Clean Up Your Room, Dammit!

I woke up early this morning with a throbbing migraine that I didn’t anticipate. Usually my migraines are the visual kind and might make me a little nauseous but nothing awful. And tired. They make me tired, but this was more than that.

The air is worse today. I can only imagine how it is for people in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, California, Washington… 😦

When I walked the dogs last evening at sunset, the sun was a ball of red. Smoke from the thousands of  fires to the north and west had obscured the views of the mountains on both sides of the valley all day. Clouds traveling in front of the sun broke the light into what my ex-husband called “Bible beams” which, in the normally clear, clear, clear air of the San Luis Valley, I seldom see.

My first thought when I finally really got up, the migraine having retreated, leaving only a numb feeling and a mildly upset stomach, is that we did this.

When I was a kid there were no fires like these. Sometimes there was a forest fire. We know this from Bambi and Smokey the Bear, but they were never EPIC in proportion. There were hurricanes, but they did not register on seismographs (for the love of God). It snowed a LOT more than it does now in all the usual places that get snow.

When I was 5, 1957, my parents, my brother and I were traveling in the South where my dad was to be giving papers and teaching seminars in Florida. As we went through Mississippi and Alabama, heading toward the Gulf Coast, we were in a hurricane. It was a lot of wind, a lot of water, sandbags and waiting. It was NOT like Houston and sure as hell not like the hurricane approaching the Bahamas looks like it will be. I remember when we went out for breakfast and the waitress said, “It’s just that time of year. What do y’all want to drink?” I got cocoa.

I don’t think it even TAKES a scientist to say, “Whoa, this is WAY TOO FAST for changes like these in the climate of the Earth.” I’m not a scientist, but if this has happened in a mere 60 years, Houston, we have a problem.

When I was in high school I was determined to overcome my terrible fear of speaking in public. First I joined theater, then my theater teacher told me to join speech club. I did. I traveled around Colorado doing competitive speaking and did surprisingly well. My first year I won prizes for Humorous Interpretation of Oratory. The next year — my senior year — I won second place in the state of Colorado for Original Oratory. My speech was political, but it was not about the Vietnam War. It was about the thing I cared most about.

The speech is mostly written in a tone of bitter irony, the kind 18 year olds love, along with lots of big words, but even then, even in 1970, I was worried about what was happening to the one thing I could depend on in my life to love me. I wrote:

The human race is racing toward total annihilation, with, at last, no exceptions made as to race, creed, gender or nationality. Man abuses the air he needs to breathe, the water he needs for sustaining his life, and he is brilliantly devising technologically advanced ways to destroy the delicate food cycle of which he is the ultimate beneficiary.

The Environmental Protection Agency was founded the same year I won my award for this speech. It immediately set about finding ways to slow down the rate at which pollutants were being thrown into the air and the water. It did a good job; it has done a good job. Maybe it has written many irksome regulations. Maybe it’s required mitigation when land is developed. Maybe the regulations are long and hard to read. Maybe what it requires is expensive, but dammit. Lake Michigan is no longer dead in places and LA (when the mountains aren’t on fire) has a clear sky and breathable air.

But… It’s possible to ignore regulations; it’s possible to fake compilance; it’s possible to put greed and momentary financial interest ahead of simple good sense. Houston was built on a flood plain. And the plain flooded.

The Harvey-wrought devastation is just the latest example of the consequences of Houston’s gung-ho approach to development. The city, the largest in the US with no zoning laws, is a case study in limiting government regulations and favoring growth—often at the expense of the environment. As water swamps many of its neighborhoods, it’s now also a cautionary tale of sidelining science and plain common sense. Given the Trump administration’s assault on environmental protections, it’s one that Americans elsewhere should pay attention to.

Nature knows what it’s doing. I walk with my dogs frequently along the Rio Grande in a wetlands area. It’s a little annoying in summer because of the bugs — this year in particular because it has been a wet summer — but I’ve seen the slough at work. The high river of spring had channels into which it could drain and from which farmers could draw water for irrigation. It was almost as if the river said, “Here, dude. For your potatoes.” It works great and nature built it for herself (and us; we’re nature, too).

