Saturday, December 17, 2005

Still on the train...

Although I am certainly not a fan of hers, I have to give credit where it is due, I suppose.  Barbara Bush recently said something that resonates with me.  This is from today’s Houston Chronicle, covering the First Mother’s recent address at Texas A&M.

She described life as a train trip that will have a final stop for everybody.

“The true joy of life is the trip, so stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles,” she said.  “Instead, climb more mountains, read a book for fun… watch more sunsets, laugh more, cry less.”

Sunday, October 02, 2005

So, where was I?

So.. where was I?

The circumstance of Katrina and Rita and the exposure of the underbelly of what has been called civilization in this country, gives us all something new to ponder.  And I have learned a lot.

  1. Adrenalin is a great thing and apparently is unaffected by aging.  It was on pure adrenalin that I was able to work some long days as a volunteer after Katrina.  I hadn’t done anything like that in years… yet it all came back naturally.

  2. Electricity is a necessity.  The thought of living without electricity even for one day, much less weeks is what drove me to hysterically evacuate before Rita hit Houston.  Which it didn’t.

  3. Gasoline is expensive.  I think the generation of my children will be the first to really make some changes in their lifestyle because of this.  If they were in the oil business, they’d be delighted.  Otherwise, it’s time for us all to go into the bicycle business.

  4. We need to return to self-contained communities, where we can all walk (or ride horseback) to stores, schools, churches.  Alternative energy sources are not impossible dreams.  

  5. And I think the funniest thing about self-preservation for this mother hen, is the immediate urge to have all my chickens under one roof.  Meanwhile I’ll look for a new prescription for anxiety medication.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Big fish and little fish

I feed the fish in my pond several times a day.  I have koi, goldfish and mollies.  Without fail, the koi always get to the food first.

Koi are the big fish.  The goldfish and the mollies are very small by comparison.  Sometimes, seeing the big fish grab all the food, I throw out another handful so the others can get another shot.  Yet, the big koi, like little water bulldozers will shove the goldfish and the mollies away from the food and gobble it down.

“Survival of the fittest,” I think to myself.  But are they the fittest because they tend to get the most food?  Is that maybe what makes them bigger?  In other words, are they the biggest because they’re big?  And what about the little fish, don’t they need to eat something?  They get only the leftovers, just enough to keep them alive.

As I watch the coverage of Katrina and hear about the deaths of the people who couldn’t afford to leave their homes, I see the victims as the little fish.  In many cases these people who stayed had no transportation even to the shelter.  Sometimes it was because they were handicapped physically and no one saw to it that they were moved.  I think it is no accident that the poorest neighborhood is the one where people were in their attics still crying to be rescued late yesterday, as live power lines and gas leaks kept the boats out of the area after dark and as the water kept rising.

The people in the long lines of traffic we saw leaving the area on Sunday had one thing in common:  they had automobiles and they had gasoline.  They had money for hotels, or they had contacts where they could stay – either a shelter or family on higher ground. They are the big fish.

In this case, the “big fish” are not being greedy, they are just better equipped to deal with a survival issue.  So what accounts for the difference between the two?  Why is it that some fish are bigger than others?  How is it that some people seem blessed with abundance and others are not?  Why are koi bigger than goldfish?  How do they become koi and not goldfish in the first place?  

This is not to say that well-equipped people aren’t suffering great losses in this hurricane season, but mostly it is property.  And I am well aware of the fact that many of the people who fled used their entire paycheck from last week to buy the gasoline and the hotel room and will quickly reach a financial dead end because their jobs have been lost forever to the waters.  But life is what I am talking about here.

I will wonder about this today.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Goodbye, Peter

Peter Jennings.

Hmmph.  (My daughter says I say “hmmph” a lot lately.  It just means I have concluded an important thought in my mind, or come to some conclusion.  Never used to do it this way.)

When Peter made his announcement in the spring that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, I was sad to hear it, but with people like Peter Giuliani and Lance Armstrong bouncing back from cancer, it never occurred to me that Peter would die any time soon.

I missed him during his sick leave, as well as what I was convinced was his input into World News Tonight.  Seemed to me the coverage was more about missing blondes and sports figures, not anything relevant to our lives.  

And then he died.  

Peter isn’t … Sorry.  Peter wasn’t that much older than I am.  And I smoked for 42 years, twice as long as he did.  I stopped inhaling only three years ago.  So do I go get one of those lung scans to see whether there’s any sign of abnormal cells?  And if I do and somebody decides it means lung cancer is incubating, then what?  My husband will probably insist I suffer through chemotherapy.   Well, it didn’t work for Peter.

The grief I felt for Peter’s death was not only because I believed I knew him, and that I believed we could all trust him to tell us about anything really important happening anywhere in the world.  He even told us about things I didn’t find important at the time, and learned later he was right on about.  If Peter had been in charge, everyone would have heard about the Downing Street Memo much earlier and more clearly; if Peter had been in charge, Cindy Sheehan’s camp-out would have been covered from its beginning, rather than waiting – as other editors did – until there was a pro-war group to cover at the same time.

I noticed a few years ago that Peter, like me, was getting a bit wide around the middle.  But he was still smart.  He could read a propagandized story with a straight face, then add a sentence at the end and let you know from the turn of his mouth that he really knew the truth and that we do too, if we think about it.  And each night now when I see Martha Raddatz reporting on Pentagon matters, I think how sad that Peter is gone and none of the bad things in the world have changed one whit.  Maybe he could have explained it better if he were here a while longer; people wouldn’t believe nonsense quite as often.  

I was 21 when John Kennedy died.  It was an end to an era, an idealism, a faith that things are always going to turn out okay.  

My shock and sadness now at having Peter Jennings taken away forever is a lot like my feelings were then.  

Friday, August 26, 2005


As I stumble into the dreaded abyss of aging, I grab for a handhold. Lately it’s painting or drawing, in an attempt to leave traces of myself.  Last year it was a book.  Next year, maybe another book.  But moving onward ever so slowly, I understand that I can stop only momentarily to leave a footprint.

Within the course of a year, I witnessed the birth of a grandchild and the death of that same child’s grandfather.  How frail, how fragile we animals are both at beginning and at end.

Rock and Hawk
by Robinson Jeffers

Here is a symbol in which
Many high tragic thoughts watch their own eyes.
This gray rock, standing tall on the headland,
Where the sea-wind lets no tree grow.
Earthquake-proved, and signatured by ages of storms:
On its peak a falcon has perched.

I think, here is your emblem to hang in the future sky;
Not the cross, not the hive, but this;
Bright power, dark peace, fierce consciousness joined
With final disinterestedness.

Life with calm death; the falcon’s realistic eyes and act
Married to the massive mysticism of stone.

Which failure cannot cast down
Nor success make proud.

As I experience aging, I remember Daniel Pearl.  Bobby Darin.  Marilyn Monroe.  John Kennedy.  They didn’t have the opportunity to plan for a facelift or maybe just Botox.

A child never said youth is wasted on the young.  Wisdom is only entrenched knowledge, our dreams of youth and we return to the music of those days, remembering mostly with fondness.  But was it real?  Perhaps the music and the memories are no more than revisited fantasies.  Our grief has selfish roots.

I cannot stay away from computer as analogy.  Dreams defragment the mind; a newborn baby’s mind a blank video card, much like the coma of one’s last hours. Surely there is no more dreaming in this deep sleep, the no operating system of dementia.