Blog

Thoughts (okay, a rant) on Allowing Russia to Attack Our Democracy

Soldier WWII
He fought for our right to vote, for our freedoms.

It is coming out, just how extensive the ongoing attack on our country is. An attack that is coordinated with corrupt Americans, cyber warfare, and propaganda. It is a war that Russia is winning, will continue to win, unless we all wake up, for pity’s sake!

The collusion of prominent Americans and elected officials will continue coming to light. I hope this becomes a turning point for the American electorate. I hope eyes and minds open. I sincerely hope everyone is deeply appalled by what has happened, by what we have allowed to happen.

The right to vote is under attack. It is under attack by politicians now in power (I am looking at you GOP) who will stoop to any sort of perfidy to consolidate and preserve their power, including gerrymandering, voter suppression, and corrupt campaign finance rules. This has been a not-so-slow chipping away at the average person’s right to vote. Now that, in my book, is real treason.

You know, going to the polls to cast your vote is not just a civic duty. It is a sacred right. It is made sacred by the blood that shed by our fore bearers in war after war to protect our way of life. My father, a WWII veteran, did not die on the battlefield, but parts of him either died or were wounded by his experiences in the arena of war. Imagine how it would affect you to witness and endure the sights and sounds and feelings of war.

My dad had to flee German strafing runs as air attacks made desert night showings of movie entertainment impossible. My dad endured endless bombardments when he was stationed on Sicily. He related once that these nightly bombardments were hated mostly for the sleep deprivation. He confessed that after a few nights of misery, he declined to go to bomb shelter areas, saying, “If I die, I die. But God damn, I’m gonna get some sleep.” He never said that he had to kill another human being, maybe he did. I hope not, and he was mostly behind the lines in a support role as a mechanic and radio repairman. Even if he never had to take a life, one of the worst memories he had to live with was his feeling of helplessness at being unable to relieve the suffering of the endless groups of starving children he saw as U.S. troops moved through Europe, liberating previously German-held areas. The misery of these starving children never left him. These universals have not changed since the days when the first humans picked up a clubs and started bashing each other to death.

My dad “survived” WWII and came home to marry, have kids, work…and suffer for the rest of his life from anxieties, fears he could not even name, nightmares. There is a fancy name for this, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He didn’t know that term, but he knew the thing itself intimately. He found no relief from this. Men of his generation just didn’t talk about it much. So he paid the cost, different from the ultimate cost of those who died on the fields of battle, but no less profound.

These sacrifices, made by so many men and women throughout the history of our nation, have sanctified one of our basic liberties, the right to vote. These sacrifices lay upon us, not a burden, but a duty of our own, to honor their sacrifices not with gratitude (that is too facile) but with taking extremely seriously our right to cast a thoughtful, well informed vote in each and every election, from school board elections right up to Congress and the Presidency.

In my humble opinion, we truly blew it big time in 2016. It makes me angry, almost rageful, to think of all the people who allowed themselves to be manipulated by Russian propaganda, misinformation campaigns by the alt-right, and sheer mental and spiritual laziness. The right to vote is too sacred to be wasted on so-called “protest” votes or ignorant votes. Every election has real consequences, and we are living with those consequences now. If you vote for a person of low character you see what you get. No one should have been as ignorant or willful as to set aside this simple wisdom.

To read in my local newspaper this morning that propaganda generated on social media of Facebook by Russian assets, trolls, bots, hackers might have been seen and absorbed by as many as 126 million, yes million, people is alarming enough. However, what really makes me rage is the fact that sheer mental and spiritual laziness causes so many voters to be taken in by lies and propaganda and has led us to where we are today. Fact checking is becoming a duty, folks.

Thank everything holy that we are still a nation of laws, and the truth will eventually come out despite all the political games and foot dragging by those not wanting their power bases weakened. But the truth is, folks, that if we all did our sacred duty and used our brains, none of this propaganda and manipulation would have worked as well as it did. That makes me truly, deeply angry with anyone who voted for Trump, did not vote at all, or registered some throwaway, “protest” vote. Thank you all so profoundly for forcing me, and those I care for, to suffer through the consequences of your idiocy. Yes, I’m angry.

Next time, use your brains. Open your minds and get off your lazy mental butts and THINK and then go cast that sacred vote. Don’t let this happen again in 2018 and 2020.

