Category Archives: Food for Thought

Six for a Blue Monday

As I just wrote to a blogging friend,  although blue is my favorite color, I am feeling blue in the sad sense. It seems as though our country is far, far away from getting covid-19 under control. And yet out everyone goes.

Not coincidentally, cases of covid-19 are rising around the country. To me, feeling safe seems like a distant dream, and the same is true for getting together with family and friends.

To cheer myself up and to remind myself, yet again, how lucky I am to live here, I am sharing six recent pictures that I took around the yard.

A visit from Mrs. Cardinal is always welcome. It’s a pity I couldn’t get a picture of her being fed by her devoted husband, as she often is. When I am on the patio, I’ll keep my camera at the ready. Maybe I’ll be able to capture this sweet exchange.

Shannon and Mike sent me these flowers for Mother’s Day. I had to keep them inside for a while as the beginning of May was decidedly chilly.  However, the weather improved, and into a pot these impatiens went. Perky and bright, they make me smile whenever I go out onto the porch.

In the front garden, I find the colors and textures of the hosta and fern pleasing and soothing.

Unfortunately my irises did poorly this winter. Some pulled through, but there are few blooms.  But here is one for me to marvel over. I certainly hope that 2021 is a better year for my irises. (And for many other things as well.)

Wild daisies have sprung up in various places in my garden. Blown in, perhaps, or dropped by birds. Whatever the case, I leave them where they come up. It seems to me that it would be churlish to pull them just because they are not exactly in the right spot.

For the last one, back to hostas, to Frances Williams, a plant with leaves so large it looks as though it belongs in the Jurassic period. This close-up shows the textures and patterns on this giant of a hosta.

Onward we go. I hope you find at least six things to make you happy this week.

 

Friday Reading

For love of domination we must substitute equality; for love of victory we must substitute justice; for brutality we must substitute intelligence; for competition we must substitute cooperation. We must learn to think of the human race as one family.  —Bertrand Russell

As is my way, I have been reading a lot of pieces and articles in various publications to try to make sense of what is going on. Reading is no substitution for acting, but for me, anyway, it is an important first step. I might never succeed, but I at least want to attempt to figure out why things are happening the way they are. And what might be done to make our society a better, fairer place.

Below are some samples of what I have been reading.

From Vox, here is Terry Nguyen’s  nuanced take on looting: There Isn’t a Simple Story about Looting.

Civil disobedience is frenzied and chaotic by nature. People who take to the streets might not all share the same beliefs: Some protesters are looting out of the same anger that drives the protests, and other looters are not protesters at all. But because it’s impossible to untangle every person’s motivations and intent, it’s much easier to lump them all into a group to create a narrative of the event that fits our understanding.

Not surprisingly, President Obama writes clearly and beautifully about protest and change.  From Medium here is an excerpt from his piece How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change.

The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.

Finally, from my blogging friend, the inimitable Cynthia Reyes, who has put together an excellent list of suggestions and reading for those who want to go beyond expressing sorrow over all that has happened. (Full disclosure: One of my blog posts is featured.) The title of her post is 8 Specific Actions We Can Take. I’ve been making  my way through her suggestions and links.

I started this piece with a quotation by Bertrand Russell.  On the face of it, his words seem a little woo-woo, nice to read but not exactly a stern call to action. If it had a flavor, you might call it vanilla.

But think, for a moment, what kind of world we would have if leaders all over followed Russell’s advice.

Not perfect, which is impossible, but oh so much better than what we have now.

And despite the  seemingly bland flavor, very, very difficult to achieve.

 

Cracking Open

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.   —Desmond Tutu

The first six months of 2020 have been a doozy. Just when we think it can’t get any worse, it does. After the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, I felt something inside me crack open.

I might be old, I might not have much influence or money, but I can’t sit back while our country careens out of control from one horror to another.

I have decided to become involved with the Poor People’s Campaign, an organization dedicated to “Building a movement to overcome systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the war economy.”

A friend of mine has volunteered with the Poor People’s Campaign for a couple of years and has told me about the good work they do. She has heard Reverend William Barber, the organization’s  founder, speak in Portland. (Awhile back, I read a profile of Reverend Barber in the New Yorker, and I was impressed by his devotion to civil rights.)

Change doesn’t happen by itself. It takes hard work. It takes organization. It takes many voices.

I have decided to be one of those voices, however small.

I have had enough.

 

A Shift in Tone

As I sit at my desk, I can hear the summer rustle of the new leaves as a soft wind blows through them. The leaves are nearly full size, and in a month they went from the red fringe of delicate flowers to yellow to a soft green and now to the deeper green of maturity.

Being of a fanciful nature, I usually stop to listen when the leaves rustle. It seems to me that they are talking, and if I listen hard enough, I will understand what they are saying as they tell the story of trees and woods and animals.

There are other stories around the yard in late spring.

Of lilies of the valley,

of dandelions,

of unfurling hosta leaves,

of chives ready to bloom,

of a little kingdom through the metal circle.

