We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Flash ride for a flash ride

Imbolc                                                                                  Imbolc Moon

Whimsy. Dreams. Finally, a flying car.

First, a before the launch video, then, live streaming of Starman.

And, then. Buck Rogers!

 

Splitters and lumpers

Imbolc                                                                           Imbolc Moon

splitters2Last night at Beth Evergreen three presenters, a University of Colorado Regent, a newly hired diversity specialist for Jeffco schools and an Evergreen woman, formerly a philanthropist and LGBT activist, now working in corporate social responsibility spoke about labeling and identity. It was, in some ways, disappointing.

Though the focus was on labeling, someone or something else (like census forms, school boards, the dominant culture) describes you, and identity, you describe yourself, the topic veered rapidly into a mode of doublespeak. It’s difficult to describe, but identity politics has become a minefield of careful positioning, trying not to cause offense, and further and further journeys into talking but not changing. Each person in the room last night, presenters and audience included, brought authentic concern and a willingness to be part of a solution. But, to what?

I kept thinking of the hoary argument in plant classification between lumpers and splitters. The same analytical dynamic plays out in many fields. Lumpers look for commonalities, seek to reduce the number of categories in any particular area of study while splitters look for differences, for nuanced distinctions that allow uniqueness to flourish. Neither approach is right or wrong, it’s almost a psychological tendency, I think, rather than a reasoned stance.

splitters3In identity description the nod now goes to splitters. As one presenter last night said, “I see gender like the stars in the sky, some may be brighter, more prominent, but there are many stars in the sky.” That’s breathtakingly broad.

A key word that emerged last night was fluidity. It basically means that the ground shifts frequently in this conversation, not least because people claiming their own identity often make different distinctions as they learn more about themselves and their community. There are, too, regional differences and age cohort differences. It’s a splitters’ paradise.

Here’s why it was disappointing to me. It felt like conversations from the mid to late sixties, though those were blunter in their focus. They were, at least at first, focused on civil rights for African-Americans, or Blacks, or Black-Americans. The power moves involved in labeling versus identifying were in bold relief. We’re not niggers or coloreds or darkies. We’re Americans with a particular historical background.

Remember Black is beautiful? Afros. Kente cloth. Angela Davis. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Last night was the contemporary version: male, female, bisexual, pansexual, transsexual, intersexual, asexual. Gay. Lesbian. It all felt depressingly familiar, as if we’d moved in time away from the sixties, but not in content.

beltane2017gorbachevThat’s not to say that “racial” distinctions were absent from the conversation. Not at all. Unfortunately. The strange, weird thing about this is that race is a nonsense category, not supported by genetics at all. So creating a splitters nomenclature for various “races” reinforces a non-existent and damaging conceptual paradigm. Of course, the culture, in diverse ways, uses race as a placeholder for attaching secondary characteristics to others. Of course it does. But how do we move away from that convenient slotting, or lumping of people based on skin color? Does it happen by emphasizing color? It cannot. Does it happen by ignoring the racist who does? No.

And that was the problem I had with evening. There seems to have no movement forward in the land of identity politics, only movement crabwise.

I did not ask my question, because it occurred to me on the way home, naturally. “Has identity politics by the left contributed to, even caused, the rise of populism now roiling our nation?” That is, have we, in slicing and dicing the particulars of personal difference blinded ourselves to the plight of working class Americans? It seems so to me.

A movement against oligarchy, plutocracy and autarchy must be first made of lumpers. These lumpers must find, express and celebrate the commonalities among those who suffer as a result of concentrated wealth, purchased power, dynastic ambition. Right now we have given away our power with a navel-gazing splitter mentality. Of course, we must be able to define and describe ourselves. Yes. But we must not only reach for the unique and particular, but for the broader and more universal. No political change can come without joining hands, so the more difficult, the more necessary task in the Trump era belongs not to the splitters but to the lumpers.

 

 

 

Oops.

