My first post in a full year!

20 Jul

I am terrified to write this blog post. Why? I write every single day in a journal that I have been keeping since August 2015.  Writing does not scare me and I have a lot to say. Procrastination is probably the reason behind the fear or maybe it is the other way around. The fear is uppermost in my mind.
Perhaps it is because I have not written a blog post since almost exactly one year ago. So much has happened in my life during that year. A great number of friends and relatives have passed away during that time.   Some  were old, as old as 100, and some were way too young to die.  All of that loss makes me very grateful for my life. 

And I am very mindful of my general  good luck with my health because of an accident I had in January.

I fell and broke my leg at the ankle. It was just a silly accident, a misstep while trying to do something nice for someone else. However it set me on a course to be the “live in house manager” and entertainment supplier for my 99 year old mother.  I had been living with her already, but now I moved in to a first floor bedroom with the knowledge  that I could not leave at all for 3 months. Because I had surgery on my ankle my doctor forbad me to put any weight on my bad leg until he could remove a long screw that held the two bones in my leg together. That was rough. For 3 whole months, no weight on my foot ever. No walking cast. And there was a real fear that were I to inadvertently put weight on that leg I could cause the bones to fracture because of that screw. I got around in a wheel chair constructed of some very light metal. It could be slid around using just my one good foot and no need to be pushed.  My favorite mode of transportation was on a knee scooter which was actually really fun. Becoming adept at using the tools available to “invalids“ these days, gave me a sense of accomplishment. It also gave me a healthy respect for those pioneers who forced “handicapped friendly” access all over this country. Because of those people I could go almost anywhere, including bathrooms.

When you are reduced to using a wheel chair or other vehicle like my scooter, to navigate the world, it is wonderful to discover that someone has thought of you ahead of time and made it possible.  I became very comfortable with my “wheels” but also impatient as the time approached that I could put weight on my foot. It turned out to be a lot more complicated than I had thought. Today July 20th, I am still somewhat lame on my left leg. My ankle swells still, and there is pain in the muscle or ligaments sometimes. Mysterious unexplained pain.  That makes me even more sympathetic to those who will forever be bound to chairs or other devices in order to move freely.  It is true that gradually one adjusts to what can be done easily and what cannot.  In some ways it is restful to know what your limitations are. Then you can deal with what is and leave the rest.

I found this to be true for myself. Before my accident I was constantly under a sort of tension about when I would leave my mother’s house to go home to my house in Charlottesville VA. The threat of being caught in rush hour which spans approximately 4 hours in the morning and another 4 every evening in the Washington DC area scared me into leaving early or late to avoid it. The tension underlying every day wore on me without my realizing that it colored everything.

Once I knew I must stay in one place, I resigned myself to it. It became relaxing and peaceful to have those worries taken from me. I became at peace with my enforced stay in Washington D.C. and to think of myself as a permanent resident. It seems reasonable to join local groups and try to enjoy the city which has become my home.

The Serenity Prayer is so helpful:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

It’s Hot! It’s Summer! It’s Politics!

25 Jul

The heavy, warm air sits on my body like a heavy blanket. A fog of heat surrounds us no matter what we are doing. Even in the shade the suffocating temperatures feel as if someone just opened a hot oven in our faces. The trees seem to sag, their heavy leaves still in the thick air. Oxygen seems limited and even the birds are still. Swimming pools warm us rather than cooling the body. How did the water heat up to this extent?

Sitting under a spreading walnut tree in my yard, my fingers feel sticky on the keyboard. Perhaps it will ruin my laptop to be out here typing away in the humid afternoon. That makes it important to finish soon.

It is important to see the world as it is. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” is a wonderful saying but it leaves out a lot of facts. While being grateful is probably the most important antidote to fear, the importance of a realistic approach cannot be ignored. Our country is under attack. The question is “by whom”? Many fear the unknown and “outsiders”. However it may be that the real danger is internal. Unless we are willing to stand up for what we believe we may find ourselves prisoners of a system we never intended to rule us.

The present election presents the perfect example. Both of the main contenders are widely disparaged and disliked. On the other hand many who feel their particular candidate is the ONLY answer turn a blind eye to the faults of these people. No one is perfect. Everyone must make concessions, of course. However, remaining closed minded could result in chaos later.

Donald J. Trump is bombastic and loud in his condemnation of all of his rivals. Those who hate him say he is a liar. But those who like him feel he is telling people what they need to know. His words are twisted constantly by the media and he seems angry (fearful) as a result. But he may be striking a chord that resonates with mainstream values we call American. He is a Patriot. This is no longer politically correct. So his views are denigrated and despised by the opposite party. We are all one, they say. It is wrong to disparage any one group or race or religion. However, some people really want to destroy us. It is not folly to say so. It is demonstrably true. He made money over his whole life and yet the press talks constantly about his 4 bankruptcies. Out of his hundreds of companies it seems rather tame to have only experienced the failure of 4 of them. He is very rich by his own admission, but in many ways he fits in with blue collar workers and legal aliens in ways his opponent does not.

Hilary R. Clinton is unlikable and arguably dishonest. Her detractors find her indefensible. She comes with a huge load of baggage from over the years as a politician and the wife of a politician. Her admirers find her tough and experienced. They ignore the whispers of intrigue and malfeasance. Women often like her simply because she is a woman. They will NOT hear a word against her. They will follow her anywhere. Even when evidence is available to prove her duplicity, they ignore it. She is protected by the left leaning media and castigated constantly by Fox News. She is rarely asked the hard questions. She says she cares about “the people” but she is elitist and basically in the clutches of Wall Street. Not to mention her ties with Saudi Arabia and other countries who fund her Clinton Foundation and her speaking engagements. She is not really “of the common” people. She wants to be with the very rich. She has made millions in politics. How does this make her trustworthy?

We live in interesting times. People are polarized and many are either scared or angry. Anger really is simply a manifestation of fear. And there seems to be a lot of it everywhere. A dark underbelly of corruption and malice appears to have been exposed recently. Many refuse to believe that evil exists and stick their heads back in the sand (or the TV) and lose themselves in “entertainment” whether watching the news or a paid program of fiction or fact.

Stay awake, and express your true opinions when asked. There is nothing to be ashamed of in speaking your own truth.

The Oak Tree

12 Jun

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 cooled 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.

It has a name. The Dumblane Oak. It is a landmark and well known by many in the early 20th century. But that was another century.

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 lawn, 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. How I missed my home with the fabulous leafy tree, unlike any other that I knew. I longed for the thick trunk and overreaching green leafed canopy, the acorns in the fall, the bare branches silloetted  against the winter sky, the thousands of spring tassles 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?