I went out yesterday to photograph the Chippewa River in Wisconsin. I was distracted by the corn fields growing in the bottomlands of the river. Here are some corn field photos, taken either in the field or on the edge of the field.
Sometimes, good words are found in unexpected places. Yesterday, I twice and unexpectedly heard (saw) life lessons. The first time was while watching Series 1, Episode 2 of Endeavour, the BBC program about a young Inspector Morse. At the end of the episode, Detective Inspector Thursday offers Detective Constable Morse advice about music.
Go home. Put your best record on loud as it will play, and with every note you remember that’s something that the darkness couldn’t take from you.
Later that day I walked past Valley Bookseller here in Stillwater. A bright yellow poster in the window advised me to
When I got home, that’s just what I did.
I made two day trips this week, one to explore the East Fork Of the Chippewa River in Wisconsin, the other a drive through the rolling hills southeast of Independence in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin.
I’ve never been interested in poetry, so I surprised myself recently by registering for a workshop for beginning poets. Imagine me writing a poem. As things turned out, I dropped out after the first day. I am however, still thinking about poetry. I’m not giving up on it just yet for a number of reasons.
My good friend Nick whose judgement and taste I respect values poetry and recently loaned me books by three of his favorite poets. One of the three is Charles Bukowski. I like some of his poems.
Chapter 3 in The Immortal Irishman, a biography of Thomas Francis Meagher, is titled Poetry In Action. It begins with reference to a poem that set Ireland afire during the potato famine in the 1840s. This was for me a demonstration of the power of poetry.
It was poetry, the bend of words to frame a cause, that lifted Ireland from its gloom in the last good months before catastrophe [the potato famine]. Thomas Davis, educated at Trinity; the Protestant son of a British army surgeon, came forth with a burst of verse that roused a generation. . . . In a country where most peasants were illiterate, the poetry of Tom Davis spread by word of mouth – stanzas repeated on a sheep path or a loading dock.
. . . Meagher grew infatuated with this rarest kind of subversive: a poet with power.
Yesterday’s Brain Pickings Newsletter had a post about fear of poetry for which there is actually a term:
Metrophobia, or the fear of poetry, is surprisingly common. Many people first develop this phobia in school, when overzealous teachers encourage them to rank poems according to artificial scales, break them down, and search for esoteric meanings. [definition from Verywell.com]
The post say this:
But meditation is somewhat like poetry — a lamentable number of many people hold a stubborn resistance to it, a resistance that “has the qualities of fear,” borne out of a certain impatience with learning a new mode of being that doesn’t come easily but, when it comes, brings tremendous and transcendent satisfaction.”
I am skeptical that poetry will ever bring me such satisfaction, maybe some, but I’ve never encountered anything that is tremendous and transcendent, and I doubt that I ever will. In the same way that I’ve never had epiphanies or road-to-Damascus moments. Again, I doubt that I ever will. Whatever changes or improvements or insights I’ve had have come slowly over years or decades as a result of experience, perseverance, stumbling and getting up again and moving forward and getting hopefully a bit further down the road before stumbling again which I certainly will do. On the brighter side, I know that I will always get up from my stumbles until that final big one. I’ll always get up to appreciate the moment, the day, the summer, a thunder-storm, a little taste of the summer, music (I’m listening to Greg Brown singing about his Grandma canning a bit of the summer). Being able to write this entry. Being able to listen to great music right now (Zambesi, a great instrumental from the 1950s done by Lou Bush who I had never heard of until I stumbled on this song, a cheery song.) Being able to look forward to today, tomorrow, next week, my trip to Madeline Island in a month. (Another instrumental, Skookian, Perez Prado, another fine, cheery song from the 1950s) This can of La Croix sparkling water that I just popped – Blackberry Cucumber.
So I guess I’ll at least continue to read Bukowski although it’s hard for me to read even his poems for much more than ten minutes at a time; probably better than nothing. Before I started this entry, I watched a short video on meditation that stated that the research shows that its benefits come with only five to ten minutes of meditation a day. Five to ten minutes of poetry will at least keep me in the poet’s game. (Stranger On the Shore, Acker Bilk, the song that got me going down this road of searching for 1950s instrumentals. I heard the song as part of a sound track, recognized it as a song I love, and then promptly forgot its name and the name “Acker Bilk”. I succeeded in finding the name through research which led me to a half-dozen other 1950s instrumentals worth a listen.)