Climate change denyers can deny all they want, but it doesn’t change reality. It doesn’t change the fact that 60 years (the time between my hurricane experience in Mobile and now) is a very short time for what has happened to our climate to have happened. Yes; climate cycles happen to the Earth, but sixty years?

Lamont and Dude know that from their many incarnations, including Coelecanth and Woolly Mammoth, but they would probably be the first to agree that — with the exception of the meteorite which made things happen rather quickly, ending their time as velociraptors — the changes were eons in the making. Lamont’s belief is that humans have acted on the climate of the earth in much the way the meteorite did.

I love nature. In my whole life when things in my life have been too sad or too glorious,  I’ve gone to trees, open spaces, the sky, water (if it’s there). I’ve never been unwelcome, misunderstood, or even lost. In nature is ALWAYS an answer to the question, “Where am I?” Thousands of times it’s pulled me up and out of whatever catastrophe has been my life in those moments (and sometimes it was really a catastrophe, such as my dad dying, or my brother dying, my house under threat of foreclosure…) and shown me something. Last night on my simple, short walk with the dogs,  it was the call of a Coopers Hawk from a cottonwood tree. There is always something.

Beyond nature’s personally redemptive powers, it provides everything we need for life. Seriously. As I watched some very fucking stupid people yammering on TV in Houston I thought, “They have no idea.” I get it that they’re worried about where they’re going to live, how they’re going to live, where their children are going to live, how they’re going to eat — all of that. I’ve been through a natural disaster; I know it’s terrifying and the ordinary details of life are suddenly NOT to be taken for granted, but they think in terms of their landlord not calling them back (not that their landlord might be in his own shitstorm and unable to call them back).

But it’s a good metaphor. Extrapolate from that to REAL LIFE. Earth is our apartment building. Nature is our landlord. Without it we have no place to live, nothing to eat, no where to raise children. We do not even exist.

In my high school speech is a quotation from Adlai Stevenson. He compares Earth to the satellites that were orbiting our planet.

We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable rserves of air and soil; all committed for our safety to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work and the love with give our fragile craft.

 

 

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/anticipate/

Wondrous Political Rant

So they redecorated the White House for the new King. This is the most expensive king we’ve had since George III. Every morning I wake up and there is new bizarre, startling and distracting news about this king. This morning he’s pardoned an unpopular, 85 year old racist, law-breaking law-enforcement officer, blocked transgender people from military service, and put strict sanctions on Venezuela.

Vice President Mike Pence said, “we will not stand by while Venezuela collapses into dictatorship.” (PBS)

The irony of that does not escape me. We’re in early days of what may be a comparable situation. The king’s relentless divisiveness, his lack of class, his unpopularity with international leaders, his manic mind-changes all function to keep our leaders and us off balance.

Meanwhile, hurricanes are hitting the south and neither FEMA nor NOAA has a director. The king claims to have everything under control and “leaving nothing to chance” but this is a hurricane. Still, I recognize that the king doesn’t believe in nature or science so you know, he might know things I don’t.

Given the state of the nation, I, personally, can’t think of anything less important than changing the law on transgender military and pardoning a sheriff in Maricopa County AZ. I suspect the families of military men and women who are being deployed because of the king’s notion that escalating a losing war is a good idea probably agree with me.