Advertisements

Just Imagine a New Way to Change the World

A friend of mine is traveling, doing a river cruise in Europe. Today she toured some windmill structures in Holland that also housed families. It made me stop and think.

Just imagine such structures here in the United States. Imagine living in a structure like that. Would it be so different from living in a lighthouse? Maybe the idea could catch on, appealing to history buffs and those with romantic, imaginative inclinations.

Wind power is everything right now, for which I’m thankful. I suppose those giant wind turbines that are sprouting up everywhere are most efficient at producing electrical power from wind. But what if we thought outside the box.

Suppose there was a movement to produce human scaled windmill structures like the traditional type in Holland, with living space designed inside. Each one could possibly be self sufficient, generating enough electricity to run itself.

Just imagine.

We could tackle two problems at once: clean energy and affordable housing to combat homelessness. Wouldn’t that be something?

Elon Musk…are you listening?

The Power of the Smallest Things

 

Garden
Small, beautiful things

The stress we are all living with can feel overpowering. So how do we survive it? How do we find happiness when we feel we are beginning to drown in the scummy, mucky swamp that has become America today? When we feel powerless, how can we reclaim our Constitutional right to enjoy Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness?

In small things. It is the smallest of things, assiduously collected daily, that will save us. Find those small things that reliably make you smile. Look wherever you have to look. Go outside. Look at flowers. Listen to birdsong. Peruse family photos. Watch an old classic movie. Bogart is always good. Reread a favorite book or just read the comics. Turn off news and listen to music. Dance as if no one is looking, as they say, because you know, no one is actually paying attention to you. Everyone is too busy trying not to drown in this swamp.

This morning I made myself notice how good it felt when my older daughter reached out to me with a text request because she had lost an old favorite family recipe and knew she could count on me to have it and share it. I smiled. I photographed both sides of my handwritten recipe card and emailed the pictures to her. I love having tech solutions at my fingertips to speed up response to requests from my kids.

This brief contact with her made me smile and think of my other daughter. I decided to immerse myself in her Facebook posts and that worked wonders for my mood also. She recently posted how much she loves Portland, Oregon, because where else can you see a bagpipe-playing Darth Vader character skateboarding past you? I enjoyed again the many photos she posts or her friends post of hikes, rock climbing trips, and team endurance races done from mountain tops to ocean beaches.

I read a little in an e-book I checked out from the library. I indulged in a few minutes of an intriguing little computer game I enjoy. I streamed some classical music from a public radio station. I gazed out the window into the trees behind our house, enjoying the sunshine and blue skies.

Pursuit of Happiness. It’s not so hard. It’s in remembering to notice and enjoy the small things. So that tomorrow, with fresh strength, any one of us can swim stronger to reach that bright, shining shore and work to pull ourselves out of this swampy quagmire we call America today. Then we can turn around and begin the very good work of finding allies, recognizing comrades, helping each other and, next election, actually begin draining that hideous swamp. Go now. Pursue some happiness.

How do You Travel to Other-Wheres?

A powerful image of magical transportation came to me as a gift from some Other-Where or some other One, as I moved from sleeping to waking. I wonder if it may become the germ of a story that I can tell. As I let my mind and heart play with this possibility, all sorts of literary memories of doors, pathways and modes of transport into Other-Wheres have been coming to me. Perhaps you remember some of these.

One of the more interesting means of transport that I hope many readers recognize comes to us via a Victorian Scots writer, George MacDonald. He wrote quite a lot of interesting stories, but the one that continues to live with me is At the Back of the North Wind, in which the young boy Diamond rides through the night with the Lady North Wind to so many Other-Wheres, the most Other of which lies at her back.

Oddly, in one of my favorite fairy tales from Norway, it is also the North Wind who leads the heroine to her Other-Where, the castle that lies East of the Sun and West of the Moon, where she works to free her beloved from a troll witch.

I think everyone knows Alice, who found not one but two ways to get Other-Where: down a rabbit hole and through a looking-glass. Then there is the door that lies at the back of a wardrobe and if you push far enough through the furs hanging there you may come to Narnia. If you can get hold of some fairy dust, you could fly to Neverland.