But there are other things to think about, too, and nowhere near as pleasant as the beauty of spring. Recently there was yet another brutal murder of a black man in police custody. In response, there have been protests. And riots.  Once more, the lid flies off the pot because the pressure has become unbearable.

2020 seems to be the year that keeps giving. Or taking, depending on your point of view.

Pardon me for the shift in tone, from rustling leaves to the murder of a man.

But there it all is, the sublime and the abominable.

I can’t look away from either.

 

 

Taking Stock: Over 100,000 Deaths

As the grim title of this post indicates, covid-19 has killed over 100,000 people in the United States. The sorrowful weight of it presses down on me, and my heart is heavy. And rightly so. With no vaccine available and places opening all around the United States, it is likely the death toll will continue to rise. How far? To 200,000? To 500,00? Who knows?

Whatever the case, a staggering number of people have died of it in a short time.

Eliza Mackintosh, of CNN, puts it in perspective:

In less than four months, the novel coronavirus has killed more than 100,000 Americans — more than in Vietnam, the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan combined.

It is a story of lost mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, spouses and even children. An even bigger tragedy: They didn’t all have to die.

Stephen Collinson, also of CNN, expands on this:

A Columbia University study released last week found that had the US started social distancing a week earlier, it could have prevented the loss of at least 36,000 lives.

In the New York metro area alone, 17,500 fewer people would have died if the US had acted one week earlier, Columbia epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman said.

Shameful. Yet recently on Facebook, a friend of a friend commented: “The cure cannot be worse than the disease… We must resume to live.”

I wrote back: “The cure is worse than death? For the 100,000 people who have died of covid-19 in this country? For the many, many more who will surely die as standards are relaxed?”

An argument ensued, and nobody’s mind was changed.

All the while, our president has put the coronovirus in his rear-view mirror, as though the virus is a pesky driver that can be passed and left behind. Onward to the 2020 election, which appears to be what is chiefly on the president’s mind. Suffering and death? Not so much.

There have been glimmers of hope. Not every country has behaved as stupidly as ours has. As the writer Umair Haque writes, “New Zealand… didn’t just flatten the curve. It ‘crunched’ it, as epidemiologists say. Do you know how many people died of the virus in New Zealand? Just 21. Twenty one….That’s a stunning accomplishment….Sure, New Zealand’s a small country. But being a big country doesn’t give you a license to just watch helplessly as thousands die. That’s just a rationalization for negligence.”

Can the U.S. learn from New Zealand and its admirable prime minister, Jacinda Ardern? Again, who knows?

Despite my heavy heart, I live in hope.

Everything Is Waiting…

Despite the coronavirus, here we are at last, in spring, that green, blooming time of year. To paraphrase David Whyte’s moving poem, everything is waiting for me.

The ferns that continue to unfurl,

the tiny white violets on the lawn,

the tender blush of the newly emerging leaves,

and back inside, for our supper, a salad made with Farmer Kev’s greens and radishes, our neighbor’s eggs, and other bits and bobs.

Here is the last stanza of David Whyte’s Everything Is Waiting for You

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

Even now.

Always.

 

Room for Snow

“We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
—Pema Chödrön

“Why You Should Ignore All That Coronavirus-Inspired Productivity Pressure”

I wasn’t planning on posting anything today, but then on Facebook a friend shared this piece—Why You Should Ignore All That Coronavirus-Inspired Productivity Pressure—written by Aisha S. Ahmed in The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

Ahmed outlines how to deal with living in times of crises, in particular during this time of the coronavirus pandemic.

The piece is full of terrific advice for everyone, not just academics. If, like Clif and me, you have been spinning your wheels and have been feeling too much emotional turmoil to accomplish much of anything, then this piece is for you.

Ahmed writes “I have worked and lived under conditions of war, violent conflict, poverty, and disaster in many places around the world. I have experienced food shortages and disease outbreaks, as well as long periods of social isolation, restricted movement, and confinement.”

She advises us all to pace ourselves and to not expect life to return to normal anytime soon. “Understand that this is a marathon. If you sprint at the beginning, you will vomit on your shoes by the end of the month. Emotionally prepare for this crisis to continue for 12 to 18 months, followed by a slow recovery. If it ends sooner, be pleasantly surprised. Right now, work toward establishing your serenity, productivity, and wellness under sustained disaster conditions.”

Take care of yourselves, blogging friends, and allow yourself to feel distraught and disoriented. As Ahmed noted, you will recover, but you need to give yourself time to adapt to the new normal.

 

 

 

 

There Is No Them, Only Us

I am a fifth-generation Mainer on my mother’s side, descended from French Canadians who came to Maine in the mid-1800s. Many of them had dark hair and olive complexions. They were all Catholic and spoke French. (My own mother did not speak English until she was six.) My ancestors were part of a larger French-Canadian migration that spread out through New England as well as to other parts of the country.

I would like to be able to report that these hard-working French Canadians were eagerly welcomed to Maine, but I cannot. Our story is a sad familiar story of prejudice and discrimination. In 1889, according to the British-American Citizen (Boston), we were  considered to be “a distinct alien race.”

