Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Doing What Lies Clearly At Hand


"For last year's words belong to last year's

language. And next years's words await another

voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning."

T.S. Eliot

            It is emblematic of this moment in history; the population of the world is apprehensive, but as humans we have never been so unified as brothers and sisters of the earth; sharing fear, vulnerability in our kinship in mortal coils, hoping for global healing for loved ones, our planet, ourselves and we are  desirous to live into our dreams again.

       We celebrate the passing of a year with as much vigor as has been our custom to welcome a new start. 

        We reflect on the calendar change following a year like no other. We too have been changed.   

by Dylan Thomas

Being but men, we walked into the trees
Afraid, letting our syllables be soft
For fear of waking the rooks,
For fear of coming
Noiselessly into a world of wings and cries.

If we were children we might climb,
Catch the rooks sleeping, and break no twig,
And, after the soft ascent,
Thrust out our heads above the branches
To wonder at the unfailing stars.

Out of confusion, as the way is,
And the wonder, that man knows,
Out of the chaos would come bliss.

That, then, is loveliness, we said,
Children in wonder watching the stars,
Is the aim and the end.

Being but men, we walked into the trees.

          We need more wonder, to be those children watching the stars.

          The night sky here is often pristine and I am indeed filled with wonder at the depth and expanse. I've noticed that speeding meteors do something even more. They change the dimensionality of my view of the cosmos and, like a pandemic year, they erase barriers, norms, and indeed our very sense of normal. They break the constraints that modernity imposes for its own benefit. There is something good about that.
        Once we cede the freedoms of our imagination to the constraints of things like rationality, and when we tuck all mystery into an explanation like "infinity," we change the dance between head and heart. 
        The world is not binary and it comes with a spectrum of color. In the passing year we have been slowed, life has been rearranged, and disruption has taught us a new dance and opened our eyes. 

"You can't use up creativity.
The more you use, the more you have."
Maya Angelou

    How do we see, how do we reflect, what do we think about all that has happened to us? We've had plenty of opportunity to make sense of it, to take stock of our lives and its meaning. 

"Seek patience and passion in equal amounts.
Patience alone will not build the temple.
Passion alone will destroy its walls."
Maya Angelou

    I've grow impatient with our inability to embrace the consequence of our thought and actions. Why do we (the total US-especially the Congress) appear to be so lazy, and without ethical conviction? Why does this nation remind me of the once golden athlete who, now years hence, is the out of shape and belligerent drunk at the end of the bar? Why does good judgement seem impotent? Why are there so many who are easy marks, gullible and willing to believe obvious lies?

"What you see and what you hear depends a great 
deal on where you are standing.
It also depends on what sort of person you are."
CS Lewis

    Diane Ackerman, a poet, says she is an "Earth Ecstatic. My creed is simple: All life is sacred."
    Ackerman says we can improve our behavior toward one another if we remember that. She says it is basic, a kind of tonic and deeply spiritual "glorifying the smallest life-form and embracing the most distant stars."

"There's a terrible hollowness, an emptiness at the core
of society right now that comes from our trying to exile ourselves farther and farther from nature."
Diane Ackerman

    As she says, nature is something that people visit on weekends or vacations. During the pandemic many had no choice but to deny our natural heritage. Working, entertaining,  living through and on our screens, has presented a new kind of alienation.

     This planet lives and our lives depend on its health. But still I know that change is not done with us.

    Millions of us shared the holiday with loved ones, but we could not hug, we could not feel fully alive.  Such is abnormal to us, but not to children. For them, it is the way it is. Their new normal comes more quickly. They have less history by which to measure disruption.

    Adults and children need to end the exile. The planet is full of wonder.

    We used to ask our colleagues to find new ways to drive home and to work, so as to jar themselves out of the complacency of a norm that can rob sensitivity, awareness and appreciation. 
    After a year of pandemic, we need to explore and look for wonder.

    We need to be honest. It is easier for some of us. It is heartbreakingly worse for many of us. 
    The pandemic year has made a few very rich, and hundreds of millions more poor. It is another global fellowship.

"An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest
and most fatal ailment of all republics."

"Wherever there is a great property 
there is a great inequality"
Adam Smith

       2021 will not deliver us. It will be a commencement. 
        All nations will need triage for their economies. People will suffer financially. Governments will respond, either wisely and justly or not. 
        Voters in the US overwhelmingly rejected the leadership of an authoritarian. Authoritarian regimes dot the planet. Millions live with lies. 
         Getting a fix on reality will come in the new year. The tasks are many:
        -affirming facts
        -supporting science
        -demanding the truth
        -restoring professionalism
        -acting with integrity
        -feeding the hungry
        -housing the many
        -putting people to work
        -healing mind and body
        -setting new boundaries of right and wrong, truth or lies
        -being honorable and dependable to those beyond our shores

    And since it is our business as citizens, in the US at least, we can work, demand and hope for women and men in government to act with the character of health care workers. Courage, devotion to duty, service to others.
    We can and should celebrate true heroes.

"Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage."
CS Lewis

       I mark this change encouraged by the increasing number of women, men and women of color, and emigres who fill the screen as medical experts, government officials, new cabinet appointees, relief directors, social workers and people of competence. I am especially encouraged that my grand children are witnessing this, as their new normal.
      There is a new cast emerging and they will likely produce new heroes as they chart us through the new year.

"Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand."
Thomas Carlyle

            Your writer marks this change with a call for rationality and sensibility, in all matters and most specifically in public discourse.
        In the public square we should employ the Socratic method. It allows for spirited debate and fosters understanding. Questions and answers, an argument that is both cooperative and civil. The process itself digs out the truth, exposes underlying factors and, most importantly, the presuppositions.
        We are passing from a time of the great lie. To survive as a democratic republic we must ferret and root out the presuppositions that are making us uncivil, destroying friendships, splitting families and leading us to damage.

"Perseverance...keeps honor bright..."
William Shakespeare
Troilus and Cressida

"...suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Hope does not put us to shame..."

    Wishing you health, happiness and hope.

    See you down the trail.


Thursday, December 24, 2020

The Season of Mirth

story time at lightbreezes

   We have a tale of danger, played out on this plain...

  ...and we ride the way back machine to meet our favorite of the bearded old boys.

 eye to eye with the old elf

    There he is, standing back on the left in the collection of St. Nicholas' who have taken a home in our house over the years.

    A new fellow would arrive each year, when the girls were young. But one old boy, worn, weary, battle scarred and from the old school, has a favorite spot in our heart.

     This Santa showed up in the early 1950's. We lived in a two bed room VA financed tract house on Muncie's South Ebright Street where other WWII vets settled. 
    Brother John and I shared a room. We also shared this bank, an inducement from Mutual Home and Savings Association to participate in a Christmas Club.
     Times were simpler, and being what they were, the bank was declared a Christmas decoration. That was a unilateral act of parental diplomacy, a way to effect a permanent truce about control of the bank. John and I wrestled and rumbled about most things and the Santa bank was, in our minds, an heirloom. 
    We played with the metal jolly fellow each year, until our interests turned to cowboy guns and holsters and then basketballs and boxing gloves. By the time we were interested in transistor radios and records, Santa had assumed true heirloom status and made his yearly appearances, second in importance to the angel that reigned over the family Christmas decorations from atop the tree. 
    When I came home from college, it warmed me to see the increasingly worn chubby old elf. One year while dad and I watched the Tonight Show, I remember looking it over closely and wondering how John and I had inflicted all the knicks and dings.
    One season, Santa was missing. I learned John had borrowed it since he had a new daughter. Before John died, as a young man many years ago, Santa came back home. Even in the year of John and our younger brother Jim's passing, the old Santa was put on display. After Dad died, the little bank was a kind of talisman, and a holder of memories. 
    Yes Virginia there are a lot of Santa's in this world and it rounds out a life to pick your own favorite, even if they are part of a display in a twinkle shop. We'll take a closer look in a bit.   

        Now, a story of the maternal blessing of motherly protection. We find ourselves among the Sycamores and Oaks of the California central coast. 
      If you look closely there is gold in those leaves on the ground.

    It is a kind of "gold," I clarify, the sort of gold that Lana, dedicated gardener and composter, taught me to collect many years ago.
    This season she conveys "the thrill of the hunt" to our grand daughter. The objects they seek are cow pies. Yep, nitrogen to enrich the soil.
     They carefully watch their step.

Ah, and here, entering stage right, comes the danger. Another mother, grand in her own way, protectng her progeny. 

    In fact there was a lot of maternal interest on this field on this day. 

     With a sufficient number of collections in the bucket, we were returning to the car when a rancher pulled her pick up along side. 
      "Watch out for those mothers," she said. "They're more dangerous than the bulls. They're very protective. There are lot of young out there and they are very protective. Worse than the bulls, they'll just bowl you over."
        "Thanks, we'll be careful. We're leaving now," I sheepishly replied to this keeper of the beef heard.
        "They'll bowl you over, run you right into a tree," she said before pointing her horsepower toward the west.
        As she drove away, I noticed most of the mothers watched her truck disappear around the bend. 

eye to eye with Santa 

     Santa, dude, we all are glad to see you and the gang this year. That is especially so for the knicked little Saint Nick who showed up almost 70 years ago.

