Sunday, October 30, 2011

Everything is in flux

Luckily, the long-to-be remembered snow storm of October '11 was apparently deflected from Cape Cod and the Boston area by the relatively warm waters of the Atlantic. Now I sit looking at still green leaves tossing in what I know to be a very chilly wind but beneath a sky of slightly dirty looking cotton clouds with snippets of blue in between while 75 or so miles to west and north heavy deep snow has brought down limbs and turned off electricity and caused consternation and havoc. The second highly unusual storm in two months, counting hurricane Irene, for those parts of New England. Yes, the climate is in flux.

Reading the newspaper I find that the whole world is in flux, politically. Things seem rather quiet down in Australia and New Zealand and those Pacific island nations although it may just be that their quieter flux is ignored by the news because so much else is happening. Not only has the Occupy Wall Street movement spread to other US cities and to cities in Europe, but we've just seen the paroxysms of the "Arab spring". I read today that middle class Indians are shedding their usual political apathy and both demonstrating and voting to stop the endemic bureaucratic corruption. China is terrified by their own almost daily demonstrations which, with current media communications, could grow massively, so they are cracking down on both Internet and television. Things are always unsettled in various parts of Africa, Mexico is in the throes of serious drug wars, parts of South America are unsettled ... and so it goes ... everything in flux. A period of instability physically and politically.

I am a watcher, I've learned that knowing is a good thing, being aware is grounding, but worrying in a waste of time when I could be quietly finding the good and creative things I can do to be happy with my life and perhaps contribute a bit to the small world around me. An hour spent wringing my hands about global warming or the greed begotten by capitalism is an hour I cannot enjoy the limited hours that remain in my life -- which I hope are a great many but when you've hit the Big 7-0 you're an ostrich with her head in the sand if you don't give a little thought most days to the limits of life. But if you're reasonably balanced, you use the time as consciously as possible.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

Uploading videos is something I haven't learned to do so I will direct you to the sidebar on the right and the blog called Time Goes By. Today's post includes a video from an Occupy Wall Street gathering at Columbus Circle in NYC last night. It's dark so it's hard to tell how big the crowd is but it's big. The video features Pete Seeger [age 92 and going strong], Arlo Guthrie and Tom Chapin and many others, playing guitars, flutes, etc and all singing "The Little Light of Mine, I'm going to let it shine>"

And I have a fit of nostalgia for protests I didn't take part in back in the '70s because I was on my Mommy track in a staid small town in upstate New York. But I had been with the civil rights people in the '60s and was with the anti-Vietnam people in the '70s. Watching this four minute clip and hearing the familiar song, I'm once again with a protest in my heart.

Yesterday's documentary movie was Food, Inc. which emphasizes the hydra-like reach of big corporations controlling what we American eat -- what is in our supermarkets and why junk food is actually cheaper that "real" food [the answer is partly government subsidies that benefit the big corporations].

While the "serious"people complain that the Occupy Wall Street people don't have an agenda and don't stand for anything concrete, they are wrong. The movement stands for the extent to which our choices, even of what we have available to eat in this richest of nations, is controlled, what we see on television and read in papers, what we are charged for for health care, how our schools are run, on and on and on ... are all controlled by corporations who are now defined as "People" by the Supreme Court. But these "people" are essentially robot without a heart or even a head, merely a counting system ruled by bottom line numbers. Many of the most basic choices humans have always had are severely limited by what Wall Street stands for. No, it's not as simple as saying "stop this war" or "give black people equal rights" -- it's become too invidious to define in a few words. We know we are controlled, we are constantly spied on, we are overcharged for inferior services and goods and we are being milked like docile cattle of our savings so that a few rich people can grow richer and richer.

Friday, October 28, 2011

When the Frost is on the Punkin

This giant pumpkin is 1810.5 pounds and was grown in Stillwater, Minnesota I've never seen one this big but in the part of Indiana where I grew up, we had an annual Pumpkin Show [a month ago this year and I wasn't there]. I think of jack-o-lanterns second, really third, after thinking of that annual Pumpkin Show [which was the only event in our area that offered carnival rides]. I couldn't have cared less about the pumpkins.

