Tension

It seems to me that almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension, which we feel as paralysis because we no longer hear our astonished emotions living. Because we are alone with the unfamiliar presence that has entered us; because everything we trust and are used to is for a moment taken away from us; because we stand in the midst of a transition where we cannot remain standing. That is why the sadness passes: the new presence inside us, the presence that has been added, has entered our heart, has gone into its innermost chamber and is no longer even there – is already in our bloodstream. And we don’t know what it was. We could easily be made to believe that nothing happened, and yet we have changed, as a house that a guest has entered changes. We can’t say who has come, perhaps we will never know, but many signs indicate that the future enters us in this way in order to be transformed in us, long before it happens. And that is why it is so important to be solitary and attentive when one is sad: because the seemingly uneventful and motionless moment when our future steps into us is so much closer to life than that other loud and accidental point of time when it happens to us as if from outside. The quieter we are, the more patient and open we are in our sadness, the more deeply and serenely the new presence can enter us, the more we can make it our own, the more it becomes our fate.

Ranier Maria Rilke

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We’ve got quite the bounty of flowers in the garden now, roses, lilies, hostas, St. John’s Wort, marigolds, Russian sage, and more. The top two are echinacea that I planted in the spring. I had never seen white before, so there was a bit of suspense about how they would actually look. I am pleased as punch with my choice. As for the blue, I can only guess that it is somehow related to spider wort (tradescantia) based on the look of the flowers and foliage. The blossoms are about the size of the tip of my thumb, so you can imagine how tiny that bee is! I also saw a large and fantastic yellow butterfly on the lilies yesterday, but, as is often the case with butterflies, it’s presence was fleeting, floating up and over the fence right after I caught a glimpse.

We got the TV room painted! It was a rather icky shade of beige before, and though it wasn’t terribly dark, it sure did make the room feel it. So we are happy and keep lingering at the threshold, pleased with our work and the color choice.

Look at that ceiling fan whirl! Never much for them, we are Pennsylvania converts, the humid air just heavy enough to make one feel the heat when the fan isn’t going. Thankfully, they are all over the house, so we haven’t had much use for a boxed air conditioner. YET.

Must dash – I’m off to hear Bach at an outdoor concert. Have a wonderful Sunday!

Flat out. Yeah. I’m going to talk about privilege and race.

I grew up mostly poor in a family of six. My Dad worked at Coors, driving a forklift, all the days I can remember of my childhood and well into my adulthood, too, graveyard then swing shift, weekends, holidays, sometimes even Christmas, double time and a half! My Mom stayed home to take care of us kids, running a tight ship of laundry, cooking, cleaning, and assigning chores. Everything was based on economy and thrift: the house kept cold, sharing baths and bath water, owning one car, and not dining out – save a precious few occasions I can count on one hand.

We bought only what we could afford and when we could afford it, never before. A trip to the grocery store was a serious endeavor, made every two weeks, shopping on my Dad’s pay day, with us watching like hawks for the mail truck to come trundling down our street before dashing off to the bank and hoping for candy from the teller, then heading to the store with our massive list. We had coupons for everything possible, shopped the King Soopers ad, bought off-brands and generics, compared prices (per ounce, per piece!), scrimped and saved, the cart unwieldy and piled high when we arrived at the checkout.

People tried to make us feel less than, making sure to whisper loud enough that they bet we used food stamps, my Mom eyeing them proudly when she wrote a check (which never bounced) for what is still an astonishing amount of money, usually around $200. I calculate now. Two hundred dollars, divided by fourteen days, divided by our household of six: $2.39 a day for each person, plus one cat. Hear those dollars s t r e t c h.

Yet there was always enough and sometimes more, for simple pleasures, mostly, homemade cookies and dessert, picnics and drives to the mountains, swimming in streams and the local pool; for discounted movie matinees, and three family vacations, all of us crammed in the car – to Missouri, to New Mexico, and grander than grand, Arizona and California just before I entered high school. Another source of more, and to whom I owe a sincere debt of gratitude, is my dearly departed and marvelously generous Great Aunt Mary, without whom there would hardly have been gifts at Christmas.