I don’t consider any of the portkeys that feature in Harry Potter to be quite the same, because while it is quite magical how they whisk people away, it is to another very real place, at least very real in Harry Potter’s world, rather than to a wholly different type of Other-Where. And unless you fly to New Zealand and take a Hobbiton Movie Set tour, I know of only one way to get to Middle Earth and that is to read the book. Because after all, books are the most magical portals of all.

GREEN AND GOLD

Yesterday was the great Eclipse. Kind of a bust here in cloudy, rainy Minnesota. Especially as we were not in the path of full eclipse viewing. People still took interest. And photographs, some quite artistic and moodily beautiful.

Today is in complete contrast, with pleasant winds and lots of blue skies, puffy, white clouds, and sunshine.

It was a simple joy to sit down in my chair and gaze out my back window into the stand of woods behind our backyard. God put on her Lighting Director hat today and worked with flourish, beaming focused light streams down to highlight various parts of trees, lush with shining green leaves, in a seemingly random pattern of gilding that contrasts dramatically with pockets of deep shade.

It’s a small stand of woods, and I use the term “woods” generously. Really it’s just a shallow stand of mixed deciduous trees and not the valued ones. More the step children, such as cottonwoods and buckthorns. Accompanied by lush stands of weeds and deadfalls of rotting trunks and branches. A haven for critters. And a shallow summer screen between my yard and the wetlands/marsh beyond. Nine Mile Creek meanders through and is visible at the end of our cul-de-sac.

I smile to watch red squirrels dashing up and down slim, tall tree trunks like manic commuters running up and down the moving stairways of subway stations. In a hurry. No time to stop.

Rabbits, deer, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, even the occasional red fox. Beautiful wood ducks and, in the past, pheasants. But that was before the red foxes and coyotes moved into the ‘hood. We still get great birds. Woodpeckers of all sizes, chickadees, fox sparrows and house sparrows, purple finches, Juncos, nuthatches, occasional Baltimore orioles, hummingbirds, blue jays, crows, hawks, cardinals and red-winged blackbirds. I have seen all these creatures right around my house.

So I gaze with pleasure that is run through with threads of grief. Grief at the thought of leaving all this. We are at that point in our lives where seriously downsizing and leaving behind a house and yard to care for has become the priority.

I grieve. I love this spot of earth. Remember the baby mandrake plants being wrenched, screaming, from their pots in the horticulture class attended by Harry Potter? Remember their anguished cries? I understand that now in a visceral way, as I feel tugs beginning to pull my roots out of the soil of this place.

So, I will allow myself to grieve and at the same time try to soak up every moment of joy that I can while I am still here.

Why I Love to Browse the Dictionary

Merriam Webster online is a great resource for writers. Not for spelling, or word usage (all excellent excuses to turn there) but for inspiration and sheer fun.

With the imminent July 4th celebration in my beloved country I chanced to wonder how Merriam Webster defines the word patriot. It’s a word thrown around a lot these days in our bitter and divisive national discourse, usually in service of delivering an insult. “No patriot would fill in the blank.” “A true patriot would support fill in the blank (but usually some reference to the current inhabitant of the White House).”  “Patriots, grab your guns and let’s go re-educate some of these choose one: Godless Liberals – Snowflakes – Whiny Losers. Well, you get the picture, and it isn’t pretty.

Are we having fun yet?

But back to the online definition of patriot. After scrolling down the fascinating page, I noticed their “Trending” list of words with current high volumes of look ups and saw “kakistocracy.” So, I had to click through to read about that, wouldn’t you have? Go there now and check it out, because it is fascinating. Read the excerpt from the sermon delivered in 1644 and ask yourself how many of the descriptions you can recognize and apply today in America. https://www.merriam-webster.com/news-trend-watch/when-government-is-just-the-worst-20170629?src=defrecirc-fromthem-w

It’s downright uncanny. Yes, I looked up that word too. Go ahead. You know you want to. Hopping around in the dictionary can be as much fun as rereading Alice in Wonderland. Just as surreal and just as relevant.

Hope and Renewal in the Garden

Decrepit garden
BEFORE

 

It was a sad story…a neglected garden run wild and overgrown. But it has a happy ending.

IMG_20170630_142531
AFTER

For this moment, the work here is done.

But only for this moment, because gardens are never “done” or finished. They keep changing. They keep needing attention. They are as demanding as children of our energy and care. Like children, they also reward us with joy and the fun of seeing progress.

IMG_20170630_142451
All planted and tucked in.