Second, I think of James Whitcomb Riley [1851-1916] a Hoosier poet who wrote in dialect and wrote a poem that was probably taught much more enthusiastically in Indiana than elsewhere in the US. This is it:

"When the Frost is on the Punkin"

WHEN the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock,
And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens,
And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it's then the time a feller is a-feelin' at his best, 5
With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here— 10
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;
But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock— 15
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin' of the tangled leaves as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo' lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin' sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill; 20
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover overhead!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps 25
Is poured around the cellar-floor in red and yaller heaps;
And your cider-makin's over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With theyr mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and sausage too!...
I don't know how to tell it—but ef such a thing could be

[Sorry I cut off the last line but I think you've had quite enough by now]

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fun Fashion in L.L. Bean Land

At my quilt guild's meeting yesterday I had an opportunity to sit and watch the 130 or so women chatting and finding seats before the meeting and during the break between speaker and business meeting. Here on Cape Cod we are mostly in the casual Friday every day of the week mode -- I speak not of working people, that is an area I've graduated out of. I mean, for the most part, the senior population intertwined somewhat with young mothers. Casual, of course, is heavy on denim but here in New England a lot of khaki is worn and other quiet colors, especially in the winter. I overheard a woman in a old rose colored corduroy shirt jacket say to another who was wearing dusty blue -- "mine's L.L. Bean, yours is the same, right?" Right.

I also do a lot of people watching at the Academy for Lifelong Learning at the community college and have decided that by and large those in this semi [sometimes demi] intellectual atmosphere dress a bit more stylishly and brightly. They are more apt to add a nice scarf, a brighter color. This is a long, long way from the ladies I love looking at at the advanced style blog, those ladies are in NYC and would certainly be conspicuous here on Cape Cod. The woman in the photo was the only person at yesterday's meeting whose clothing was memorable - a bit of an Eloise-grows-up attitude. Good for her.

This, of course, is the place where the Pilgrims first settled and they were plain dressers, certainly. I find a bit of that attitude still pertains here. Other parts of the country have their special styles too. Florida brings out the bright colors even when they are pastels, California has its own variation of that Florida feeling. The West is a land of cowboy boots and Stetsons (sometimes on women as well as men) and the South still has a bit more formality about clothing than the rest of the country. Wherever I am, I am a dedicated people watcher. (Sometimes I deeply miss the streets of NYC)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Autum's touches

Just now, and until the clock gets reset in a week or two, the dawn comes up in full view from my patio doors while I am eating breakfast. On clear days it is magnificent and changes colors, catching different cloud groups minute by minutes. Maybe I will have to start getting up a bit earlier for a while to continue to have coffee and toast with sunset on the side. Gradually it will become later until the end of December.

Here on Cape Cod autumn is parsimonious and later than on the "mainland" -- the ocean keeps us a bit warmer and I have no quarrel with that. I have in my memory bank some upstate New York autumns when whole hillsides were so brilliantly colored under the purest of blue skies that I could hardly breathe, so awed was I. Sometimes I stopped a car on the shoulder of a country road to sit and gaze.

Having had those autumn scenes, I do not feel deprived by our little touches of color and the late occasional blaze among the browns and fir tree greens. One of the rewards of living in awareness as I have mostly tried to do is that, just as I have collections of rings, bracelets, earrings, [none precious stones but mostly semiprecious] which I collected on travels, I have heaps and reams and collections of memories -- a richness I enjoyed at the time and can continue to enjoy many years later as I'm reminded by a little bunch of leaves or a spreading sunrise.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

That Old House

This little house in Woods Hole, on Cape Cod was across the harbor from a portion of the Oceanographic Institute. The town was originally a whaling village. Many old houses from that era still exist there. This three story one with it steep pitched roof looked, on a gray misty day from a fair distance away, like a fairy tale house. I felt that if it were in a forest Hansel and Gretel might live there. I know absolutely nothing more about it but I was enchanted.

Monday, October 17, 2011

October poem

An October dawn seen from my breakfast table.

Since the beginning of April I have been writing, instead of a diary entry, something that vaguely (sometimes more closely) resembles a poem. This is one about a dawn I wrote a few days ago.