I started to look at Billboard Top-100 lists from around 1958. There didn’t seem to be any earlier than that on the Billboard website. I see now why rock-and-roll arrived with such force and was able to take over the popular music world and shove the old music aside. The hits of the fifties, the best sellers, are a soup of unbroken insipidity, cute sometimes likable music that stirs nothing in the soul. It’s easy to see why my generation preferred listening to rock over songs about doggies in the window and the like.
Easy to tweet, hard to have an ideology, a political will, an interest in anything but winning, or the frontal lobes of a burnt tuna casserole*!
As stated by a portrait of President Obama in a cartoon conversation with Li’l Trumpy, a recent, new character in the Zippy the Pinhead comic strip by Bill Griffith that’s appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press for years. The strip was never overtly political until Donald Trump somehow became our president. (Oh, did I say Donald Trump instead of President Trump? Sorry, I meant to say The Big Cheeto**.) Now the strip regularly features new characters like L’il Trumpy and Steve Bunion. Many of these strips end up comparing Li’l Trumpy to a burnt tuna casserole, a perfect simile.
In one strip, Li’l Trumpy is said to have the attention span of a burnt tuna casserole. This is the strip in which Steve Bunion says
Let’s ban all climatologists! Let’s lock up David Brooks! Let’s invade New Jersey!
I think I’m going to have to start checking in regularly on what’s going on with Zippy.
* from Zippy the Pinhead “Dropping an O Bomb” by Bill Griffith, 05/02/2017
** from Candorville by Darrin Bell, 05/02/2017
The United States recently dropped an enormous bomb, one of the biggest non-nuclear weapons in existence, in Afghanistan. We dropped it apparently on ISIS fighters. So why in the world are we in Afghanistan?. What is our purpose there? We’ve been there since 2001, we’ve spent billions of dollars. We’ve lost soldiers. Afghani civilians have died. We don’t seem to be any closer to leaving or having a plan or date for leaving.
To what purpose all the sacrifices? As far as I can see, all that we’ve done is ousted the Taliban and Mullah Omar from the central government and put in place a central government that is shaky and still needs our presence. That might have felt good in 2001 (revenge is sweet), but it’s sixteen year later and the Taliban is still there and is still fighting. Now there’s a third force in the mix, ISIS, and apparently ISIS and the Taliban fight each other. If the enemy of our enemy is our friend, does that mean we’re now chums with the Taliban and should fight on their side? It’s all too confusing. I wish someone could tell me what our objectives there are. Is it to reduce terrorism? To create a stable, democratic government in Afghanistan?
Whatever our objectives were or are, we have failed miserably. We keep coming up with new plans, new strategies for continuing to fail.
Perhaps it’s time to put up or get out.
Some statistics on Afghanistan:
Coalition deaths of 01/10/15: 3,407
U.S. deaths of 01/10/15: 3,424
During the war in Afghanistan (2001–14), over 26,000 civilian deaths due to war-related violence have been documented; 29,900 civilians have been wounded. Over 91,000 Afghans, including civilians, soldiers and militants, are recorded to have been killed in the conflict, and the number who have died through indirect causes related to the war may include an additional 360,000 people.
Direct costs of the war, FY2001 – FY2016 – $783 billion
The war in Afghanistan has so far cost $33,000 per citizen, as of 01/10/2015
Yesterday I was looking for wildflowers. There were none to be found. I guess it’s still too early even though the last few weeks have been warm. The only things I could find that had new growth were big (red maples or willows) or very small. The small things were mosses and lichens which I find very hard to identify. I’m satisfied if I can correctly state that something is, in fact, a moss. The mosses are sending out what I think are called sporophytes. It had snowed the night before, so much of the foliage – dead or alive – was covered in tiny droplets of melt water. One had to get down on one’s knees or belly in order to examine or photograph such tiny things. I was wet by the time I finished. Luckily, the sun came out later in the day, it warmed up, and I escaped death by hypothermia.
I think this may be a small puffball that survived the winter relatively intact although it looks like it “puffed.” It was in pure sand. There were more puffballs in the sand. They grew only as individuals plants spaced a yard or so away from their neighbors. All dead of course.
More stuff found within an inch or two from the ground.
This is how we celebrate Spring Break up north. Looks great, doesn’t it? All that’s needed is an ocean, some beer, some sand, some sun, some music, a woman . . .