It took some hired help to clear out the overgrowth and weeds, and then a lot of time, working slowly, in stages. Breaking a large project up into smaller tasks and patiently accomplishing them one by one as energy and weather conditions permit is a very successful strategy. Not just for gardening, but for life in general. And this garden is far from finished. There is a large area closer to the maple tree that waits for more plants to be added. Perhaps in the early fall, when my checking account has had some recovery time.

The rewards are so real. The perennial garden is much improved, and color is added along the other side of the walk with container plantings, including two lovely tomato plants amidst the flowers.

IMG_20170630_142519
Tomatoes join the plant parade

Last but not least, a few blooms to brighten the corner by the porch and front door. Snapdragons mostly, and a sad, somewhat bedraggled old geranium that has yet to rebound from wintering over and being severely cut back to encourage new growth. But it will make a remarkable comeback, as it always does. It will be blooming, gloriously red, in a while.

IMG_20170630_143139

In a garden there is always hope and renewal.

Before and…During

There is nothing that embodies hope more than working in a garden. You do what you can. You do what you know how to do. And then you hope. For rain. For sun. For time before the inevitable first killing frost to allow small roots to dig deep. For stems and leaves to reach high. For rabbits and deer to begone from your garden, which they view as their salad bar.

An earlier post described how my perennial garden went awry when I was physically unable to keep up with the weeding and when one little, tiny mistake or two (involving aggressive groundcover plants) threatened the entire garden. Here is the before picture of all the devastation.

Decrepit garden

It left me feeling very sad, most unhappy. So I asked for help. It was worth every penny I had to spend to get this little piece of my land back under reasonable control. And the bonus came in the form of a few minutes here and there of talking gardening and plants with the man I hired to help me out. That’s what gardeners do. They compare notes. They share tips. They commiserate with the inevitable setbacks that gardens give us. These were very pleasurable random conversations.

The work is by no means done, but phase one is complete. The invasive groundcover plants have been moved and brought under control. The weeds have been vanquished. At least for the moment. Here is a look at the results of phase one.

garden free of weeds

 

And the joy is that a few perennials I thought were killed were only hiding beneath the invasive ground cover, fighting for their lives. They have been saved, replanted. Tomorrow I will visit the nursery to get a few more companion plants to join them. This will be phase two. I won’t be able to fill all the garden this year, but I can make a start, and then protect the space awaiting next year’s plants with a good, thick layer of mulch. The pile of wood chip mulch is ready and waiting to be put down. I will post one last update when this year’s work is accomplished.

This is my tangible example of progress, not perfection. And I am content. And hopeful.

If you need a laugh, check this out, by G. L. Cromarty

Writers know all about the writing zone. About how easy it is to get distracted. About how hard it can be to get started. About how difficult it is to keep going. And about how annoying it is when our nearest and dearest interrupt us in the middle of our writing flow. So, for those […]

via Writer at work! A guide to acceptable writer interruptions #writing #amwriting — G.L. Cromarty

Don’t Break a Winning Streak

Subtitled: Whatever works for you!

IMG_20170614_135844

I’ve been washing a lot of dishes by hand lately. I don’t know why, when I have a dishwasher that I love. It’s efficient, super quiet, and sanitizes my dishes. But there is something satisfying (if dehydrating) about putting my hands in hot, soapy water. It’s therapeutic. It’s meditative.

I worry though, if I do this as a way to procrastinate. A way to avoid sitting down in my chair and staring at a blank page on my computer screen. However, the fact is that I am writing now more than ever. I really don’t think it is procrastinating. Maybe it is the opposite?

IMG_20170614_135650

Perhaps the time spent cleaning up after cooking and eating a meal is what is feeding my word flow. Maybe the hands in hot, soapy water go beyond therapeutic, beyond meditative, all the way to magical?

Okay, that’s it. I’m slipping into my MLB ballplayer superstitious mode now. If washing dishes by hand does the trick for my creativity, then Imma do dishes by hand indefinitely!

Like the ballplayer, after a winning streak, who must hang his ball cap on the newel post every night, and nowhere else. Or who cannot put razor to face for fear of breaking the streak. Because who in their right mind wants to break a winning streak?

Besides, if I really want to procrastinate, there are much more fun ways to do that. Like my TBR pile.

IMG_20170614_140248