I read an interview yesterday that could have been called “White Like Me” — it was a black guy who’d gone undercover online as a white guy to find out what was going on in the minds of young white supremacists. Ignorance is what’s going on in their minds (I knew that but nobody listens to me) and brain washing. Not a discovery on par with the ice rings on Saturn, but it’s a little something though to concede that dignifies it beyond its desserts. We all know schools have been bad for a generation 😦

Daily I get posts from my representatives — both Dem and Rep — saying something horrific about the king, but no one seems to be taking action though I think action might be OK with the American people:

Trump is now viewed positively by only 37 percent of Americans, according to Gallup’s most recent weekly estimate. (Obama’s lowest weekly average never fell below 40 percent.) It’s even lower — just 34 percent — in Gallup’s shorter, three-day average, which includes more recent interviews but can also involve more random variation. (CNBC)

My guess is that all of this pot-stirring (campaign rallies, etc.) is to deflect attention from other more interesting news. The king needs to secure his base (of idiots) before the shit-storm surrounding him begins to fly publicly. I think it will. Mueller is moving. 

That news doesn’t get the same attention as do the antics of the flaming orange king, but it’s there.

In other news, a blast of anti-biotics and prednisone have conspired to send the sinus infection packing and give me really horrific dreams in which I’m fighting evil and losing.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/dignify/

To Teachers on the First Full Day of School

Watching the news and stuff… I see all these young people in Anti-fa outfits, old people marching with signs that hearken back to the last time they carried signs, I see a post on FB by a kid who doesn’t know what happened in the 60s re: race and thinks that the counter-protestors are no better than the White Supremacists. I try to explain history to him, and, to his credit, he Googles Birmingham and comes up with a church bombing.

It’s something. He realizes that he’s in the lurch; he has now looked into Fibber MacGee’s closet and doesn’t want to do the work. It’s a whole lot easier to say, “Violence is bad and the White Supremacists were planning a peaceful demonstration. Do you really think it’s all-right for the anti-fas to use violence? Anti-fa is fascist!”

He’s found a soapbox from which he believes someone of my generation will be cowed. But, no. I was never a “Peacenik” or whatever. I envy the Anti-fa outfit. It’s black. It’s scary. It says “Anarchy!” How to fight evil? Give it no quarter. I have learned that the hard way.

“Fascist, my child, is a particular thing,” I tell him. “Anti-fa may or may not be thugs, I do not know, but they are not fascist.” I see the whole thing sinking even lower into semantics. I end the conversation and ask my friend who this kid is.

“He’s an OK kid. Just got married. The nephew of my son’s ex. Rescued a husky last year.”

Rescued a husky? He’s OK in my book whatever his politics. Well, almost. I don’t think a Nazi husky rescuer would be OK. I’m going to have to take this on a case-by-case basis. I see that now. This kid hasn’t gone that far. And he’s curious. Curiosity means a lot. And he rescued a husky.

SO…

 

All you teachers out there, past, present and future, heading to school today, you have your work cut out for you. I’m glad it’s not me any more. I honor your effort, I respect your challenge, I love the work you do. Please help this kid out in whatever shape or form he arrives in your classroom. Our world depends on you. Seriously. I’m weeping as I write this.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry you don’t have a better salary. I’m sorry the gubmint doesn’t recognize the vital work you do. I’m sorry for acting out in 9th grade (3rd grade, 10th grade, 11th grade). And thank you for everything. ❤

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/lurch/

Anti-Nazi Movement

I’ve read and seen so much over the last few days that my head hurts and my heart aches. So much of it is based on incomplete knowledge (not that my knowledge is complete) selective memory, stupidity and blatant desire. Most of it ignores the fundamental fact that we are all on this planet together. Those of us in the US are in this country together, black, white, yellow, pinkish/red and speckled (that’s me), young, old, rich, poor, smart, stupid… We’re here. Right now. We all have to make a life. We all want a good life. We all know that shit happens all the time. There are booby traps down the road — sinister ones like cancer, car accidents, dead children, loss of work, divorce. We all know this.

I’m bewildered by the lack of pragmatism in some of my fellow citizens.  If my life is good YOUR life is improved. It’s really very, very, very simple. My desiring a better life for my neighbors (and working toward that in some small way) takes NOTHING from me but enhances  my little world.