Imbolc                                                                       Imbolc Moon

stocksStocks have begun to sink. Good. I hope they go down a full 10% at least, a decent correction and a return to market volatility. This puffed up market, glowing and expanding as if by orange-haired demagogic magic, was never his. It was the tail end of the Obama economy; the one, lest we forget, that he rescued from the worst economic crisis of recent times.

Irrational exuberance. Greenspan may have presided over the last inflation, pumped up by his own Randian version of combover ideology, but he nailed the bubble feeling. How else to explain the glee which has followed the rise and rise and rise of the various indices? And, now, its opposite, irrational anxiety.

Stock-Market-BubbleIrrational because the underlying fundamentals are still sound. We’re adding jobs, inflation and interest rates remain low, and international economies began growing together, for the first time in a while. Fluctuations in stock prices are, and I can’t believe I’m agreeing with Mike Pence here, normal. They represent the ebb and tide of sentiment not necessarily anchored, at least in the moment, to any real world economics.

Trump is a blowhard, a hardcore racist, a not disguised at all white supremacist, a misogynist, a cruel man. And somehow, damn it, our President. His approval ratings, already abysmal, may plummet further along with the Dow Jones. May it be so.

Vintage

Winter                                                                            Moon of the Long Nights

milk man-canada-vancouver

milk man canada vancouver

2018 needs to come to mind now if you still write checks. Remember checks? Charming pieces of paper with which old folks used to transfer money from their bank accounts to someone else’s? Dial phones. Black and white TV. Horse drawn milk delivery. Cars with fins. Poodle skirts and doo-wop.  Electric typewriters. (my personal obsession) Paper newspapers. Newspapers as delivery vehicles for the news.

Nostalgia? No. In most cases what we have now is an improvement, but it’s interesting to consider the cultural and technological distance between childhood and adulthood in any time period, I imagine. Might be an interesting academic discipline. How does the past look from an adult perspective? The gap between adult’s historical knowledge and their children’s immersion in their own time is always a source of entertainment at least.

signoffMy grandmother called cars the machine. “Dad, would you get the machine and take the kids downtown?” We had Ray Carver whose horse drawn milk wagon survived into the late 1950’s. Television stations used to turn off for the night. Just had a conversation with some old friends about the sign off image with the Indian in an eagle feather headdress.

My childhood is vintage now and I have the images to prove it.

Humans don’t try to dominate. We listen. We adjust.

Winter                                                                  The Moon of the Long Nights

lunarflow, Gouache on paper by Heron Michelle

lunarflow, Gouache on paper by Heron Michelle

The full Moon of the Long Nights glows in the west this morning, roughly over Evergreen. Its gentle light blots out many stars, but makes up for that in its own silvery beauty.

The moon is a place alien to us in spite of its ubiquity. We see it most nights, know its facing terrain intimately, most of it visible through good binoculars. We’ve even sent a few humans to walk upon it, twelve all told, but that small number underscores rather than challenges its wildness. Even if humans settle on the moon, its surface will still be no place for unprotected human bodies. We were not made for that place even though it is our closest solar system neighbor. It is the first outpost of the wilderness, the strange and foreign place, that is everything else in the vastness of space.

There are still places on earth where we can experience wildness. High Country News, a magazine that focuses on issues effecting the contemporary West, has become a favorite read of mine; and, in its Christmas issue, featured an article by Outside writer and editor, Christopher Solomon, “In the Home of the Bear.”

mcneil_travelSolomon recounts a visit to the McNeil River Sanctuary. He won a chance to visit this protected spot for the Alaskan brown bear in an annual lottery. The fairly long quote below has rattled around in my mind since I read it a week or so ago. It reveals, at least to me, a path we could walk to accomplish Thomas Berry’s Great Work for our time, creating a sustainable human presence on this planet, our home in the wildness of space.

