Friday, January 16, 2009

A City Morning

This morning illustrated perfectly why I have chosen to live where I live. There is a word for a frozen fog that forms in the mountain valleys of the western United States: pogonip. Allegedly, its origins are traced to the Shoshone language, which makes sense since they populated that kind of country. As it turns out, I do too and this morning I watched ridge after ridge march to Mt. Hood, our very own Cascade volcano. These local ridges were separated by a dense white pogonip, row upon row. It was spectacular. The sun was still hidden, but the horizon was falling away rapidly to reveal it. It was a study in grayscale, with a hint of pale rose as a promise of the blazing to come. For an moment, there was absolutely no evidence of anything manmade. It was utterly wild and it was just me looking with an open heart. I would not trade that for anything. It happens, here in this city, several times a year.

All through my working day those images stayed with me. Even now, as the day fades into tomorrow, I am compelled to describe what I saw and to, somehow, cast meaning to it. Why can’t I just recall the view and love it for what it was, a nice visual on the way to work? I think I want to give it added meaning because it is, almost always, a profound and rare experience to feel the presence of wilderness in a major metropolitan area. I feel something similar when I see a coyote in the woods behind my house, or a deer walk through my front yard. I feel something like it most every day when I see hummingbirds and other birds come to the feeders I have out. I see Redtail Hawks and Bald Eagles fly over the house. These are events that inform me directly that I am probably not the crown of creation, that I must share space with fauna and flora very different from myself.

I find this incredibly important. It humbles me in ways that I’m sure I don’t entirely understand. These creatures have just as much stake in this planet, perhaps more, than I do. They remind me that my daily actions can either harm or enhance their very chances of survival. And my own as well.

Most likely, I will get up tomorrow with the sun or slightly before, build a fire, and go out for a morning walk to watch the sky change colors. I’ll try and slip through the neighborhoods like a ghost, leaving no trace of my passing. I’ll climb a couple of formidable hills to heat my blood and give my body the work it craves. While I’m at it I will keep my eyes moving, trying to catch a glimpse of wilderness as it hides from an ever-encroaching city, always hopeful that I will be blessed with that vision. Yes, always hopeful.

Friday, January 9, 2009

So Long, Mr. Cow Chips

It’s a brand-new shiny, right out-of-the-box new year. This may be the year that we sheep are shown (shorn?) new horizons (shearing sheds?). We just might have a leader instead of a what-me-worry rich boy. As Ronald Reagan said in his diary “… George’s ne’er-do-well son …” You know, the guy the late great Molly Ivins referred to as “Shrub.” Yes, our soon-to-be-out-of-work Prez, Mr. George W. Bush. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the worst president in the history of the United States of America. And considering some of the turkeys we’ve had, that’s really saying something.

I’m loving the media right now, talking about Mr. Bush’s legacy. Legacy? Huh? Mr. Bush’s legacy is being a phony cardboard cutout. I suspect that he’s never had an original thought in his life. Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying he’s a dumb guy. Nope. He’s an uncomfortable speaker, socially inept, and he chooses friends poorly. Dumb, he’s not. He’s clever, opportunistic, wealthy, and devious. He’s been labeled as a conservative, a neo-con, but his record in the Oval Office has shown him as anything but a true conservative. This is why the far right will never forgive him. He was elected (well, sort of) on an ideological way-right platform and got into office and behaved like a centrist Republican. He made a few wealthy people a whole lot of money, but he did not carry out the far-right’s ideologue agenda. Roe vs. Wade is still intact. The Supreme Court is still balanced enough to create justice of a kind and may very well become more balanced under the Obama administration.

I fear a far-left Supreme Court as much as I fear a far-right Supreme Court. As an old hippie, I’d much rather see a far-out Supreme Court. (Like, wow …)

There’s a whole bunch of scary stuff looming, not the least of which is the inauguration itself. There is going to a crowd in Washington the likes of which may never before have been seen. It is a time of immense hope, a resurgence of American pride that has not happened in my lifetime. Our enemies (and thanks to Bush, Inc. we have countless more) are very well aware of this and would like nothing better than to destroy our hope, our rising as a unified people. I am creating positive thoughts and emotions around this event because that is the best and truest counteraction I can make against the violence and mayhem our enemies would love to perpetrate upon us.

Americans have proven, time and time again, that a united people can overcome anything. We have proven that enlightened, dedicated, and motivated leadership can bring not only America together, but the world as well. Are we on the cusp of another resurgence of community?

I have no idea. Who do you think I am, the Mayor?

Where we have been for the last several years is in the dark. We have lost our faith. We have allowed cynicism free rein and it shows in our inability to muster anything other than a dispirited nod to what should be. I think we all know what that should be, but we have become used to letting somebody else care, letting others carry the torch of enlightened philosophy, watching our lives go by as if we were watching some disjointed movie without connection to ourselves.

It’s not a dress rehearsal. This is our life. We have things to accomplish. We need to acknowledge our neighbors, both up the street and across the world. We’re all in this together. The days of isolation and self-centered unilateral policies are rapidly disappearing in the rear-view mirror. The world is going to change physically and demographically in the next several years. I can’t help but feel there are immense challenges ahead. I think we will be sorely tested. While it may get very uncomfortable, I’m convinced that the overall outcome will be positive. Balance happens and it’s up to us to deal with it. If we can manage chaos with clear hearts, humor, and a strong resolve, we’ll be okay. All we have to do is survive as a species. It’s up to all of us to keep the flame lit.

It’s an old cliché, but it works: Think globally and act locally. It seems simple and it is. That doesn’t make it easy, but it’s not too tough to understand.

Now that I’ve blathered on for too long (again), let me leave this with some advice for our departing President.

Go back to your ranch, hook your thumbs in your belt, chew a piece of dry-land wheat, and don’t move your lips. Stay out of Baseball. And one more thing: the notion of a library with your name on it just makes me laugh.