For this reason, I do not understand racism. What’s the point? When I hear discussions about race, they often turn on little points of definition, semantics. The long term goal of our society should be the best life possible for all the people in it. What doesn’t work in that direction should be questioned by everyone.

I’ve never felt “white guilt” or been ashamed of being white. That just seems absurd. Some of my ancestors owned slaves. Some of my ancestors stood on board a ship and waited for someone to buy them so they could get off the ship. Some of them died on the way. Some of them died in servitude. They weren’t me. Universally all of them worked toward a better future for their children. All of us look at our lives and say, “I don’t want my kids to live with this.” We have all done that. Generation after generation has worked in its small way toward improving life for the next generation.

I think one of the most appalling things that is happening in the US now is that forward movement has been stopped by the fuckhead who “leads” the country. 

So what is forward? Peace is forward. Prosperity is forward. Education is forward. Medical care for all is forward. It’s not hard to know which way to go, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want these things. Each of us works in our own way toward these things for ourselves, our families and our neighbors.

It has nothing to do with politics, race, religion, age, nothing. It is human nature when it is allowed to blossom. 

My black students cared more about my skin color than I cared about theirs. I got that. My brown students, also, noticed my whiteness more than I noticed their “brownness.” In China, of course, I stood out like a sore thumb, but I also forgot about my own skin color at a certain point until I was reminded by a green-eyed man from Sinkiang.

Sometimes I feel caged by my whiteness. I grew up in a world in which Spanish was spoken and Mexican people were loved and admired. I was shocked to find out that wasn’t the same everywhere. I wasn’t conscious of my “whiteness” until my Mexican neighbor in CA pointed it out by saying, “You’re the first nice white woman I’ve ever known.” Wow. In one sentence I learned that I’m white and that whites can be assholes for no other reason than that they’re white.

I’ve been in the middle of a family broken by “La Migra.” I’ve seen what black gang fights and the desperation of poverty can do to people of all ages. I’ve taught young people with PTSD returned from fighting the hopeless war against terror. My life has shown me that every person needs compassion. Every person deserves the respect of curiosity about who they are as individuals. 

I taught a black kid about a hundred years ago. It was an English class. Rap was semi-new (it was the early 90s). My students wrote a weekly journal. This kid wrote about his favorite music. They all knew mine (because they interviewed me). I don’t remember his words exactly but he wrote something like this, “Hey Martha, you won’t believe this because I’m a black guy, but I also love punk rock music. I’m not sucking up. I mean really. I like hardcore, just like you. I got to see Jello Biafra last summer and it was amazing.” He felt he had to prove he was telling me the truth and offered creds to legitimize his claim. I slipped a Sex Pisols sew-on patch I’d bought but hadn’t used into his journal so he’d know I understood. It appeared on his hat the next week.

I believe it’s human nature to seek commonality — and we will as long as we have honest interest in others.

When the Nazis (or the KKK, or the MAGA douchebags) dress in a uniform they are saying, “I have subsumed my individuality to the morality of this group. I am the lowest common denominator. I have abdicated my right to self-determination. I am no longer responsible for pursuing the highest good.” They are no longer fully human — by their own choice.

It’s a huge responsibility being fully human. We work hard all our lives to achieve that. There’s an old man at the end of my block. He’s Hispanic. His kids are junkies, so he is raising his grandsons. He’s a lovely, noble, gallant, old-school Hispanic man of the San Luis Valley. He rides his bike every day for exercise. He tips his hat when I’m outside and he goes by. “You’re working hard,” he said one day as I was sweating and mowing the lawn.

“I’m the only one here to do it,” I said.

“I know what you mean,” he said. “Have a beautiful day.”

