Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mom and Dad came up for Pine Point's "Grandparent's Day" - when the whole school brims over with the kids' grandparents or other surrogate elders.  The fourth grade is working on projects about their heritage and Grandparent's Day helps anchor it.

Dad brought in a facsimile of William Brown's diary and the watch that he had carried in the War of 1812.  Like all the others with their heirlooms he shared and showed it to the class.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

John Michael Greer at the Archdruid Report, constructs a tour de force analysis of what plagues the US.  He believes that the grassroots sustainability movement of the sixties and seventies marked a moment of truth for us as a civilization:
During the Seventies, a great many Americans came face to face with the hard fact that they could have the comfortable and privileged lifestyles they were used to having, or they could guarantee a livable world for their grandchildren, but they couldn’t do both. The vast majority of them – or, more precisely, of us – chose the first option and closed their eyes to the consequences. 
From Christian fundamentalism, to the ineffectualness of the environmental movement, to today's child-safety paranoia, the root of our dysfunctions has been the need to preserve our deeply lived denial.
A great many of the flailings and posturings that have defined American culture from the Eighties to the present . . . unfolded from what Jean-Paul Sartre called “bad faith” – the unspoken awareness, however frantically denied or repressed, that the things that actually mattered were not things anyone was willing to talk about, and that the solutions everyone wanted to discuss were not actually aimed at their putative targets. The lie at the heart of that bad faith was the desperate attempt to avoid facing the implications of the plain and utterly unwelcome fact that there is no way to make a middle class American lifestyle sustainable.

Let’s repeat that, just for the sake of emphasis: there is no way to make a middle class American lifestyle sustainable.
I almost never agree with historical-cultural analyses of this scope, but in this case I think he is exactly right.  It's worth reading in its entirety.

One thing I would add to his analysis.  It is not that this "bad faith" as he calls it, is there present in all of our actions.  On the contrary, it has been set off far to the side for the most part.  But it is at its most destructive when we move (even momentarily) away from the quotidian and banal and move toward the best of what we can be.  That is when the price of this willful blindness is paid.  When we reach out spiritually to embrace the Earth and its creatures in all their fullness; when we try to include all the people of the world in our empathy; when we try to picture in all truthfulness the world that we can create for our great-grandchildren; when we try to live without any veil of self-deception. That is when a true reckoning of the privileges that we enjoy, the things that we take, the damage that we do, threatens to emerge.  That's when the reckoning for this bad faith is paid and it cripples us at our best and our most vulnerable.
More of the same today.  Morning fog, clouds with a bit of sun through the afternoon - though nothing every really dried out - and then rain by the late afternoon.  Temperatures in the mid-fifties to mid-sixties.

Mourning doves were courting in the tree outside my window as I interviewed a man in Boston over the phone about the nature of taxation and public revenue.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wet and cool again -- at 11 a.m. the inside and outside of the house in equilibrium at 64° and dampish.  It would begin to rain in the afternoon.

The yellow currant blossoms are opening, and the earliest of the quince.  Violets and dandelions continue to spread.  Lilac is coming into leaf.  I've seen my first bat over by Tomaquag Road.  

I looked around to see if there were any edible looking mushrooms, but there is only a strange crop of busted puffballs erupted on a discarded pile of charcoal.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


52° this morning, and the fog was risen again from the wet ground.  But it burned off by mid-morning and reached the mid sixties again.  Violets are in bloom.  Rain fell after dark.

Bumble bees are bumbling.  

Hummingbirds are whizzing and making their squeaking music.
They are annoyed that Monica has not filled the feeder yet.

The Homework Hammock

Nico said he was bored, so we composed a limerick together:

There once was a pair of old gloves,
Who sat and talked of old loves,
They were both in a cupboard,
And they cried and they blubbered,
And drew little pictures of doves.


Monday, April 25, 2011

This morning was foggy and wet - every surface of the cold spring morning held as many drops of water as it could.  The dawn temperature was 51°, but climbed quickly through the sixties by lunchtime.  Perhaps it had showered yesterday - we were in Pennsylvania gathered for an Easter weekend of over-eating and egg-hunts, and there it didn't rain.  

Since my intention over the coming weeks is to finish digging and planting a garden, as well as settling in a colony of honeybees, I should start keeping better records of the yearly cycle.  

Of interest to the bees:  After weeks of not much besides maples and skunk cabbage in bloom - here, in the last week of April, the first of the dandelions are beginning to blossom.  The daffodils are probably near the beginning of their peak.  Our few hyacinths are up.  The little blue flowers that I call gentians are mostly past after an uncommonly prolific April.  The violets have been out for over a week - the forsythia for at least a couple of weeks.

The buds on the currants and the quince seem ready to open, though they haven't yet.  The rhubarb is out with leaves a foot across, but no stalks long enough to cut.