The he in the first sentence is Larry Aumiller, a manager of the sanctuary for three decades. He “spent three decades studying how humans could live in harmony with Ursus arctos on the landscape.”

McNeil_Falls_in_July, DrewHH - Own work

McNeil_Falls_in_July, DrewHH – Own work

…over time, he learned how humans and bears could reside together.

And what works? First of all, restraint — not bulling into the landscape. Bears don’t like surprises. Moving slow and being predictable are good starts. That’s why humans walk the same trails, about the same times every day, and in the same group size. Over decades of such long and careful practice, the bears here have learned to see humans as another presence on the landscape — neither the source of a meal, nor the cause of pain or fear. They are “neutrally habituated,” in the argot of this place…

Almost everywhere else, the ability for humans and bears to move easily among each other has been lost. What is different at McNeil is that humans don’t try to dominate. We listen. We adjust. We find out how it all fits together, and where we fit in. “Here we learn that we can live among the great bears,” Fair writes. “Here we learn the human behaviors that allow this.””  In the Home of the Bear, High Country News

Humans don’t try to dominate. We listen. We adjust. We find out how it all fits together, and where we fit in. Oh, what a wonderful world it would be…

The Ancientrail of Family

Winter                                                        Moon of the Long Nights

Sushi Win last night

The last of the holiseason guests leave today. Joseph, SeoAh, and Murdoch load up the Subaru, including some very appreciated sports cards; one could be worth thousands! It has been so sweet to see these two and their puppy. Their second anniversary is only three and a half months away. Joe’s got a lot of travel with his Weapons Officer position, especially with the sword rattler-in-chief, so SeoAh and Murdoch get to spend a lot of time together at Robbins AFB.

We had the talk with Joe yesterday. No, not that talk, but the other one about estate plans, medical powers of attorney, money, disposal of cremains. Being in the military has made him very aware of such matters. As an officer, he’s required to understand them for the personnel he commands. He said, “I hope you live until I retire in ten years.” Me, too. But you never know.

typical of their relationship

typical of their relationship

This is another purpose of holidays, to bring families together and to allow opportunity for sorting out the business side of their affairs. These are often emotional and difficult issues, also, for the same reasons, often avoided. We’re lucky that we can have these conversations easily.

Kate got a call every patient appreciates. “Oh, that C.T. scan? They didn’t do the contrast dye so we have to do it over.” Great. On the upside it looks like the portable O2 concentrator battery has decided to come back on side. Tammy, from the O2 concentrator store tech support, had me recalibrate the battery. Recalibration involves running the battery down to zero, then charging it fully. “You should do this every quarter since the batteries are so expensive.”

goofy-droopy-glasses-bigAs with the whole United States (except for the 30% or so who still see Trump through those crazy glasses with the eyeballs that fall out on slinkys), I’m going to be very, very glad to put 2017 to bed. You know. The gradual rehab of the knee. Jon’s final eight months with us. The turmoil in his life and the kids. Kate’s gradual and painful introduction to Sjogren’s. Her shoulder. Trump. And, of course, Trump. The troubles in Korea, now of significance to us in a new way. It’s been a tough year, expensive and emotionally trying.

Jones Wins!

Samain                                                              Bare Aspen Moon

Can’t ignore the news today. 51 to 49 is the new Senate math. Really a low, low bar when a victory against a Supreme Court defying pedophile, by only 21,000 votes, is seen as a crushing message. Yes, it’s in the deepest of the deep South and that does matter, but for a party that has trumpeted its family and religious values as core to its purpose, its representative in this race had flaws that should have kept him out of the race in the first place. In other words if the rot in the Republican party were not so pervasive, had they not allowed corruption to rule their primary process, they would have won this seat easily. I’m glad Jones won and I hope the way he won does augur Republican troubles at mid-term elections next year, but I’m not ready to celebrate quite yet.

