The Oak Tree

12 Jun

The Oak Tree

All of it’s branches reach out.  Stretching skyward, slender or stout, shortened, truncated by man, or extending far from the center, those branches leafed out in June, shade the ground. Within green shaded air, lightly sighing leaf sounds compete with the twitter of  birds who fight for space on the bird feeders placed under the canopy. That tree has anchored the place since 200 years before the birth of my mother. Now, cracks are showing in the bark. New ones, that were not there even a couple of weeks ago. The end is near. The giant oak is completely hollow, though huge and gnarly, it is gently dying. The root structure is gone to the east and south east. Will it last another 3 weeks? NOT sure.

What a legacy. Power in a tree. Magnificent, majestic, mighty this tree calls alliteration to mind, even though trite, the fit is there. There are few like it. And none that grace the yard of a private home in the middle of the capital of the United States of America. This huge, stolid trunk is weakening from the inside. Though we who love it want to believe it will outlive us, we can see that it is almost gone into legend. Though it still stands, reaching to the sky and thick with leaves, the underpinnings of the tree are gone. Where once roots burrowed under the ground and interfered with growing grass, the carpet is thick and green, with fast growing grass.

Overlooking my childhood that Oak Tree stood sentinel. Glancing at it sideways, it was just “there”. Shading our front yard in hot Washington DC summers, we were grateful for the coolness beneath those spreading arms.  Yet, unconsciously the presence as a constant gave stability to my growing years until we left to live in Europe.  Then I missed it.  Then we had a smooth grass circle in front of the Embassy and it seemed naked. I longed for the thick trunk and overreaching green leafed canopy, the acorns in the fall, the bare branches silhouetted  against the winter sky, the spring tassels that preceded the early leafing out.

I loved that tree. We all loved it and we all still do. It frightens us to imagine the space without it. How strange that would/ will be. How unsettling and unusually bright. The entire house would change for the worse, or at least for a very different aspect. But life goes on.  The land will still be there when the tree is gone. Someone will tear down the house once called “Underoak” and build something made of steel and glass. An office building? An embassy? An addition to the American University campus? Will I live to see this change?

I am alive and well and living with my mother

4 May

I am alive and well and living with my mother
The Dancing Queen

The Dancing Queen

My Mother is 98 years old. She is beautiful and cheerful. But things are changing for her as she becomes more frail and less able to participate in the activities that kept her young. For instance she loved to play golf, and she starred at croquet, but her balance is not what it once was and she hates walking as a sport. Dancing was her very favorite. But now her partners are all gone and she, herself fears that loss of balance that might lead to a fall. Plus her legs are weak now, and she lost her stamina somewhere along the way.

I am posting a photo taken about 20 or so years ago. She outdid them all at that time. Joyful and living in the moment, she inspired others.

Now I must struggle to keep those positive memories alive as she ages in front of my eyes. It is hard to watch. However this is a fairly new development. She never seemed to age at all until well after she turned 90. I welcome others stories and comments because this learning process creates all sorts of angst and sadness for me. Mother seems fine about it. It is for me that the sadness causes my interactions with her to seem to take forever, and lack the old sparkle.

As I am here with her anyway, I am keeping a journal which is private of course. However some public discussion of the topic of aging parents may help all of us.

It creeps up on us, the loss of friends, the sagging flesh, and lack of zest for life, and the feeling of having time in the future to do what one still has not done. For those in their 90s time and/or energy left long ago. Watching birds feeding at the birdfeeders intrigues and even fascinates older people. They can stare for hours at the birds and exclaim over the colors and shapes as if they had never seen a bird before. Childlike pleasure in daily activities like the splashing of water over a “caregiver” while taking a shower, or watching the same slide show over and over as if it had never been seen before makes smiling a norm. Nothing negative mars the constant stream of caregiving aid and comforts handed out every hour of the day or night.

Lack of privacy bothers some who must live with constant supervision, but my Mother enjoys the company of others. She grew up an only child whose mother died when she was only 8 months old. Her friends were her lifeline augmented by a whole bunch of cousins who lived literally next door. Her life has been crowded with “company” and she enjoys that even now.