The fuckhead in Washington knows NOTHING about these individual people, but we all do. That’s where we live, in the grainy reality of human effort and ordinary kindness.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/grainy/

Disastrous Post

I live in an alternative universe in which workmen take on jobs and then never show up. I’m about to fire the garage door guy. I wanted to fire him last night in a voice message at his work phone, but when I called it, his wife answered and I hung up. Ha ha, that should give them an interesting conversation. Not disastrous, I hope, but interesting. Anyway, I’m torn between calling him and firing him or waiting for him to call me and firing him or waiting for him to show up ( ha ha ha ) and firing him. A little voice inside says, “Don’t call. He blew it,” but that reminds me of dating…

In other disastrous news, the US has, as a “leader,” a guy who doesn’t see anything wrong with his son having met a representative of a foreign and inimical power to get the dirt on the “leader’s” campaign opposition. This is a person with absolutely no ethical center. Such a person cannot be moved or defeated in any normal way. There’s no appealing to his “better” nature. “My son is a quality person.” Well, yeah. Low quality. The “leader” is not the disaster as much as are the people who elected him and the representatives who continue to support his bizarre and nefarious agenda. OH WELL.

Disaster was averted yesterday when Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog got out of the side yard. Once out of the yard (a major highway 50 feet away) Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog dived through the self-same lilac hedge into the front yard where Mindy was lying on the front porch waiting to be let in. It could have gone so wrong, but thankfully Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog has a strong attachment to her house, her pack and person. But she no longer gets to “run” FREEEEEE in the side yard. Her person has a strong attachment to her and doesn’t want a disastrous outcome.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/disastrous/

Fourth of Whatever….

They woke me up before I wanted to wake up, damned dogs. Now they’re happy. They’ve been out, fed, given their morning “toothbrush,” and they’re back to living large. I’m sleepy and cold, wondering what to write for “dash” since I don’t dash, they don’t dash (particularly Mindy and Dusty don’t dash; Bear been known to dash around the yard). It’s kind of a “dashless” world I’m living in. I’d say Monte Vista in general is not big on the dash, maybe at track meets.

So here we are at the fourth of July — almost. Tomorrow. People are already shooting off firecrackers and fireworks. Dusty is actually taking the explosions more in stride than he was wont to in the past. The noise terrifies a lot of animals. Over the years, I’ve found lots of lost dogs seeking shelter in my yard. Once it was a beautiful German short-haired pointer, quivering and quaking against the fence outside my kitchen door in San Diego. I kept him over night then called Animal Control. Thank goodness his owner had reported him missing.

I have some philosophical and political thoughts of my own this Fourth of July, Every day I get disgusted anew by the antics of that ugly, stupid man. That a man with the poor judgment and lack of class to Tweet (I could just leave it at that) a video inciting violence against the media IN HIS OWN COUNTRY is allowed to speak to the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea on the phone regarding North Korea sickens and terrifies me. That the Republican leadership of this nation is not equally horrified sickens and terrifies me even more.

Anyway, there isn’t much I can do about it.

In other news, Bear’s most recent Barkbox included an incredibly cute toy — a sloth. I finally broke down and gave it to her, and she is tearing into it even as I write. She’s gotten the plastic squeaky part out, has shaken the life out of it and is about to proceed to the disemboweling. Fortunately, she doesn’t eat the fluff inside.

IMG_6317.JPG

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/dash/

The Circus…

Looking at the political situation in the US now, one thing I can say is that I know a lot more about it than I did two years ago. I think that might be true of a lot of people in this country. The thing is like a huge, morbid circus.

There IS a lot of “fake news.” Yesterday I read that a friend of Trump’s thinks Trump might fire Mueller, the Special Counsel. That’s not news. That’s gossip. But it has spread and so… From a liberal blog, but…

I watched Trump’s meeting with his cabinet — finally he has a cabinet. The meeting was surreal. He blamed and bragged and the “cabinet” sucked up shamelessly. I thought last night that the job of the president and the cabinet was pretty serious and had nothing (much) to do with egos, but this was nothing but. Maybe after the photo-op was over, they went into a room and worked. I don’t know. Once again, he calls Democrats “obstructionists” not thinking that he is the president of ALL the people in this country, not just the ones who kiss ass. I think he believes his own fiction.