  After mom passed he started making memories for daughters Kristin and Katherine and now for the grands Addie and Henry. He is still all about giving, and love!

   Whatever is your tradition, LightBreezes wishes you Merry, Happy, Good Tidings, Great Joy and Peace. 
    Thanks for spending some of this challenging year here and for giving time to the thoughts we leave at this spot.
     Wishing you all health and happiness in the new year!

        See you down the trail!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Changing Colors in America

Santa Rosa Creek Road, Cambria CA

challenge of change
       Trying to get a grip on the flux of political and social attitudes in the US this Christmas season, I circle back to the Ebru style of painting Lana taught her students.
        It's an aqueous technique and the mixture of mediums and water produced fascinating and unexpected results.
        We can be certain of this; the overwhelming majority of US voters are blue, but the exiting and losing reds are refusing to mix and uphold expected and time treasured traditions of our democratic republic. 

Cambria, Ca
sunset on a despot
         If insiders are to be believed, Donald J. Trump is a man in agony. He is in full rage as his circle of sycophants gets smaller, and less stable. His derangement is now fixed as the least honorable, most deceptive and disastrous in US history. 
        His behavior affirms the assessment from former high perches in government to those who simply paid attention; Trump was unqualified, unfit, lacked the character and has, as predicted, endangered the security of the US.
        His grip on power is fading, but there are considerations about a rejected Trump that are blips on the screen. 

what to make of ex-president trump
       How should media handle private citizen Trump? That discussion has begun. Do his tweets or rallies deserve attention? Or should he be ignored, like all former US presidents have been?
        The answer is simple to this journalist, but for reasons that are complex.
        Democracies can die from lies. From the beginning this man has rejected all traditions of honor and decorum that have accompanied the job. Trump has actively tried to undermine and destroy our system of government and our faith in it. His manic and desperate attempt to overturn the election has  been moved forward  by lies, fraud, and distortions. It is dangerous.
        Trump has by now effectively destroyed the Republican party of old. In its place he's created a cult of personality. The devoted sadly believe his outrageous lies and psychotic conspiracy theories. He and his followers are spreading distrust of our government and are violating important norms as well as laws.

        The late justice of the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsberg called Trump an aberration. That was without precedent. No less than conservative Chief Justice John Roberts also railed against Trump and his distortions and deceptions.
        This, most of the world knows; Trump is an unbalanced man who lies perhaps more profusely than anyone in modern civilization. His behavior in the days since he was "land-slided" out by the nation's voters should be evidence enough the sick, destructive, fraudster deserves no regular attention. When he is indicted, or when he has a stroke as he performs for his adoring unenlightened, or when he is shot by one of his paramilitary acolytes who learns that all of his legal defense funds are streaming to his own pockets, or when one of his Russian mafia bankers grow impatient for him to payback the hundreds of millions or to fork over sensitive US knowledge, then he can get news coverage. Until then, he does not deserve it and we should not risk the damage.
        I will forever hold Jeff Zucker of CNN accountable for starting the Trump landslide of attention when he became a candidate. Trump got tons more coverage than other candidate. Why? Because Zucker reasoned the crazy flamboyant hustler was unpredictable and therefore good copy. Zucker was not making a good journalistic decision, he was pandering. Soon, to their discredit, other networks followed suit and Donald Trump disrupted the Republican primary system, brought along his old TV audience, rallied racists, hustled the disenchanted and the US has suffered since. 

      We know, if he gets the oxygen he wants from the media, he will be a shadow president, trying to further delegitimize the federal government. He should be ignored. Perhaps without coverage of major news groups, his influence and bully power will diminish.
      Brandy Zadrozny who covers the internet for NBC News expects 2021 to be the year information fatigue sets in and people will stop caring. She says she sees indications that when people seek only "my community," those of like mind, people don't care about being lied to. That seems evident in the Trump republican party.
       But on January 20th, when Joe Biden takes the oath of office the majority of Americans will celebrate.

exultation at San Simeon

           There will be work to do, just to undo the carnage.
David Wilcox is the former chief economist for the Federal Reserve. He is a PhD in Economics from MIT. Summing up the challenge ahead Wilcox said, "...the Trump administration is seeking to debilitate the economic recovery as much as possible on the way out of the door."
            Then there is everything Russia, the pandemic, the trashing of international alliances, the degradation of the Justice Department, the State Department, the Pentagon, the racism, and the continuous assault on truth and honorable tradition. 
            So, with so much to do and watch, now it is time to pause and celebrate the hope this season represents.

            Coming up next, the back story of this battered old elf. And a cautionary tale about protective mothers. It's all in good cheer, and coming in a couple of days.

     Stay well and safe.
     See you down the trail.