I stole the title of this post from Kevin Drum who posted today [not today; I forgot to publish this on the day of Drum’s post] about theEssential Health Benefits (EHB) that the Republican health plan (ill-health plan would be a more apt term) would have taken away. Here is what he says about EHBs:
Essential Health Benefits. These are things which every health care plan is required to cover, and Obamacare spells out ten of them:
- Doctor visits
- Emergency room visits
- Hospital visits
- Prescription drugs
- Pediatric care
- Lab services
- Preventive care
- Maternity care
- Mental health care
- Rehabilitation services
The Republican health care bill is still having trouble getting enough votes to pass, so Paul Ryan is thinking about placating conservatives by repealing all of these EHBs. This means that a health insurer could literally sell you a policy that didn’t cover doctor visits, hospital visits, ER visits, your children’s health care, or prescription drugs—and still be perfectly legal.
What it means to me is that conservatives and Republicans do not want you to have any health care at all if you can’t afford it on your own. You can just die or go into bankruptcy. Who cares? You got cancer because you’re a bad person.
Check out Kevin’s blog. He is posting a storm about the farce that the Republicans are trying to foist upon us all. Hopefully, they will fail miserably [they did!!!], thus preserving the status quo that is far, far better than anything the Republicans have been able to come up with even though they’ve had at least eight years. More like 70 years if you go back to Harry Truman’s attempt to implement health care that was, of course, foiled by the Republicans.
I look out the window and see people running in t-shirts and shorts, sweaters tied around their shoulders, no longer needed. And it’s only mid-morning.
I guess it must be spring ’cause my windows are wide open. and will probably remain so until November. But that’s too far in the future to worry about.
In fact, why worry about anything but today.
In fact, why worry at all? Alfred E. Neuman* wouldn’t.
* fictitious mascot and cover boy of Mad, an American humor and satire magazine
Michael Hann at The Guardian recently wrote about what he has learned after 16 years as The Guardian’s music editor.
Of course, there are spivs and money grubbers, as there are in any industry that has historically promised large and fast returns. But pretty much everyone I’ve met who works in music does so because they love it, and they don’t make fortunes from it. Music is a remarkably uncorrupt world: there’s an awful lot of trust and good faith involved. And it ignites the passions, still. The surest way to get an interview with one of the old lags of rock off to a good start is to ask them about the music they loved when they were 17. You can see their eyes light up as they recall how they fell in love with music.
His point that music still ignites the passions started me thinking about what I loved when I was 17, and 27, and 37, and, God forbid, 67. I remembered many highlights. Here are some in a tediously long list.
Church music, always, from my earliest memories onward. Listening to my Dad in the Senior Choir at church.
Going with Mom to hear the Minnesota Symphony at the junior high school in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Early 1960s.
A band from the Twin Cities playing at the Telemark Ski Resort near Hayward, Wisconsin, circa 1965. The band featured an organ – definitely cool. Great music mixed with skiing and my fellow teenage skiing buddies.
Rural beer bars in north-west Wisconsin, 1960s. In those days, there were rural areas where those under 21 years of age could drink in taverns that served only beer. Some of them had live music. We had some fine times at the beer bars (they always had dirt parking lots) and are lucky we never crashed our cars on the country roads after a night out.
The Beatles, Bloomington, Minnesota, August 21, 1965, at Met Stadium, the old ballpark where the Minnesota Twins played in the 60s and 70s. The stage was set up on second base. I don’t remember much about the concert except that we almost left the tickets at home. I, my girlfriend, and two other couples.
A country tavern on Long Lake in Chippewa County, Wisconsin owned by an old German with a heavy accent. I think his name was Maxie and the tavern was Maxie’s; I don’t remember. On request, he would get out his accordion (or was it a violin) and play for us. Late 1960s.
Delta Tau Delta Fraternity, late 1960s, Madison, Wisconsin. This was straight out of the movie Animal House although we didn’t realise it at the time. We just thought we were cool. On two or three Saturdays a month we would have beer parties with bands from Milwaukee or Chicago – black soul bands; the frat was all white. We drank and danced up a storm; my frat brothers and my girlfriend.