 

 

Ivanka the Good Witch came out in favor of apprenticeships in high schools (I’m completely and totally for that) and then I read an article in The Guardian exposing the terrible treatment of workers in Ivanka’s factories. It’s quite anecdotal and makes use of the passive voice, still, I don’t doubt it’s true. It’s also true that when I worked in China I earned $100 US/month and was near the top of the pay scale, close to the highest government official. The article is not what I call hard data.

Watching Comey testify last week was interesting, most interesting was that his BIG statement, that Russia interfered in our election process in a major way was not as interesting to people as other things he said. I got the impression that — to Comey — that was the most enormous thing but to the people on the committee and maybe the people in the country, the gossip he also shared was more intriguing. “He said, she said” is, to me, always gossip. Unverifiable and ephemeral, but so tantalizing. I do not know how anyone could ever prove that when Trump said, “I hope” he meant “You’d better.”

There’s just so much crap and that includes some of the REAL news. My interest in all this has not tapered off much because it continues to be completely beyond my ken. (I got to write ken 🙂 )

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/taper/

Unreal vs. Imaginary

This is a debate I’ve had with people. Well, a few people. OK, two people. It’s a good debate because I won both times. 🙂 Just because something is imaginary does NOT mean it’s NOT real.

For example, my two pals, whom many of the readers of my blog know, Lamont and Dude are VERY real. They have their own experiences, philosophies, memories, personalities, ideas but they are imaginary. Whoa, you didn’t know that? You thought the whole Lamont and Dude thing was a live documentary kind of thing? Nope. I made them up — or more accurately, they appeared one morning while I tried to write to a prompt. Here is their first appearance in “print,” February 4, 2014,  “Dude’s Love Story.” I don’t even know how many times they’ve shown up, but far too many to say they are not real.

But not all imaginary and/or unreal entities are as benign as Lamont and Dude, and that’s a problem. Sometimes it’s not easy to recognize that the enemy is a phantasm, an illusion. Every single day it seems that some drama comes out of Washington, and it hit me yesterday that it might all be about “ratings.” People I never heard of are suddenly in my fiend, I mean field, of view, people with whom I would never, ever have the reason to exchange even the time of day. I find myself doing laundry, lifting the lid to the washer and thinking, “I bet Ivanka Trump never read the instructions on the bottom of the lid to her washer.” I mow the lawn (a chore I already hate) and think, “I bet that idiot in DC never pushed a lawnmower.”

I am now trying to send all those people back to non-existence in my field of view, but I don’t think it’s going to be easy.

There’s another side to this imaginary vs. real problem. Sometimes what is real must be proven.

There was a bully on our street, Larry Pope. He was always after my brother and there were a lot of times I had to punch Larry Pope in the face. The kid was a sadist and he planned ahead. His bullying wasn’t acts of spontaneous passion; he planned them. The worst — and conclusive proof of this — was he stretched fishing line from a mailbox on one side of our street to a mailbox on the other — the mailbox with the word “Pope” written on it. It was EXACTLY the level of the throat of a kid on a bike, and it was invisible. He got me; I came home with a deep cut across my throat. My dad was furious and said, “He could have killed both my kids.” He was ready to go down the street and give the what for to Larry Pope’s dad.

“Don’t give them the satisfaction,” said my mom. “They’ll just take their kid’s side and deny it.”

“I’ll take Martha Ann with me and show them.”

“What will that prove? Only that she’s hurt, not that Larry Pope did it. If you go down there, you’ll be tilting at windmills. No one wants to believe their kid’s a bully.”