The Primaries have come and mostly gone and Mother is blissfully unaware of the infighting. But one day she asked me while we watched the news, “What do you think of him?” She was pointing to Donald Trump who was answering reporters questions. I said “I am not sure what I think.” And she said “I think he is brave.” I thought that showed she watched with at least a modicum of recognition even though she still does not really recognize any other contender for the presidency. After Indiana, she may not need to. But she cares not at all who wins the presidency in 2016.

Life goes on for her as the birds feed hungrily at the several feeders, two hanging ones and one attached to the house.
Let’s count them Mother, shall we?

What Really Died at Auschwitz?

8 Oct

The bulk of what you will read here today is from an email that was sent to me recently. The actual article was written by Sebastian Vilar Rodrigez in 2011, but it is even more relevant today. Printing this is meant to be controversial, but not intended to be mean-spirited to any whose religion is mentioned here. Just think about what it says. Are we better off if women are denied education? I am working with a young woman from Afghanistan and helping her while she creates a project. It is a multi-faceted dissertation about the fear of going to school that many young girls from her country feel because of the Taliban. There have been instances of acid thrown into the face of young girls going to school. In one place over 100 girls were poisoned by a contaminated well. This is not civilization. This is not progress. I don’t care who you are, or what your reasons, keeping women in ignorance is not acceptable. The desire to suppress knowledge is not acceptable

“What really died at Auschwitz?

by Spanish writer Sebastian Vilar Rodrigez and published in a Spanish newspaper on Jan. 15 2011.

“EUROPEAN LIFE DIED IN AUSCHWITZ”
By Sebastian Vilar Rodrigez

“I walked down the street in Barcelona and suddenly discovered a terrible truth – Europe died in Auschwitz … We killed six million Jews and replaced them with 20 million Muslims. In Auschwitz we burned a culture, thought, creativity, talent. We destroyed the chosen people, truly chosen, because they produced great and wonderful people who changed the world.

The contribution of this people is felt in all areas of life: science, art, international trade, and above all, as the conscience of the world.
These are the people we burned.

And under the pretence of tolerance, and because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we were cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates to 20 million Muslims, who brought us stupidity and ignorance, religious extremism and lack of tolerance, crime and poverty, due to an unwillingness to work and support their families with pride.

They have blown up our trains and turned our beautiful Spanish cities into the third world, drowning in filth and crime. Shut up in the apartments they receive free from the government, they plan the murder and destruction of their naive hosts.

And thus, in our misery, we have exchanged culture for fanatical hatred, creative skill for destructive skill, intelligence for backwardness and superstition. We have exchanged the pursuit of peace of the Jews of Europe and their talent for a better future for their children, their determined clinging to life because life is holy, for those who pursue death, for people consumed by the desire for death for themselves and others, for our children and theirs.

What a terrible mistake was made by miserable Europe.

A lot of Americans have become so insulated from reality that they imagine America can suffer defeat without any inconvenience to themselves. Recently, the UK debated whether to remove The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it ‘offends’ the Muslim population which claims it never occurred. It is not removed as yet. However, this is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving in to it.

It is now more than sixty years after the Second World War in Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, twenty million Russians, ten million Christians, and nineteen-hundred Catholic priests who were ‘murdered, raped, burned, starved, beaten, experimented on and humiliated.’ Now, more than ever, with Iran, among others, claiming the Holocaust to be ‘a myth,’ it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.”

So, Now that you have read the article, do you think you would like to pass this on?

How many years will it be before the attack on the World Trade Center ‘NEVER HAPPENED’ because it offends some Muslim in the United States? When are we going to stop being so politically correct that we can no longer be ourselves? This really must stop. People who do not like our ways need not move here. I never have understood the principle of people who move to an area from some different type of place and then spend all their energies trying to modify their new home to be like the old one. Why not just stay in the old one? Or if you wish to move on to bigger and better things, don’t be afraid of change that is required by gaining knowledge. Knowledge is power. Don’t let anyone limit yours.