Music festivals in the Woodstock era. I went with a girlfriend to Sound Storm, Wisconsin’s first outdoor rock festival in 1970 outside Poynette in Columbia County a bit north of Madison. Here’s what a Wisconsin Historical Society essay says about Sound Storm:
About 30,000 people attended Sound Storm, the majority sneaking in through the woods without paying. [I think we paid, but I remember climbing over a barbed-wired fence. Perhaps my memory is shaky.] The Columbia County sheriff, seeing his officers exponentially outnumbered by hippies and bikers, wisely decided to ignore misdemeanors such as nudity and drug use. LSD and other psychedelic drugs were everywhere, along with marijuana and cheap, screw-top wine. Medical students staffed first aid and “bad trips” tents [that I had to visit after ripping my thigh open on the barbed-wire fence], volunteers from the Hog Farm commune in New Mexico helped as stage announcers, and Madison’s Mifflin Street Co-op provided free food. Throughout the weekend, ecstatic dancers whirled before the stage. When undercover officers infiltrated the crowd, Pete [the event organizer] dropped 10,000 fliers from a helicopter urging the audience not to harm them. Fans frolicked in nearby Rowan Creek, even crowning their own “Mud King.” Two members of the band Northern Comfort got married on stage. At night, the York farm sparkled with hundreds of campfires. Only a handful of injuries or arrests were reported.
A block party in Madison, WI, early 1970s. A band called Virginia Rose (or was that the name of the female lead singer?). This was when I was discovering country music under the influence of early country-rock bands like Poco. Virginia Rose was great.
Johnny Cash, Champagne -Urbana, IL, early 70s. I and my girlfriend drove down from Madison to visit friends from high school and see the man in black. Johnny only got better and better in the succeeding years.
Nights at the Birchmere in a Northern Virginia suburb of Washington, DC. , mid-to-late 1970s, The Red Clay Ramblers, great stage show; the original Seldom Scene with Ben Eldridge, John Starling, Mike Auldridge, Tom Gray, and John Duffey. More beer drinking with my latest girlfriend, my best buddy Bruce, and a few other cronies from work. The best bluegrass ever!
The Annual Indiana Fiddlers’ Gathering in Battle Ground just outside of Lafayette, IN, summer of ’79. At the time, a small bluegrass festival, today in its 45th year. The first time I saw people bring pieces of flat, thin, smooth wood to a festival that they would put on the ground as a surface for flat dancing or clog dancing (not sure what is the correct name for this style of dancing.)
Stumbled on a free, outdoor show by The Whites (Buck and daughters Sharon and Cheryl) in Georgetown, Washington, DC. I think they were then called Buck White and the Downhome Folks. Sharon later married Ricky Skaggs. They are now in the country hall of fame.
A Holiday Inn in Lafayette, Indiana, 1978. A bluegrass band. I’ve tried to find the name of the band only to come up with a number of possibilities. I think the band included Rickie Skaggs, Keith Whitley, and J.D. Crowe, but would such hotshots of bluegrass and country be playing in a Holiday Inn in Indiana? Can I trust my memory? They were wonderful musicians and well-known in bluegrass. Keith would die too soon. Rickie would be swamped in the Nashville scene but later escaped to return to something closer to his roots.
National Folk Festival, at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, an outdoor music venue near Washington, DC. Many stages set up throughout the rolling countryside of is Vienna, Virginia. Great music, non-commercial music.
Springfield, IL, 1998, driving home from Atlanta, my wife and I stumbled on an old, brick, two-story Italian restaurant in the university neighbourhood. We ate upstairs where there was a wandering fiddler. We listened for a long time and, because we were almost the only ones there, we had the fiddler to ourselves for a long time. He played everything we requested. A similar experience with my wife at the Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter (circa 2000) in Stillwater, Minnesota where we were entertained by the house accordionist.
Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis, MN: late 80’s, early to mid 90’s. It’s still there and going strong, but I, unfortunately, haven’t been back in too long a time:
I shouldn’t have started this list. I now realise how little live music I’ve heard in the last two decades. I have partially made up for this by spending lots of time and money on building a home library of music. It’s now all digital, but in the past, for financial reasons, I’ve sold a large collection of LPs and two large collections of CDs. How I wish I still had them, some of which were a bit obscure and might be hard to find these days. For example, in the late 70’s in a record store in Georgetown, Washington, DC, I bought an LP – a very fine LP – by Country Ham, a group I had never heard of when I bought the record. I can find no records on iTunes by a band called Country Ham.