 

 

Hooray for the Pumpkin Pie

Samain                                                                      Bare Aspen Moon

20171123_063842

My phone camera didn’t do it justice, but Thanksgiving came in over Black Mountain with a gorgeous pink cloud, a penumbra of gold light on Black Mountain itself and a glow over our home. May the rest of the day, and especially the capon, be as beautiful.

Finished the pancetta and fig stuffing by celebrity felon, Martha Stewart, last night. It smells like it will be as good as I imagined. The capon-yes, we have it-thawed out and will go in the oven around 11:00 a.m. Kate made a pumpkin pie and got the caramelized yams ready. Ruthie’s pecan pie is covered in foil. She’s also bringing deviled eggs. They’re planning on coming up around noon or so.

Last night, for some strange reason, the neighbor had his sledge hammer out, using it to pound on a plastic garbage container. For quite a while. Don’t know if his mother or his mother-in-law or both are coming today.

thanksgiving-farm-harvest-postcard

We will be saying our gratefuls around 2 p.m. I’m grateful for you if you’re reading this. I’m also grateful for all the love here: dogs, Kate, Jon, Ruth, Gabe, Annie. I’m also grateful for the lodgepole pine that spent millions of years acclimating themselves to this particular altitude. And for the clouds and the mountains, which have such great altitude, and the streams and the mule deer. The elk, the red and gray fox, the moose, the mountain lions, the bears, the marmots and pikas. The rattlesnakes. The available oxygen in the atmosphere and the amazing organs we have that convert it to our use. So many things. Endless really. Thankful for all of them, now and forever.

 

Kick the Bums Out

Samain                                                                  Bare Aspen Moon

MetooOn the #metoo phenomenon kicked off by the now thoroughly besmirched Harvey Weinstein. What has happened, I hope, is that the tacit cover for sexual harassers has become at least translucent, maybe on its way to transparency. It’s that cover, consisting of male privilege and the fear of retribution in ways large and small that go with it, which has given especially men in power, but also men in all walks of life, the sense that they can treat women as objects rather than persons.

This objectification of women has always been wrong, always leads to mistreatment. How else can we explain the gendered wage gap, the glass ceiling still leaving accomplished women trapped in their cubicles, the continued male on female domestic violence? Only when the 3/5th’s compromise, America’s true original sin, no longer applies to anyone in our society will we have justice.

THIS IS NOT A PARTISAN ISSUE. It is a male issue and in particular a males in power issue. As a result it is my personal position that anyone right now, even Minnesota Senator Al Franken, who has credible accusers should step aside. Resign. Quit. Admit that they were wrong and leave the position which made them feel so powerful that they could ignore the real lives of others.

#metoo2Apologies are important. As an academic who teaches a course on apologies noted, they affirm, confirm and reinforce social norms. We need to establish as the real norm that unwanted sexual advances of any kind are not funny, playful, teasing, victimless. One way to do that is for each of those harassers to acknowledge what they did, who they did it to, and why their behavior is abhorrent and inexcusable. Then, they should be allowed to move on with their lives, but not in whatever position they currently hold.

My hope is that as a result we will be able to nuance these incidents in the future. Perhaps, as some say, Al Franken’s clear admission and apology and the nature of his acts are less heinous than, say, Roy Moore’s or Donald Trump’s, but as we shake off the social consensus that allowed these events to go unremarked and their victims shamed, we cannot allow any special pleading. The chance to change the nature of our public and private life in favor of women is too important to occlude with partisan rhetoric.

I regret this position leads me to support removing politicians with whom I generally agree, but, to me, the moment and its potential is just too important.

Guns Don’t Kill People. People With Guns Kill People.

Samain                                                                      Joe and SeoAh Moon

AR 15, for the kill

AR 15, for the kill

“Researchers define mass killings as an event leaving four or more dead at the same place and time. These incidents occur at an average of about one a day across the United States; few make national headlines.”   nyt

Don’t know about you but this sentence shocked me. One a day? Damn.

 

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