The mockingbird was up in the firs, running through its repertoire most of the morning.  Two turkey vultures have gotten into the cat's carcass along the stone wall, and I'm reluctant to go and look at what they've left behind.  (The cat, Wilbur, struck down by a car before Thanksgiving, was buried by Monica, but apparently only deep enough to keep the body frozen through the winter.  Something dug it up after the thaw and nature's clean-up crew has been taking it's sweet gruesome time about returning the poor cat to the cycle.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I’ve found it hard to maintain my journal writing over the past months.  Writing is an important way of gathering thoughts together – bringing them to a discipline and organization that can lead to insight or clarity – but maybe I don’t want clarity.

Because the issue is that I’ve lost faith in a normal future – that is, I’ve lost faith in the agreed-upon future that serves as the channel for all the narrow decisions we’re supposed to be making – preparing the kids for college, setting aside something for retirement, paying down the mortgage, entertaining ourselves with mildly enriching hobbies, continuing to build up that paycheck, or whatever.  The belief that the future is going to be like the present – just a little better or maybe a little worse.

I’d like to believe in that future, banal and comforting as it is, but I’ve had to admit that such a future seems utterly chimerical.  I’m saddled with a scientific conscience, and to believe in that future requires me to believe too many things that simply don’t make sense – to accede into something that feels like a mass delusion.

That future requires me to believe that climate change unchecked isn’t going to wreck our ever more brittle food system; that it won’t roil the country with refugees from newly uninhabitable regions; it requires me to suspend my understanding of physics and thermodynamics, to accept that with a few tweaks we can perpetuate our lifestyle into a low-energy future.  

It requires me to believe that this economy, which can imagine no future but one of infinite growth, will somehow magically transcend the end of the cheap oil; that it will hum along though the foundering retreat of the bankrupt American Empire;  that it will not crush most people’s livelihoods into its gears as it ratchets down to a serious contraction; that the utterly corrupt and rapacious ruling classes were not already well on their way to draining out the wealth and vitality from the once mighty American middle class.  

It requires me to believe that we are going to solve our problems with some sudden, un-heralded burst of ingenuity or will – even though every trend is toward denial, willful ignorance and passivity; toward cynical pessimism or febrile and unfounded optimism.  It requires me to believe that we will rise to the occasion, and it requires me to ignore the fact that the occasion has probably already passed un-marked by any rising-to or by anything but cheerful denial.

I take a close look at the sources for complacency and optimism, and I see numbers that don’t add up, obvious caveats that aren’t applied, inconvenient truths swept under rugs. 

Maybe I’m wrong, as doomsayers have often, though not always, been wrong.  Figuring some of that out is what writing’s for, if I can stick to it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Underneath the granite cliffs of "High Ledges" there is a long, shoreless vernal pond.  Green mer-hair entwines the slow current, and within it the spring frogs make a raucous music.  They fall quiet and dive or float watchfully as we approach.  Purple claws of skunk cabbage glisten against the winter's dull leaf litter.  A fleck of that litter takes flight: a mourning cloak fluttering up into the blue shards of sky that seem to hold the leafless trees in their places.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

At 5:30 a.m. I set out for the airport with a cup of coffee and a smoothie warily circling one another in my stomach.  The Chevron station on Central Avenue was glowing in the darkness and I remembered that I had to fill up the tank in the rental car.  I pulled in around a CBS Channel Two News Van.  A blonde television reporter and her cadaverous, but affable camera man had been condemned to put together a pre-dawn price-shock-at-the-pump segment for the morning show, and they did their best to interview me as I groggily fumbled with my credit card and pumped the gas.  I tried not to sound like a moron.

Their questions and their chatting and their filming delayed me only a little and I made it to the airport in good time, circling into the rental car return lot.  I noticed with a sinking feeling that Enterprise didn't have a kiosk there, and I began to vaguely recall that once years before we had rented a car in Burbank, not so much at the airport as really near the airport.  And that had probably been Enterprise.  It was about 6 a.m. now, beginning to feel a little late considering my 7 a.m. flight, but clearly not late enough for any uniformed humans to be hanging around the rental car yard.  I wondered what would happen if I just returned the car to National instead.  Something really expensive, probably.  

Now began a process of driving that part of Burbank that could be considered really near the airport.  I tried to dredge up from memory the side street that Enterprise was located on.  All I could recall was that it was off a main street and the name of the street had been memorable for some reason.  6:05 . . . 6:10 . . . 6:15 . . . Winona Street - that's it!  and I screeched into a left turn and down Winona street.  The welcome green glow of an "e" showed me I was right.  Maybe they didn't want customers, yet, because they'd barricaded the entrance with a van and some pylons, but I sped into the "Shuttle Only" entrance, wound around to the back, handed a guy there my pink contract papers, and lugged my bags onto the airport shuttle.  

I try not to show up at security checkpoints sweating, since that's just asking for a lengthy pat down, but it couldn't be helped.  However, Burbank seemed to be expecting no trouble and I got to the gate in time.  In fact, by climbing in the back entrance of the plane (none of those fancy walky-tubes for Burbank - you cross the tarmac and climb the steps up to the plane like it's 1955), I actually got that seat by the emergency exit where no one sits in front of you.

Not that it mattered once someone noticed that an engine was leaking fuel.