Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Stubby and Scruffy

This is a bird feeder. 

This is a squirrel stealing birdseed. 

For months – well actually ever since I put the bird feeders up – I have considered squirrels my arch enemies. Triumphant arch enemies. 

Sometimes when I open my back door, as many as seven of the furry rodents scamper away, up my tree, over the roofs of my neighbors’ garages on the east and west sides of my yard. 

I leave. They return. 

One day, I noticed a squirrel with a tail considerably shorter than most squirrel tails. I decided to call him ‘Stubby.’ Another day, I noticed a squirrel with a tail that looked as though it had been attacked by a lawn mower. I called him ‘Scruffy.’ [I don’t actually know the squirrels’ genders, I’m just guessing.] 

Once you start giving squirrels names, you are doomed. 

Creatures with names are no longer arch enemies. They are individuals to which you pay attention, which you tolerate, which you sometimes find amusing. Acknowledging individuality means acknowledging worth [or something roughly the equivalent]. 

I wonder if the same thing might apply to humans.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Amen and Amen

“It will be a lonelier place relative to our natural world.” 

This quote -- by Robert Watson, chairman of a study team at an intergovernmental agency reporting that animals and plants are in decline across the globe – was published in the bottom left hand corner of page D2 of the Tuesday, March 27, 2018 New York Times

Such a tiny news item. So small, many people probably didn’t even see it. 

Everyone should see it. Everyone should think about it. Everyone should do something to reverse the trend. 

Save a tree. Or a river. Or a tortoise. Or even a stray cat. 

We need them. When our lives are wrapped in plastic and electronic images, we cannot breathe. At least our souls can’t. I know I can’t. 

I need crocuses and rain and the Norway maple in front of my house and Herbie my cat. I need the mountains to the west of me and the ocean far to the east (and south). I need the remaining (if shrinking) glaciers and the tropical rain forest. Even just to know they are there. 

Each of them sustains us. Not just by providing oxygen or beauty. But also expanding our understanding of reality. 

Amen and amen.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

And So We Carry On

Last week, Stephen Hawkins and Toys Are Us died, hundreds of United States high school kids walked out to protest gun violence, and a few of the neighborhood crocus started blooming. 

Meanwhile, war in Syria has been going on for the last seven years leaving an estimated 400,000 Syrians killed and 11 million displaced. 

And the war in Afghanistan, which has been going on for 17 years, has left 1.5 million Afghans dead; 4,500 U.S. dead; and 100,000 U.S. wounded. 

Right now, 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.

Nearly 20 people are forcibly displaced every minute as a result of conflict or persecution.  
In the United States, homelessness is endemic. 

And yet, and yet. Last week, hundreds of United States high school kids walked out to protest gun violence, and a few of the neighborhood crocus started blooming. 

And so we carry on.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Lopsided Progress

Over the past 300 or so millennia, there has been significant progress. The shift from cave to computer is astounding. 

 Technology is one thing. Society quite another. 

 I don’t believe humans have changed that much. We need, I think, to discard the notion of our ancient ancestors as dull-witted brutes. They were smart enough to figure out fire and agriculture and weaving and art and one thing led to another and now we have smart phones. 

What has not evolved, in my opinion, has been our societies (local, national and global). In fact, we may have regressed. 

We’ve gone from circles of people with an acknowledged consciousness of their relationships with the rest of existence (stars, plants, seasons, animals) to a hierarchical pyramid schemes that discount three fourths of our species. Under the latter, we have serfs, slavery, and homelessness. Progress has been lopsided – like our society. This is not what Pangloss told Candide – "all is for the best" in the "best of all possible worlds". Nor is it true that ‘every day in every way, things are getting better and better’. 

We need to stop being smug about the progress of our species and start working toward re-forming our circles. 

Then we can be smug.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

It Is Still Here!

They are still here! 

My front yard miracle -- the cluster of flowers that appeared in January is still here and it’s almost Easter! 

People walking on the sidewalk in front of my house often stop to admire them. 

I check on them every morning as I descend the stairs to make breakfast. 

They’ve been buried in snow and blown by violent winds but they are still here. 

Wikipedia says “the Eurasian genus Helleborus consists of approximately 20 species of herbaceous or evergreen flowering plants in the family Ranunculacase, within which it gave its name to the tribe of Helleborae.” Cool. 

“Despite names such as "winter rose", "Christmas rose" and "Lenten rose", hellebores are not closely related to the rose family.” But a non-rose by any name is still sweet … especially when it blooms in winter. It would be so excellent if they lasted all the way to Easter. We’ll see.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

what is this?

Last year, I had one winter blooming flower in my front yard. Now I have a small colony, surviving snow and frigidness. 

Someone called it an evening primrose but according to Wikipedia, that would open only at the close of day. Mine opens all day, everyday.

I believe someone else called it a wood rose. Is that what this is?

By whatever name, it is sweet. It is my own, personal miracle that appears in January and persists.
As must we all.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Enough Already

More than 225 years ago, English author Mary Wollstonecraft wrote that women were coerced into believing -- “that they were created rather to feel than [to] reason, and that all the power they obtain, must be obtained by their charms and weakness.” 

No one believes that now. 

Or not many people. 

But traces of that anomaly seep into attitudes that are perverted into excuses for various crimes against women-- whether violence, abuse, or patronizing behavior/comments. 

An occasional pat on the back is okay. Pats on the head are not. Neither is any form of uninvited groping or grabbing. 

The whole man/woman thing is fraught with . . . almost everything. Attraction is inevitable. Detraction, not acceptable. Sexual tension can be delightful but respect is required. Permission sought. Mutuality confirmed. 

Whole industries are founded on stoking the fires of desires. Extreme d├ęcolletage rules. Misogyny rules. Lasciviousness rules. 


Whether we are 8 or 18 or 80, each of us must establish boundaries, advocate personal autonomy, and work to protect those females who have a hard time doing it on their own. At least stand with them. 

Now is the time. 

For all of us.