Wednesday, January 25, 2017

This is what democracy looks like

I left upstate New York on Friday morning with a group from the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church (PNECC) in Saratoga Springs. The drive down to Washington went smoothly. When we got to our first rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, I could already tell that this march was going to be big: there was a line for the ladies' rest room.
"How many of you are going to Washington?" someone asked. Nearly every woman raised her hand.

PNECC's Pastor Kate and others had done some amazing networking and planning for this trip. Kate had linked us up with a church in northern Virginia so that motel rooms and dinner and transportation to the actual march on Saturday were already set up.

The good folks at Emmaus Church in Vienna, Virginia, had laid out a spread of homemade food to feed not only us but also groups from churches as far away as Wisconsin, Indiana, and Minnesota. Dinner Friday night was followed by a moving candlelight interfaith service. So lovely.

Early on Saturday morning, we boarded buses and headed into Washington. The First Congregational United Church of Christ on G Street opened its doors early and had offered its facilities to any who needed it: for bathrooms, a place to warm up, as a back-up meeting place for groups who may have gotten separated. They, too, laid out food for visitors: bagels, fruit, bottled water, granola bars. Such kindness. Such generosity.

Our group began to make our way toward the rally site. The crowds swelled. The police and National Guard folks on duty couldn't have been sweeter. They all seemed to have a twinkle in their eyes. One D.C. policewoman was wearing a pink Statue of Liberty crown. I didn't post her picture here. I don't want her to get into trouble.

You have all read the stories or have seen the newscasts by now. Hundreds of thousands of people marched and not one was arrested. Zero. Nada.  In the crush of all of those people, tempers might easily have flared. None did. It was a long day, chilly and damp, with nowhere to sit and rest. But people looked out for each other, smiled, chatted talked about why they were there and where they had come from.

After the rally was over, it was time for the march to begin. The trouble was, there were too many people to fit into the streets that had been the designated march route. So the police directed folks to turn around and walk down the mall.

How do you turn around a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom couldn't hear any of the directions or had any idea that there was a change in the route?  Well, there was a little confusion at first but slowly a chant of  "March down the mall!" passed through the throng and we all began to turn 180 degrees and slowly walk in the other direction. This seemed like a miracle to me. No one pushed, no one panicked. We moved as one and somehow, it all worked out.

I am holding on to the feeling of that moment, the moment when a mass of humanity, without barked orders or any real clear leader, peacefully turned itself around and moved together in another direction. Our only goal was to keep each other safe and to do what was logical and needed at the moment. I hope that will be a metaphor and a model for the next four years.

But, as everyone is asking, what's next?

Joshua Rothman wrote in The New Yorker this week,  "The march didn't, to my eyes, feature the kinds of gestures that might sway voters moved by Trump. Almost none of the signs focused on the economy, or on economic issues, such as student debt, that interest both liberals and conservatives."

I think he is absolutely right.

And while there was an awful lot of (very) clever snark in many of the signs at the march on Saturday, I don't think that will do much to win over the voters we Democrats lost during this past election.

We Democrats haven't been making a convincing case that we care enough about our neighbors and their very real worries. Now is the time for us to show that we will work for things like a financial system that will reward people who save, not scam them with balloon mortgages and student loans that they may not live long enough to pay off.

We need to become a party of authentic compassion and of solutions that our neighbors can get behind. If we don't start working on this immediately, we will be no better off four years from now. This is important, not just to "win" the next election, but because many of us feel the urgent need to become a society that is better, fairer, healthier for each person and for the planet.

Let's love our neighbors and get busy, very busy, on their behalf and for ourselves, as well. Let's get active and JOIN our town's Democratic or Republican party committee. Let us WRITE and CALL our elected officials at all levels. Let us SUBSCRIBE to a reputable newspaper. We need to be accurately informed and we need to SUPPORT the journalists who are trying to help us get there. Let us CONTRIBUTE to the causes we value. Let us talk. Listen. Do.

Thanks for reading. Peace be with you.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Keeping civilization alive

The day after Donald Trump's election, I could barely speak. I am not exaggerating for effect here. I was numb, shocked to my core. I didn't turn on the TV, didn't read, didn't listen to anything on the radio. I just came to a standstill.

As I sat quietly and reflected on what had just occurred, I made some decisions. There are things I can control and there are things I cannot control. 

I have made a vow to do better, to be better, to fill my head with better stuff. 

In this regard, I intend to seek out more beauty, more art, more knowledge, better music, to be more generous, kinder, more useful. I have decided to work at doing my part to keep civilization alive.

So this past Monday, I drove down to Union College in Schenectady for a talk at the Nott Memorial. The lecture by Robin Wall Kimmerer was about culturally significant plants of the Adirondack region and renewing a respectful relationship with the natural world. 

The Nott Memorial is a very appealing space in which to hold an event like this. The sound system was great, the chairs comfortable, the free refreshments were delightful, the audience was attentive and respectful. Thank you, Union College and its Kelly Adirondack Center, for this free event. It was a lovely evening. In fact, it was downright ... civilized. I will go again.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Light in Winter

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. 

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This Friday, I will be leaving my home in Saratoga County to drive south to Washington, DC. I will be travelling with a group from church and we will be participating in the Women's March on Saturday, January 21. I hope to take a lot of photos and to share my experiences at the march on this blog when we return.

Wish me luck and a peaceful experience, please.

Thank you.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Black and white and red all over

Yesterday, Saturday, was a pretty low-key day for me. Still nursing a sore knee and the tail end of a cold I feel I have had forever, I decided to just plain take a day off. The most ambitious things I did were to refill the bird feeders and to walk down the driveway to get the mail. 

Although the temperature wasn't so terribly low for this time of year and for this neck of the woods, the feel of the day was sharp, damp, and chilling. I enjoyed making some exotic hot tea with the aid of my new infuser. I didn't used to drink much tea and when I did, I just used grocery store tea bags.  This loose tea was fun. The interesting flavor helps to fend off snack attacks in the late afternoon.

When I went outside to fill the feeders, I saw a large raptor-like bird fly slowly in and settle on a tree near the edge of our woods (see photo # 4). We are used to seeing red-tailed hawks come around, looking for careless rabbits or slow-moving mourning doves, but I was pretty sure this wasn't one of those. I quickly snapped a photo but the bird was really too far away to get a good look. By the time I grabbed my binoculars, it had moved on. After checking the bird guides, I am pretty certain it was a goshawk.  It is interesting to see a new-to-me bird. I just hope he doesn't prey on the smaller birds I lure here with feed all winter. I enjoy the life and color they bring to the back yard. Throughout the winter, we will have regular visits from about twenty varieties of birds. 

In my experience, there are two types of knitters: those who knit socks and those who don't. I am not yet sure which category I will end up in. I knit a pair of socks a couple of years ago and they came out a bit funky and misshapen. But I had bought some sock yarn on sale back then and still have an ample supply. So, I thought I would try it again. Alas, these socks are not going all that well, either. But for now, I will keep plugging along. Maybe I will eventually figure out how to get a more pleasing result.

Happy January to you. I hope you are keeping warm and happily busy, indoors or out.

Not required reading, but here below is a list of the 17 birds that I saw in our yard yesterday, January 7, 2017:

Finches: gold, house, and purple
Woodpeckers: Northern flicker, downy, and red-bellied

tufted titmouse
blue jay
mourning dove
slate-colored junco
Carolina wren
White-throated sparrow