This xenophobic attitude continued to trickle down even to the 1960s. As a small child, I was keenly aware of an “us vs. them” attitude in Maine, with we Franco-Americans being “them,” and the Yankee population being “us.” It was understood that “them” did not really belong in Maine, while “us” somehow had a magical right to be here.

Merriam-Webster defines xenophobia as “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” Because of my experience, I have an intense aversion to anything that smacks of xenophobia.

For example, this incident on Vinalhaven, an island off the Maine coast, where according to the Kennebec Journal,

an armed group of residents cut down a tree to block access to a road to keep three people from leaving their home on Cripple Creek Road.

Deputies investigated and learned there was a general belief by some island residents that the Cripple Creek residents were supposed to be quarantined because they came here from another state and could have COVID-19.

Deputies learned that the trio had been residing on Vinalhaven for about 30 days, which is outside of the guidance issued by state officials, and none have any symptoms consistent with the coronavirus.

Uh-huh.

And then on Facebook, an acquaintance shared this gem: “STAY HOME…Do Not Come to Maine. It’s just Not Fair. Go back where you came from and kill your Own People!”

As it happens, three of my “own people” live out of state.

While I completely agree that folks should hunker down and stay in place, I so object to the wording of the above sentiment. I made this clear to the person who shared it. Unfortunately, as is so often the case on Facebook, that person was unrepentant.

As the coronavirus rips around the world, hitting country after country, the high and mighty and the low, it is clear to me there is no them.

Only us.

 

Coronavirus News from Maine

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 275

Deaths in Maine from Covid-19: 3

The News from All Over

From Mother Nature Network

Does it seem like time has slowed to a crawl since you’ve been holed up in your apartment, riding out this pandemic? Well, time marches on all right — to the same beat it’s always kept. But these days, your brain may be processing time a little differently. In fact, according to David Eagleman, one of the world’s foremost neuroscientists, your brain tends to slow things down when you’re under extreme stress.

From CNN

“Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won.” President Donald Trump, who repeatedly suggested last week that a win was near, announced yesterday that nationwide social distancing measures would be extended for another month, days after floating the possibility of getting Americans back to work as early as Easter (which is when deaths are currently projected to peak).

The Latest Numbers

Global Cases: 732,153

Global Deaths: 34,686

My take: I’ve already written enough.

Nature and Technology: The Reconciliation of Opposites

The late great Canadian author Robertson Davies once wrote that the Jungian definition of balance is the reconciliation of opposites. That has always stuck with me, and I am thinking about this a lot right now during this time of the coronavirus.

As someone who loves the natural world, I’ve done a fair amount of grumbling over the  years about technology, screens, and the Internet. From the time I was a teenager, a part of me has longed to live on a small farm with chickens, apple trees, and a big garden.

But I am married to a computer geek, and a small farm was not one of his wishes. Therefore, as it is with many marriages, we have compromised. We live on a rural road, surrounded by trees and nature and wildlife. But our house is kitted out with computers and all the technology that goes along with it. And I’ve got to admit that during this period of self-isolation, I have been ever so grateful for computers and technology as well as the woods outside my home.

Last weekend, in our very own living room, we “visited” with our North Carolina kids via our laptop, where we could talk and see their shining faces. We chatted for about two hours, and it was great.

Daily, I have been visiting with various blogging friends, and through posts and comments, I am connected with folks all around the world. How I value these connections.

At night, Clif and I watch something from one of our streaming services. Last night it was The King of Masks, recommended by our librarian Nick and available through Kanopy. This poignant film took us to China in the 1930s, where it examined poverty, gender roles, love, and generosity.

Yesterday afternoon, via the Internet, our library’s movie club—Cinemates—got together to discuss the 2002 film The Hours, a moving and heart-wrenching look at Virginia Woolf, mental illness, caretakers, and how a book can ripple through the ages to affect both readers and family. One member of our movie club noted how you can tell an awful lot about a person by the way they fill their hours.

Maybe, just maybe, going forward, our society can reconcile these two opposites—nature and technology—and twine them together in a way that in a way that honors nature while electronically connecting us to each other and the world.

Coronavirus News from Maine

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 155

The News from All Over

From CNN

New York has become the national epicenter of the outbreak, as cases there are now doubling every three days, overwhelming hospitals. New York state’s hospitals have enough personal protection equipment for just two more weeks, Governor Andrew Cuomo has said, while it’s in need of 180,000 more beds.

To help stave off a crippling recession, the Senate voted to inject a $2 trillion stimulus into the US economy, a move that now needs approval from the House. President Donald Trump has pledged to get the economy “raring to go by Easter,” a goal that experts warn is too ambitious.

A record-breaking 3.28 million Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits last week…

The Latest Numbers

Global Cases: 487,648

Global Deaths: 22,030

My Own Take: Over this week, Maine’s coronavirus numbers have edged up ever so slowly. I am cautiously hopeful that with all the self-isolating and business closures, Maine will be able to stem the horrible  coronavirus tide. Only time will tell. Fingers and toes crossed.