A German beer and dance hall in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC with my Czechoslovak girlfriend Vera, 1978. My first experience waltzing.
Connecticut Ave, NW in Washington, DC, near the zoo in what was then a block or two of small retail, bars, and restaurants, circa 1976 – 77. I think one of the first metro stations was built in this block
Madrid 1973 in a tapas bar. I and an acquaintance I met on the overnight train from Paris. A three or four man combo strolls in off the street and blow our socks off with Spanish songs.
Mykonos, Greece, 1973: listening to Greek music and watching the locals do their Greek circle dances. Seemingly impromptu, but probably staged for the tourists, maybe a bit of both.
Blues Saloon in Frog Town in St. Paul. The stage was on the second floor of an old, wood frame building. One got upstairs using a seedy-looking staircase. No frills in the concert room. Just loud, raucous blues. It reminded me of the movie Devil In a Blue Dress based on the first of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins books. The movie was my introduction to West Coast Blues, Jump Jazz, and other music of the black neighbourhoods in southern California in the years after World War II. The movie didn’t get much attention and still doesn’t but is one of my favorites in part because of the music and a good performance by Denzel Washington.
Small Italian Restaurant on the far outskirts of N. VA suburbs of DC. Bluegrass on weekends. An old time, family group, I think a wife and husband singing. As usual, I am at the bar drinking beer, eating pasta, and soaking in the music and vibes. On the rural fringe of the urban area. An out of the way spot that I stumbled on by accident.
And still, above all, listening to music, dancing to music, working out to music, being brought to tears by music, fighting the blues (bad, bad blues) with music, smiling with music.
Let’s play on!
I mapped my hike before setting out today. According to Google Maps, it would be 2000 feet from the parking lot to the river, 2000 back. However, the universal law of geography kicked in not long after I started the hike. I learned this rule in college on the first day of Geography 101. The rule is that in nature, the shortest distance between two points is never a straight line. There are always intervening ravines, impenetrable thickets, fierce and angry thorns, deep woods, wet ground, mean bulls (happened to me once, I swear). Columbus ran into a continent. Don’t forget the next-ridge corollary to the universal law. When you finally reach the ridge you’ve been straining for, there is always one more ridge to go.
The universal law kicked in today. I knew I would be hiking over level ground and open fields with a band of trees along the river. Should have been easy, even for me in my febrile old age.
Later: I am now seated at the bar of a Mexican restaurant, an oasis for an exhausted, muscle-sore hiker trying to recover from what ended up a challenge. Even so, I’m glad I went and finished the hike. I captured some decent photos for my project on the Chippewa River. Here is another universal law I learned in college but not in the classroom: a cold beer (in this case Dos Equis Lager) never tastes so good as when one is tired and dry. It tastes great and you can tell yourself that you’ve earned your beer, and the next one, and . . .
Here are some other photos from the hike in the Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area southwest of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
America has never seen a party less caring than 21st-century Republicans
– Lindy West, The Guardian, 03/29/2017
This is the headline of an opinion piece in The Guardian. Ms West’s article contains many spot-on quotes describing today’s debased version of the Republican party. I will provide a few but suggest that you read the article in full.
I don’t know that America has ever seen a political party so divested of care. Since Trump took office, Republicans have proposed legislation to destroy unions, the healthcare system, the education system and the Environmental Protection Agency; to defund the reproductive health charity Planned Parenthood and restrict abortion; to stifle public protest and decimate arts funding; to increase the risk of violence against trans people and roll back anti-discrimination laws; and to funnel more and more wealth from the poorest to the richest. Every executive order and piece of GOP legislation is destructive [emphasis added], aimed at dismantling something else, never creating anything new, never in the service of improving the care of the nation . . .
[There is a] void at the heart of the [Republican] party, that loss of any tether to humanity . . .
I copied the following from Brain Pickings, Maria Popova’s fine website:
The current of the river of life moves us. Awareness of life, beauty and happiness is the current of the river.
