I loathe April Fools’ Day. There, I said it. Why do we mark a day to embarrass our loved ones and/or complete strangers? You can google for yourself how worldwide and historical the practice is. But the wiki doesn’t delve into the Why. Perhaps it began, like Boxing Day, as a day to turn the tables, let the Staff have a bit o’ fun to make up for the other 364. But those days are long past and April Fools’ Day has become quite ecumenical, with anyone eligible to be targeted. It’s mean. The jokes are seldom funny except in that bullying “Haha, so glad that’s not me” kind of way, which isn’t funny at all. Maybe my sense of humor is broken, but I find the Fates and the world cruel enough that to mislead or embarrass someone intentionally with the sole purpose of being able to shout, essentially, “Got you!” is pointless and sadistic.
It is with the greatest relief that April 1st will find me hermitically sealed upon the grounds of La Fortezza della Solitudine. But were I not, I might put greater thought into countering the culture for the day. Of course, I am counter culture here every day in 99 ways more than I know. But perhaps I would bake cookies and leave them anonymously on my neighbors’ porch, with an April Foods’ Day note. Or carry apples and oranges to hand to strangers. Or perform guerrilla car washing. Maybe weed a public garden. Or just do something nice for instead of nasty to a friend. The point is, I’d very much like to see this glorification of pulling one over on the unsuspecting, frankly an easy target, be forgotten. Life always has a left-hook to the jaw in its back pocket, why add any suffering at all to the world, particularly when the Fool just might be catching that blind-side left hook later in the day already?
So many fires burning.
If I consider them all, my heart will fall to ashes: how to protect the wild lands inherited from our forefathers, how to stand up for immigrants just like our forefathers looking for a better life, how to convince energy companies that burning stuff was never more than a stop-gap until we could harness the unlimited power all around us, how to guard the basic health of all citizens for the good of society regardless of their ability to pay, how to guarantee a woman’s right to choose how the seed a man left behind is going to affect the rest of her life, how to save animals from needless suffering, how to educate children to prepare them for the changing world before them, how to engage the rest of the world for humanity’s sake . . . the list goes on and every day something else is set afire.
Usually, I am the apologist for the welfare of animals. They are speechless, powerless. Someone must stand up for them. But today, I am thinking about humans. I won’t get into the details of The Ban, only that it scrawls an ugly graffito across the plaque at Lady Liberty’s feet.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
If that door is closed to people of a particular religion, where does that leave our precious Freedom of Religion? Some say we are a Christian nation. This policy flies in the face of the very notion. If we believe Jesus really is the way, the truth, and the life, then we should want all mankind to find this saving grace. How will Muslims find Christ but in the midst of Christians? Why would they be interested except that they see love and light in us that is better than anything they have ever known? That they should find in us something they want for themselves? Jesus told his followers to be salt and light in the world, not salt in a wound. Before He left, He gave us a great commission: Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15) He also said, Feed my sheep. (John 21:17) If we are Christians, this is our highest calling. The apostle Paul didn’t place comfort or even his life above the Gospel. Nor did any of the others who were beaten, cast out, and murdered for their faith. We have no right to use it to defend our borders, keep ourselves safe, or send anyone back into harm’s way. There is nothing of Christ in that. We must trust God and rest in this assurance,
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
Oh Twenty-Seventeen, you worry me to the marrow of my bones. I fear you will see our National Parks sold off piecemeal to the highest bidders, our life-sustaining water contaminated by industry, even the air we breathe up for sale. Lies, politely called “fake news” or most horrifically “news,” splash across the media and are believed without skepticism. The country will be in the hands of an egotistical, bigoted, misogynistic, ignorant man-child. He isn’t surrounding himself with experts nor those with any history of caring about the issues over which they will wield power, the very opposite in fact. There is a low-brow yet fitting expression for what we are poised to witness, a real $h!+ show: our national treasures, consumed, digested, and excreted into a mound of steaming waste before our eyes. Policies can be reversed. Economic recovery happens. But ground water cannot be cleansed. Ancient forests cannot regrow. The wild natural beauty deliberately preserved for future generations of Americans cannot be remade. This destruction must be stopped before it begins.
To stop anything, we must know it’s happening. Get informed. Share that knowledge, with credible sources cited, everywhere. Put your Congresspersons’ numbers on speed dial and call them once a week. Your disapproval of their work can cost them their jobs. Your appreciation of their good work will move them to do more. Get your hands dirty locally for whatever cause you value and see is at risk.
This post began as an introduction to my Word of the Year for 2017, but even the two I was considering feel inadequate. I’m not a violent person. Violence is a last resort, a sinking to another’s level in self-defense. Yet, for those who are threatened, it comes to that. But I won’t begin the year with molotov cocktails and rage. However, 2017 may just require a quiver-full of words. To be and to do, let us begin here.
: capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture
: tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
Bend so you don’t break. Keep on keeping on. Get back up. Lean into it. Remember who you are and why you are doing this. It’s going to be a long hard ugly slog, but if the country you know and love is worth it, if tomorrow’s Americans deserve as much as we can save for them, hold the line.
When we are resilient, we have the power to act.