It did not matter in reality that the incident was REAL. There was no way to prove anything. My throat healed. My dad taught me to box. Larry Pope moved away.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/imaginary/

Did you Vote? Survey

Every time I think about the most recent presidential election, my mind returns to the nearly 50% of eligible voters who did not vote. Why? This is a big question for me but something haven’t seen written about much in the real or the fake media. I did, recently, read a tremendous, very big, everyone says so article in Rolling Stone that did focus on that question. It said (of the Democratic Party), “The party doesn’t see that the largest group of potential swing voters out there doesn’t need to be talked out of voting Republican. It needs to be talked out of not voting at all.”  (Article)

I’m not a Democrat and I’m not a Republican. If I were to self-identify as anything, well, idealistically, I’m an anarchist and believe in self-government. I’m also not stupid and I know that’s still not possible. As Thoreau wrote in “Civil Disobedience,” “I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, — “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.”

Humanity is not ready for it… So, in the meantime we are tasked to find the best “expedient.”

To find an answer to my questions about why people didn’t vote in 2016, I came up with a survey. It’s only 5 questions and ABSOLUTELY anonymous. It doesn’t even ask you HOW or for whom you voted. I’d be grateful for your responses and for you to share it with friends.  In a week or so (when I have a number of responses) I’ll write a blog post about it. Thank you!!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CLLFSVM

The Garden

Even if you have not read Voltaire’s Candide you know the story. It’s life, pretty much. You have a decent education, good looks, youth, combined with longings and yearnings, and at the moment you find they are about to be fulfilled BAM! they’re taken away and you’re sent to the army, but that turns out not so bad because, lo and behold, things get good again — and the object of your desires is again in front of you through an amazing concatenation of events! Over and over and over again, the rollercoaster ride of life until, finally, having won and lost more than you ever even imagined possible, you are (and who knows how?) in the back of beyond tending a garden. Your great love is a toothless old hag; your teacher is a blind, syphilitic, blathering idiot, but the figs are coming along nicely and it looks good for peaches this year.

I garden, not because I’m fascinated by it or want to grow my own food, or am passionate about any aspect of it. I’m not. I like flowers growing and homegrown tomatoes and basil for caprese in the summer. That’s about as deep as my enthusiasm runs. The flowers I like most need cold winters to do well in summer (sort of like me). My favorite flowers are iris which I was constantly trying to grow in Southern California — finally succeeded, too. The gophers didn’t like them much. I like wildflowers growing in a meadow in the high country, so I’ve planted a wildflower “meadow” in my backyard. My peonies got frosted again this spring, but it looks like I might get two blooms — the first since I planted them three years ago.

This year my garden is more important to me, and I’ve done more with it and taken it more seriously. I have found myself perplexed by many things that are completely out of my control, the leadership of this country is a big one that I can’t do anything about. The other is the question of well-written and compelling novels — that have won awards — that no one wanted to publish…

The big independent bookstore in Denver has agreed to stock my novel, The Brothers Path, . There is a $50 administration fee for them to stock it (pay to play) and if it doesn’t sell within the first three months, I can continue to have the book in the store for an additional $150. This is a way to deal with the plethora (ha ha, I used that word) of self-published authors. I’m doing it, the $50 anyway. There’s also the possibility of holding an “event” — book-signing, I guess. The store does a lot of publicity for the author and the author pays them $150 to do that and must be able to invite 30 people. For the chance to do this, the author has to write a fairly elaborate proposal and the store evaluates how well events for other books in the genre have done.

So, the garden. I cannot shoot my novels to the top of the NYT Bestseller list, but I can set out the tomatoes I started from seeds two months ago. I can’t change the political situation, but I can plant petunias. I don’t have the resources to travel the world, but I can walk around the little “garden” by the river, the slough, and note the changes happening there every day throughout the seasons. Life moves continuously to the present moment and we owe that moment everything.

“There is a concatenation of all events in the best of possible worlds; for, in short, had you not been kicked out of a fine castle for the love of Miss Cunegund; had you not been put into the Inquisition; had you not traveled over America on foot; had you not run the Baron through the body; and had you not lost all your sheep, which you brought from the good country of El Dorado, you would not have been here to eat preserved citrons and pistachio nuts.”

“Excellently observed,” answered Candide; “but let us cultivate our garden.”

 

Tulip yard sign for Lois

The sign I painted for my friend’s fence

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