– Agnes Martin in Agnes Martin: Paintings, Writings, Remembrances as quoted by Maria Popova in the Brain Pickings weekly newsletter, 03/26/17
I had been fiddling with the idea of putting together a talk on creativity. My thoughts weren’t very serious, more like daydreaming or fantasizing – who would want to listen to me talk about creativity?. I’ve been thinking differently since reading the above. I am 68, soon to be 69, years old. I have a lot of experience in and knowledge about creativity that I am beginning to realize might be more than for most people. I’ve studied creativity and am deeply engaged in creative activities. Why not try to share? I and I suspect a lot of others, tend to denigrate my own skills and creativity. I have no credentials in photography other than a ribbon or two from one year at the county fair. No art or photography degrees, no professional experience, no fame, fortune or celebrity. I also come from Scandinavian stock and a Lake Wobegon upbringing, so I’m supposed to practice modesty and be self-effacing.
Enough of that! I think a key to creativity is being able to recognize, accept, and do something with one’s ideas. Don’t forget them or neglect them. Some will be not worth pursuing, but some will be and may turn into something wonderful. Carry a notebook or use a note-taking app on your smart phone. I use a Samsung Galaxy Note that is great for note taking.
Consider a voice recorder. Last week while in the midst of a two-hour drive, I was awash in ideas for blog posts. Perhaps some were good ideas. I had a blog post mapped out in my head, a post that would have had a lot of personal meaning for me. The heart of the post was to have been a song lyric. By the time I got home, I only vaguely remembered the lyrics. I think the song was by Emmylou Harris. I read the lyrics of dozens of her songs and could not find what I remember. I eventually drafted the blog post, but it remains unposted because I CANT FIND THE SONG. Drat! If I had had a voice recorder I could have recorded the relevant information in 30 seconds. I could have pulled over to the side of the road, but I was tired after a long day and didn’t.
The moral of this short story? I lost an idea that could have been polished into something good because I did not record the idea.
I went out in my car around 4:00 PM. I wanted to try to walk to the Arcola Railroad bridge from the Wisconsin side to photograph it. No luck; there were no-parking signs along the road and the railroad right-of-way was posted with no-trespassing signs. I could see the bridge through the bare trees. It looked very high and impressive. The branches were too thick for photography so I never got a photo of the bridge.
I turned to Plan B. I didn’t actually have a Plan B, so I extemporized. The Parnell Prairie Preserve is just a few miles from where I was. I’ve driven past the preserve many times and drove into the parking lot once but never stopped. It didn’t look very impressive from the road. So I went to the Preserve and discovered a sweet spot. Nice trails. Very pleasant.
There was an old, decaying very large tree trunk sawed into pieces near the road. It looked like it had been there, decaying and moldering into the earth, for a long time. All the things that grow on or around a decomposing tree stump provide lots of subjects for photography: vines, lichen, moss, fungi, leaves, stems, thorns. Much texture and color. The color isn’t as showy as in wildflower season but it’s there if you look closely. Tiny, bright red things on stalks held over green moss. I don’t know what they were, but the red objects shone out in spite of their tininess. Purple and red vines. Old, decaying wood of a deep orange.
Most of the preserve is a rolling meadow. Last year’s meadow grasses are still standing and are a fine golden, yellow-orange color.
The red stems of sumac with buds just waiting for some sun and warm weather. A cluster of berries ranging in color from bright red to golden brown. The silhouettes of bare trees and pine trees on a hilltop.
I got an e-mail today from the Southern Poverty Law Center. Below is the meat of the e-mail. Note that every statement of fact is well documented.
The fear of foreigners, the belief that refugees and immigrants are dangerous, the desire to keep them out — none of these things are new. But as our Teaching Tolerance project wrote this week in an updated post, these fears are often based on misinformation and lies.
It’s a myth, for example, that immigrants don’t want to learn English. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 56% of first-generation immigrants speak English “well” or “very well,” and the demand for English instruction actually far outstrips supply.
It’s a myth that immigrants are violent or criminal. According to a new report by The Sentencing Project, immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born citizens. Higher levels of immigration may even have contributed to the historic drop in crime rates, researchers say.
In the run-up to both Muslim bans, perhaps the most widely circulated myth has been that refugees are not screened before entering the country, that banning them will keep the U.S. safe from terror.
But we know that refugees undergo more rigorous screenings than any other individuals the government allows in the U.S., and we know that no deaths in the U.S. have been attributed to people from the countries covered by either executive order in the last 30 years.
All of these myths, however far-fetched, are based on the same dangerous falsehood: that immigrants and refugees are somehow not like us. That they’re not students in search of an education. That they’re not families trying to make ends meet. That as “somebody else’s babies,” they don’t belong here.