: make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of.
We must transform the situation, the culture, ourselves. Stand up to the ugliness. Shine a light in the darkness and cockroaches scatter. Transform your corner of the world. We cannot afford to look away. Bad things will happen if we do nothing. But everyone can do something.
It’s been a shamefully long time since I have written here. But in such an hour of political angst, fear, and revulsion, frivolity feels underdressed at the table. How can I blather on about cats and the wonders of the First World and my fabulous spa experiences when national leaders are being chosen, apparently, on the strength of their distain for the very things, ideas, and beings over which they will have responsibility? But how can I write about these weighty, important, but utterly gut-wrenching things when the news streams are full to the brim with them already? I cannot.
This is Pumpkin:
She lives on Vashon Island in Seattle with some humans and a dog. I used to call her Plumpkin, when she had free access to a bottomless bowl of kibble. But after an unfortunate incident of too much dry food and not enough water or exercise, she has been… restricted. She gets to eat canned food for every meal! But meals happen only twice a day. Pumpkin has trimmed down, found new energy, and seems to feel better overall. Next year, I will try to be more like Pumpkin.
This is a barest sampling of the marvels to be found in places such as Trader Joe’s, Staff of Life, and plain old Safeway:
Even as heretofore unheard of substances like tortillas, seitan, and maple syrup are appearing on shelves at home, every trip back to the States overwhelms me with new and amazing wonders of gastronomy. I wander, a slack-jawed bumpkin, through groceries, gawking at the bulk food sections, transfixed with option-paralysis over the array of non-dairy milk products and cheez. It’s a blessing that my memory is poor or I would remember these aisles of bounty when I visit my fruit & veg stand and ponder what flavor to make the cauliflower and/or eggplant today, flavors I have collected and hoarded from travels abroad. Yes, if I’m going to be more like Pumpkin, it’s probably good that my usual diet is so limited.
This is Rupertus Therme in Bad Reichenhall, Germany:
We took a little pre-vacation holiday to Bavaria to meet up with some friends visiting from San Diego and catch the Christmas markets. Two days soaking in a wide variety of pools, jacuzzis, saunas, and steam rooms, with massages spliced in to take advantage of the loosening of muscles. In fact, rather than collecting stuff and tchotchkes, I invest in the personal pampering. Two days after arriving in San Francisco, I was on a student’s massage table at the National Holistic Institute for my $30 fifty minute shiatsu. As often as I manage to find body work, they always find new tension accumulated where I never suspected.
Since I began writing this post, someone drove a truck through the Christkindlmarkt in Berlin, killing 12 people who, like us in Munich only 3 weeks prior, were just strolling through the festivity, soaking up the magic of it all. It casts an especially dark shadow being blasted into a season of joy and hope, one more right hook out of the blue.
The existential darkness still gathers and looms, even on this day which heralds the returning of the astronomical light, but for our own health and sanity, we cannot allow ourselves to be sucked down into it. Be kind to yourself so that kindness may flow out into the world. Fight the good fight wherever you may, but cultivate love everywhere you go. Love drives out fear. It is all that can.
Solstice always moves me to think about extremes and turnings, the longest, the shortest, the most, the least. . . beginnings. But now we are approaching Equinox. For a moment, all things hang in balance. We have had summer but winter isn’t knocking on the door just yet. The days are a tightrope, warmth and sunshine on one side, wind and rain on the other. We teeter back and forth between a walk on the molo and hot tea with an afghan on the couch. It looks like summer but feels like fall.
I have a few days now between the sweltering heat of summer and the regimented weeks to come for shifting the balance. It is time to clean. Unlike spring cleaning, clearing away the mustiness and old cooking smells of winter, fall cleaning here is lifting the shroud of dust which has quietly drifted in through the open windows and settled on everything. I have never lived anywhere nearly so dusty. I can’t keep up with it. I don’t even try. But as the windows begin to close, it feels as though any difference I make might linger for more than a day. The rains will assist me, settling the desert dust blowing up from Africa on high winds.
Cherries are long gone and peaches are fading fast, but apples are appearing and winter squashes are on the move. The kitchen doesn’t yet call me to its heat, but the recipes are appealing again. It is time to plan. Beyond the Pumpkin Spice Lattes (which only happen here when I bring the McCormick’s to the coffee bar), there will be pumpkins to cook, purée, and freeze. Kitchen staples need to be inventoried, dried beans and mushrooms, spices, and herbal teas for quiet evenings.
It is also time to give. As the seasons turn, so does the wardrobe. As I begin to look at warmer clothes, I try to remember if I wore a particular piece at all last year. Or the year before. And consider why I’m keeping it. If I don’t love it, someone else might. Or at least appreciate it. It’s easier to come to the end of a season and let go of the things. But the poor don’t want sundresses in October nor have they worn the sweaters we cast off last April. Giving is great, but storage is precious. Try to be considerate of your charities. Set those summer togs aside in a place where you’ll find them in March. What can they use now rather than what are you tired of wearing?
So, as we walk the balance beam of Equinox with thanksgiving for the summer spent and in anticipation of autumn’s arrival, may there be in our lives giving and receiving in equal measure.