The moment I was old enough to work, I did. First babysitting, at age twelve, then fast food, bussing tables and waitressing, answering telephones. With the money I made, I bought my own car, paid my own insurance, and bought the majority of my clothes and essentials. Somehow I managed to be an honor student, too. My goodness, the fortitude of youth.

And yet, when I think about all I personally endured, all we managed to be and have and overcome as a family, we were very privileged: my dad had a steady job with insurance (though not enough to pay for braces, forcing me to wait until I was grown), enabling us to make choices, to have a house, to disguise our poverty with new school clothes. We could have been black or Latino or fresh from Laos and motherless, like my dear friend Sengfong, and there is no hiding that, unless you are a Wayans brother in a ridiculous fil-um.

What would have happened the time I was pulled over by the police, in my own neighborhood, for driving suspiciously (bored and slow was how I described it), were I a girl of a different skin color? Or my sister, caught drunk in seventh grade? How often would I have had police question me merely for walking down the street?

It saddens and frustrates me, especially when I think about people I know. The boy at my school, bright and funny and with the most dazzling smile, a darker brown than his sister, harassed for that mere fact. Another boy, tiny and ever so kind, born in Laos, picked on in the locker room, probably by people I called friends. I never found out. My gay friend, who had to pretend to like girls. My friend and perfectly upstanding citizen, who made more money than me, shadowed every time she shopped in department stores. Another friend whose father said she could never date a black boy. It simply was not done, ever. Tragic. Frustrating. Nonsensical.

I am grateful that I was not taught by my parents to hate or judge based strictly upon race, class, or appearance. But since I am human, I cannot claim to be without bias, or as Louis CK calls it, mildly racist (before going down a weird rabbit hole). Just like him, I wish I didn’t see the black man in a hoodie and notice a mutual nervousness before our fears dissolve in a smile.

I wish the bias didn’t go the other way, too. Like when people of color say they are surprised because I actually seem to care, or find it hard to believe that my parents weren’t wealthy and didn’t buy me my first car. Or black women who HATE white women who date black men but give a “You go girl!” to black women who date white men. What?! Also cringe worthy, when my friend, upon meeting the mother of a boy she knew, got the receiving end of a tirade that included, “I hate you white people!” Barack Obama talked about being offended by white people who locked their car doors because they saw him walking down the street and the commenter on NPR who assumes white women clutch their purse and move to the other side of the elevator when he enters solely because he is black. Gentlemen (and sometimes ladies), it’s not always that simple! My dad grew up poor in a bad neighborhood, and I have watched enough television and read enough fact and fiction to fill my head with every possible scenario, including being car jacked, robbed, raped, and mutilated while alone with a stranger in a soundproof box. I don’t care about skin color, what you look like, how friendly you are, or how you are dressed. I’m looking out for my own bad self because Ted Bundy!! Just sayin’.

Oh, and one last bit, on on the word thug. You are a thug if you wilfully harm an innocent person, especially while wearing a uniform. You are a thug if you rob or loot. You are a thug if you wilfully harm peaceful protesters. You are a thug if you wilfully destroy someone else’s property in anger or protest. You are a thug if you wilfully destroy property in celebration of your favorite sports team. Please don’t be a thug.

Instead, be the change you wish to see in the world, my friends. Be the change.

Friendship is the shadow of the evening, which increases with the setting sun of life.

Jean de la Fontaine

Happy Birthday, Stephanie!

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Up early on Friday for a hike in North Park with our friends Kristen and Patrick (Hello!). Oh my goodness, with hiking, bird watching, kayaking, places to eat, and many a lovely vista, it’s like all of my favorite parks rolled into one!

Good times on the roof of a parking garage to see Jaws! It’s bloodier and funnier than I remembered.

 

More fun at the Laurel Highlands Bluegrass Festival, benefiting the Ligonier Volunteer Fire Department. Friendly folks, sweet singing, and some mighty fine picking!

Throwing it back to May, with our first visit to Randyland and Max’s Allegheny Tavern. Wonderful and delicious…

And our borough’s car show. What a treat to be able to walk down the street and see so many beauties!

Hope you had a lovely holiday…

 

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