Some of my own thoughts: We Homo sapiens have been moving, migrating, traveling, wandering, fleeing since we became Homo sapiens. Migration and movement are among the most fundamental currents in human history. Migration has never been stopped in spite of numerous attempts to do so. Migration will never be stopped. The Romans tried. The Chinese tried. We Americans have tried in the past. These attempts have never been successful. It looks like we’re about to embark on an expensive, foolish, futile attempt to do so. An attempt doomed from the start to failure.
Why not tear down the walls? (Didn’t a Republican president say something like this?) ACCEPT immigrants and allow them to become a productive part of our society instead of condemning them to be outcasts on the peripheries.
Well, I’m not an immigrant, but all of my grandparents were. All Americans can make a similar statement. Even Native American ancestors came from Siberia.
I enjoy photographing botanical subjects that are past their prime. Flowers, leaves, other things that are starting to show their age; wrinkles, discolorations, blemishes; such things can add character to beauty. Perhaps I have this penchant because I am (this is hard to admit) beyond my prime and have wrinkles and age spots aplenty. At this time of the year in my neck of the woods, everything outside is past its prime. Everything is dead.* This morning I bought primroses at the grocery store. Some of the flowers are starting to wilt. I thought the wilt spots add interesting new color and texture to the already beautiful flowers.
* A paraphrase of Charles Dickens from David Copperfield:
I looked at her earnestly.
‘When you came away from home at the end of the vacation,’ said Mrs. Creakle, after a pause, ‘were they all well?’ After another pause, ‘Was your mama well?’
I trembled without distinctly knowing why, and still looked at her earnestly, making no attempt to answer.
‘Because,’ said she, ‘I grieve to tell you that I hear this morning your mama is very ill.’
A mist rose between Mrs. Creakle and me, and her figure seemed to move in it for an instant. Then I felt the burning tears run down my face, and it was steady again.
‘She is very dangerously ill,’ she added.
I knew all now.
‘She is dead.’
I wrote this post a year ago, March 21, 2016. For some reason, I forgot to publish it. Better late than never.
I went to the Wind In the Pines Nature Park yesterday. As has happened before in the park, I was unable to follow the trails. The trail map in the parking lot showed that to follow the route I chose, I should go left at the first fork and left again at the next T-intersection. I didn’t find either of those things before coming to the end of the trail. I tried to follow what seemed an obvious alternative. The alternative was a very faint trail, but judging by the terrain I thought I was at least in the right area. The trail faded in and out but I was always able to find some sort of trail, sometimes very faint. I eventually came to an easy-to-follow trail marked by stone cairns.
Lo and behold, I came out in a different parking lot in a different natural and scientific area that I never knew existed. That explains why so many signs I saw were facing the wrong direction. The area I stumbled upon is the Falls Creek State Natural Area managed by the Minnesota DNR. By the end of my hike, I hadn’t taken very many steps, but I ended the days with around 40 floors of vertical movement according to my Fitbit, most of it in crossing and re-crossing what I think was the same gulch in the forest, one that carried a very nice, small stream.
Most of the better photos I took were of small things. I was often on my hands and knees or sitting to get close to the subject.
Winter’s detritus are the bits of last year’s plant matter left over after the winter cold and snow. Everything is dried and shriveled, but there is still a lot of character and color if one looks closely. I walked through a community garden and filled a basket with detritus. I took the stuff home and put together some compositions.
I’ve been cooped up most of the winter, so I’ve resorted to photographing indoors. I’ve set up a makeshift studio on my kitchen table. My two most important pieces of equipment are a Manfrotto tripod and an Artograph 930 light pad.
I’m posting a few of the flower photos I’ve taken this year for some of which I used the lightpad. In two future blogs, I’ll post photos of vegetables and what I call winter’s detritus.
Here are the flower images:
Even after a winter of discontent, everything is still possible., My winter of discontent has been trivial in comparison to the first winter of the siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) as described in The Siege. People in the book starve to death, thousands of them. People freeze to death. I’m over-weight and never have to worry about heating my apartment. What do I have to be depressed about? What, me worry? The following, from one of the last pages of the book, takes place during the spring after the first, terrible winter of the siege.
The sun shines. Everything’s possible now that the sun is here, warming flesh and drawing dandelions and nettles out of wasteground. As long as you can still walk, no matter how slowly, and pause from time to time to hold up your face to the sun and let a haze of glowing red soak through your eyelids, everything is still possible.