maybe less than many but more than others.

The virus has unmasked a few ugly realities of our economy. People are carrying signs carrying words that marked the entry to Nazi concentration camps, “Arbeit macht Frei!” as they, at gunpoint, insist on going back to work even though COVID-19 is real, they could get it, give it, get very ill, not get ill, die themselves, share it with someone who could die from it. Who knows? People need money to live in this world, and Americans really do want the freedom to shop, now, literally, possibly, “’til they drop.”


My Golf Course

Seven pm the golf course closes, though now it has a lot of rules and to stay open, people have to follow them. No carts other than personal carts. People have to sign in. People have to wear masks. Only a certain number of people are allowed on the (9 hole) course at a time, and they must leave by 7:00.

I know this virus is a terrible thing and a pain in the butt for people eager to return to their normal lives, but like the mountain goats in Spain, the mountain lions in Boulder, the elk, well, everywhere, Bear and I are jazzed to have the people under control for once..

We went for our first evening ramble of the summer once it got cool. To me this is MORE than a golf course. It’s a haven. It’s where I learned to walk again after moving here and again after my hip surgery. It’s where Dusty T. Dog learned to actually BE free and trust people.

Bear, me and Dusty on the driving range

It’s where I got to know this world when I first moved here six years ago. It’s where I met Mr. Martinez and heard his sad story, then watched him make friends with Dusty T. Dog and tell me I could walk on his private road. It’s where Fred (the other golf course walker and voluble, hilarious Italian) and I stood in knee deep snow discussing whether Mr. Martinez should trap the beavers in his ditch. “Big as bears!!!!” said Fred. “I saw one, good god!”

And then, last year, one late summer evening, a guy taking care of the golf course, out mowing the driving range (pasture) said, “I made you a hiking trail there by the pond, and I set up a hammock, too, down at that end.”

It’s where I was followed by a small herd of mule deer. It’s where I saw the fox in the mist. I’ve enjoyed the flights of bald eagles, golden eagles, red tail hawks. The dogs have been captivated by the smells of nocturnal mammals as I’ve tracked their foot prints and been a little surprised by bear scat. I’ve read the tragedy in the broken form of a fox-downed red-tail. I’ve watched the sudden uprush of hundreds of geese and listened to the sweet, soothing sound of a thousand cranes. And then there’s “my” horse and the kids who live across the street from the 8th hole.

It’s where I discovered I can still X-country ski.

The golf course has been there for nearly 100 years as all of this — not to mention golf — has transpired across it, year after year after year. A golf course that has — among its written rules, “No livestock” and “Clean up after your dogs.” Seriously, how many golf courses have rules like that? ❤

The golf course (which backs onto The Big Empty) was my primer to the San Luis Valley. Just a golf course in a little town, but to me and Bear? It’s the natural world, and it’s only a block from my house. Not black and white, and not abstract, but if you think about it, nature’s performance art happens in time.

And seriously, isn’t it beautiful? I know it’s not the Tetons or the Eiger or something, but still. 


Medical Misinformation — Curious Steph

Way back in the 1980’s, I was a resident in Family Medicine. Our training was a mix of hospital-based clinical training, rotating through all the usual specialties: internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency medicine, etc. Another significant part of our training was outpatient clinical work. We started slowly, one half day per week […]

Medical Misinformation — Curious Steph