The precious Indian summer days

slipped away under cover of a near full moon night

leaving behind a gray morning


the peach, orange, tangerine dawn


of my last few breakfasts.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Wood's Hole, on "lower" i.e,the southwest end, Cape Cod began as a whaling town. today it is world famous in particular for two institutions: the Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution, a foremost center for the study of the all things marine where the depths of the oceans are studied both by manned crafts and by a variety of robots -- all of which are one-of-a-kind, all of which are designed and manufactured and maintained right there. The harbor, even on a very drizzly, gray day is a lovely sight.
The Marine Biology Labs is an independent institution which has the world's finest laboratories for the study of marine life with the goal being contributing to the understanding and betterment of human life. This institution has provided workspace for 54 Nobel Prize scientists as well as hundreds of others. The numbers of scientific papers published are vast.

A group of 55 seniors from the Academy for Lifelong Learning were given tours of both institutions with lectures by well trained volunteers. Some had been on such a tour previously, I had not. I had merely spent a couple of hours in the town and had no overview at all so I learned a lot. Below is the manned capsule from Alvin, the deep sea going sphere designed to hold three scientists, sitting very close together. It has made 4600 plunges to the bottom of the ocean. At the moment the capsule and the structure that allows it to be lowered and raised are being reconstructed in a somewhat larger size. As can be seen in the photograph, the two people standing in front of it would barely fit inside. I get claustrophobia just looking at it.

One of the most renown accomplishments of a WHOI scientist was the discovery of the location of the Titanic. That was news making but the ongoing and extensive data gathering about the sea, the underwater volcanoes, the sea creatures unknown before being discovered by WHOI scientists is far important. The enormous amount of information that has flowed out of this small town over the past 50 or so years as more and more instruments have been designed, contributes enormously to our understanding of life on earth.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Two Movies in less than 24 hours

Two movies in 24 hours. I have an openness to stories, especially visual stories makes this a heavy trip along with what I'm reading. Now and then I've read of movie lovers who go to three or four movies ion a kind of orgy, say on a dreary Sunday in NYC -- with many theaters close together in some areas and showings running from about 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. that is entirely possible with time out for a meal somewhere in the middle. Those film lovers are not people who go to every bit of drek, they try to see decent movies. Doesn't work that way for me. Two in less than 24 hours makes me feel somewhat bludgeoned, largely by myself.

Last night's movie was Mozart's Sister, in French at the nearest art film theatre. I always go to movies that have something to do with classical music. Of course, I knew that Nannerl was very talented and denigrated by Papa Leopold who used the two children like performing ponies to earn his living. This movie focuses on Nannerl's relationship with members of the Sun King's family, a princess and the Delphine, both of whom are enchanted by Nannerl. The story seems to be mainly fictional. The actress looks too old for the role but she is the daughter of the director. Most scenes were mediocre and the story light. But I loved a scene in which Nannerl starts singing one morning, Woflie joins in, they begin singing counterpoint. "A keyboard!" Wolfie cries. They run to a harpsichord, she playing the lower keyboard and he the higher. They compose together, apparently reading one another's minds as jazz musicians do, and both in a state of contained ecstasy. Beautiful!
Today's movie was made in Belgium called Illegal. It was about a Russian woman who is an illegal alien and is picked up on the street in a routine document search. She is put in a detention camp and won't talk. She has a 12 year old son who is being taken care of by a friend -- sort of. She's spunky and determined and she's befriended by a black woman who regularly gets beaten up by the guards [unpreachy reference to racism, of course]. When our heroine is to be deported she fights hard and causes a riot on the airplane, then is beaten badly, but sneaks out of the hospital ward and managed to get home to her son.

Such detention camps exist, not only in most European countries for illegal aliens, they exist in America also. People all over the world are moving from country to country seeking safety, work, a better way of life and countries are handling it with bureaucratic ugliness everywhere. This movie won a major prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The consensus was that it won not because it is fine film making [the critics think it's too much like an American TV special] but because this is a political problem that needs to be addressed.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hello, Indian Summer

After looking at a show of 51 small quilts at the National Seashore visitor's center in Eastham, Rachel and I walked on the one good trail that starts from that center. The first third or so was beside what is called Salt Pond, a graceful inlet pond. Twelve swans were swimming on it. I don't believe I've ever seen twelve all at the same time before. Here are a couple of pictures -- they were spread over the fairly large pond, but four or five were gathered in one little inlet area. They are so elegant and seem so serene.

