Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Diorama by Bob Scriver. Not quite hunting season yet.

A couple of weeks ago I cancelled my subscription to the GF Tribune on grounds that I couldn’t justify the cost when the content was so trivial, largely focused on high schools. The “big” international stories were two paragraphs long. I don’t think that anyone at the newspaper was very upset by my defection. It’s been common knowledge that they’ve wanted to get rid of paper for more than a decade. They don’t like the work of delivering it over so much area. There go more jobs.

But paper was the main connection I had to them. My brother was a “paper boy” in Portland, OR, where our family copy of the Oregonian was usually wet. The chair I now sit in to read stood in front of a hot air register that led directly from our big coal and wood furnace, so that early in the morning the wet limp paper was often draped over the back of the chair to dry. If it was already dry, one of the earliest sounds of the morning was the rattling of the pages as one parent or the other read it, thoroughly. Except the sports pages. No one in my family read the sports section.

Now I get up and have a vague remaining impulse to reach out the front door for the roll of newsprint and settle in that same old chair to understand what is happening in the world. My fingers think they should have paper. But my brain looks forward to the catchment of print on the computer. I subscribe to widely contrasting sources, so to give you an idea of the range this morning I read these following stories. (Forgive me for not learning how to make tiny url’s out of these links. I don’t want to take the time.)

Kalief Browder

I. This story from VICE about a youngster in New York who was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack and got sucked into the criminalization frenzy of America, which destroyed him. He was in solitary confinement for years until his whole integration as a human being was destroyed and he killed himself.


II. This story from Aeron, an online mag run by Australians in England who are intent on being high class intellectuals, about whether the French are losing their grip on thought. Curiously written by a man who has an un-English name.

Italy in 1850

III. This one is a mailing list of excerpts that focuses on history and nationality. It’s quoting from “The Pursuit of Italy: a History of a Land, Its Regions, and Their Peoples.” This report really surprised me: in the 1850’s in Italy the country was just unifying and only a small percentage of the people (2 or 3%) actually spoke Italian. At this same time the native tribes of prairie America were just beginning to sign treaties and few of them spoke English. We think of Europe as a source of civilization that had been in place for centuries, not as competing tribes.

My problem is not being uninformed, but that even though I’m retired and (like Annie Dillard) do not do housework, there is never enough time to think things through. I suppose many people do this in conversation with others, but there are few if any people around here who read widely or think hard. Most of them — as many remark in many other contexts — are zombies, stumbling along in habit patterns they developed long ago like everyone else.

The media, desperate for attention that will result in money, pounds on our consciousness the way people who visit zoos and aquariums rap on the glass to make the occupants react. How hard can they strike the glass before it breaks and they are deluged with dying fish? Maybe we’ve already reached that point.

If the Pope thinks, as the radio just said, that “the family is the true location for freedom,” then he hasn’t realized how much families have changed, at least in America. More like the locus for neglect vs. shared conspiracy. They are the pattern and trigger for our criminalization and incarceration obsessions. So many of our insurance and medical systems are simply diluted incarceration; our economic systems verge on criminalization of simple existence. Late fees and fines for trivial matters. The verge of debtors’ prisons.

What are we to do? I just don’t know.

I do know it is the autumnal equinox and the leaves are turning yellow. Workers are putting a porch on the Baptist Church next door, their hammers pounding away. The light is relatively clear after a smoke-reddened summer, coming in level through my house, shooting from south to north, but in afternoon from behind the spruce in the front yard so that it doesn’t get in my eyes when I read close to suppertime. My rule has been to walk to the post office no matter what the weather, for the sake of the exercise, but now I take the pickiup because I want to drive out of town a bit, check the landscape esp toward the mountains. Usually there is a storm shelf of clouds standing behind the Rockies. I make lists of what needs to be done RIGHT NOW in preparation for winter. Like order a tarp for the garage roof.

The media, typically, is obsessing hysterically about El Nino, but their examples of disastrous years were only a few decades ago, well within my memory, and they weren’t that different. Those determined to commodify the seasons are turning to Mabon, which is supposedly the Wicca/Pagan harvest festival. Well, what else can you do when Thanksgiving has been debunked out of the Puritan/Squanto stereotypes, turkeys are caged torture victims to be deep-fat fried in the yard, and no one’s very thankful anyway. Around here harvest was interrupted by fire and rain until it began to seem interminable and some smaller fields might just be abandoned uncut.  I do believe in global warming, or rather weather tumbling.

Some are grieving over the town dying and others are denying vehemently that any such thing is happening. Or wouldn’t if we’d just take care of our yards. They are still not reconciled to the idea that life is a process. In Christian terms the Creation is continuous — each day a new version of the world — and so is the End Time in small omissions. Tiny spaces and overlaps are everywhere, coming and going, like the migrating birds that travel through my big cottonwood where at night the moon perches. The trick is not stopping. The Pope will say so, I’m sure.

1 comment:

northern nick said...

. . . I'm with ya! Thanks.