From the pond, we briefly had panoramic view out to a sand bar with the ocean beyond. The view was a little ruined because there were a dozen or more all terrain vehicles out there, so the natural grace was compromised. The remainder of the trail wound through a mixed forest. The shade was actually quite welcome on this very, very warm Indian summer day. Happily Rachel knew of a wonderful ice cream place in Orleans -- what better way to end such a lovely day?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Serious Things on my Mind

So many serious things are on my mind tonight I almost don't know where to start -- in a sense none of it is personal, and in a sense all of it is personal. I will only mention three.

To begin with the ugliest: I say the documentary film about Emmett Till this afternoon. I had known the story that was a catalyst in the civil rights movement but this documentary showed a picture of him in his casket after his mother was heard describing many of his wounds. The extreme brutality was shocking. I know brutality goes on at all times somewhere in the world but my imagination cannot manage to understand how anyone can so mutilate another person. His murderers did not even know the boy. What they did was from some blood lust, some massive perversion of humanity. And they were acquitted by the jury and eventually died "natural" deaths of cancer. I find some consolation in knowing that the civil rights movement gained many victories although prejudice still exists in this country even in this liberal area as some people in the audience recounted.

The most exciting is that I just watched the You Tube video reading of the statement of the protesters in the park on Wall Street. I signed the solidarity petition yesterday for what tiny bit that is worth. I am delighted a movement has begun to protest and hope it will be picked up all across the country. The statement is very inclusive; I'd be happy if this turned into a movement as big as the anti-Vietnam war movement of the '60s. It's way past time to push back at the corporations and financial institutions.

The saddest was Steve Job's death at such a young age. Almost since I have began working on a PC I have been aware that Mac computers inspired a special fanatical devotion among their users. I did not get one until about five years ago but I have become a dedicated fan as well. I copied a part of the address Jobs gave at Stanford in 2005. I don't know if he already knew he was fighting cancer, perhaps not, but he was a serious man, focused on individuality. This is some of what he said:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.

“And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Elephant and the Dragon

I am taking a discussion class based on the book The Elephant and the Dragon by Robyn Meridith, a writer on economics. The subject is the economic rise of India and China, with China predominant. Economists make me profoundly uneasy. They see the world in terms of money, and I realize that money is powerful. But economic discussions are always abstract and these discussions talk only about manufacturing and trade balances. Economists concentrate on that portion of the population who work for big corporations whatever country they're talking about. But the truth is only a small percentage of the people in any country actually work for big corporations. Furthermore everything else is generalized. Saying that 4% of Americans control over 40% of America's wealth means nothing. The same is true in China or India. I have a deep distrust of thinkers who don't factor 96% of the people into an equation. The statements that people make in the class are essentially meaningless to me.

As a product of a "fly over" state [Indiana] where no one I knew worked for a large corporation, or had a bank account in excess of $10,000 [if ever that!] or an education much above high school, I think of the vastness of China [and India] and all the "fly over" land there and the millions of people who are not taken into the abstract patterns of economists except when they mention that rural people are moving to the cities at greater rates than ever because they hope to find jobs in those factories. But that is so simplistic, so inhuman and finally so meaningless. I am frustrated as I read the book -- which was published in 2007 and so is already five years out of date -- and I'm even more frustrated in the class as a room full of well meaning, curious, intelligent senior citizens tries to understand something about the world they hear about on TV and read about in newspapers. It seems to me they haven't the tools to understand another country if they have only economic abstractions. I'll revisit this subject in a couple of weeks when I have an opportunity to speak to the class about what I know and feel about China having been there more often than anyone else in the class [4 times although two of those times, to me, were not to China but to Tibet -- no matter what my passport says.]

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A panoramic view

Just thought I'd do a panoramic view of the beach I walk on. Above is looking east which goes on for about two miles at the very tip [on the right] is the Kennedy Compound which is really not visible from where I was standing.

Below is the beach I walk on. The picture is a little deceiving because the end is a blend of another land mass across a small inlet area

The whole thing is very peaceful -- especially in the quiet hours of morning when I sometimes see only one or two other people, and perhaps a dog or two. Then it feels like my private world with nice wide perspectives. On the watery horizon I can see something tall on Martha's Vineyard and at night a lighted beacon. Often I see the ferries cross the eastern horizon going or from the Vineyard. And of course many smaller craft, from kayaks and rowboats [like the one in the picture, to graceful sail boars and all sizes of motor boats. Lately there have been quite a few fishermen out there and I was told they are catching tuna -- smallish, but, surprisingly, tuna.