Category: opinion

A Grave Error

 

The other evening, about cocktail hour, I sat on the chaise in the backyard of our house near the village, looking at the tree swallows wheeling and chittering high up in the sky. It reminded me of when I lived in the woods not too long ago, and I was comforted to see these birds here, too. What else have I seen, I asked myself? Ospreys and egrets, since the river is so close. Catbirds, wrens, bluebirds, cardinals, house finches.And bald eagles. I have heard thrushes on those soft mornings they love so much. Plenty, to feel like I’m still surrounded by nature.

Living here has advantages to living in the woods. There’s the Tour de Crumb Cake, for instance. This is when I ride my bike down the river road until I get to Not Ken’s Coffeehouse, where I buy two crumb cakes and one coffee (one of the crumb cakes is for Richie, of course.) I arrange them all in the bag on my D.E.B. bike (intelligently designed and made by Kris Henry for just such a purpose) and pedal until I get to an entrance nearly obscured by large hedges, where I turn and coast past the gravestones to a bench overlooking the water. Here I sit and eat my crumb cake and drink whatever coffee hasn’t spilled out, and I am soothed.

One day, I was disheartened and annoyed to see a small group of people at the overlook near the bench where I always sat. Grumpily, I biked to a different bench and munched the crumb cake, but it was not the same. Obviously other people had discovered the peace and beauty of this place, and now it would be ruined forever; it would be a destination. I cast baleful glances at the group as I munched, until small details pierced through my irritation. I felt sheepish.

It was a funeral.

And so, the cemetery remains a safe destination for rest and peace,

and not just for me.

Tags : , , , ,

TMI

I’ve taken myself off Facebook and twitter, not that hardly anyone would notice. Except of course, me, which was the point.

I have shut the door to the party. Once, when I was a teenager, my mother and I were driving into Hartford and we passed by the huge brick Aetna building, I said to her: “I would like to live there so that I could have a party in this part—“ I indicated the vast right-hand wing, “but my room would be here—“ I indicated the equally vast left hand-wing “so I could be alone.” Naturally, she looked at me oddly. But what I was trying to say was that I love people and I love doing things to make them happy, but I find them overwhelming.

So that’s that. Despite FB telling me that so-and-so really misses hearing from me (doubt it) I’m sticking to my decision. Fact is, I don’t miss the party. I do wonder slightly if I am like the ostrich, but then again, I do my bit in my own way, so I feel okay about that.

Interestingly, E.B. White felt the same way about the effect of television: “When I was a child,” he wrote in One Man’s Meat, his book of essays published in 1938, “people simply looked about them and were moderately happy. Nowadays they peer across the seven seas, bury themselves waist deep in tidings, and by and large what they see and hear makes them unutterably sad.”

Tags : , , ,

Moving Along

 

I thought I’d tell you about how my life has changed since the election outcome. First, the good news for me, is that I’m white, albeit female so a certain part of my anatomy is apparently up for grabs, but at least I don’t have to worry about Neanderthal types yelling racial slurs or hitting me. So that’s good. But what’s bad is that I am stunned we humans are so tribal, so ignorant, and so full of base hatred for The Other. So I have to try to reconcile that.

But a very good thing has also happened, and it is that I feel united with the majority and I feel a sobering awareness to use my white privilege to stand up for the vulnerable. My sister-in-law told me, “My headscarf is ready if they start registering Muslims.” She is Jewish. But how wonderful to contemplate one hundred million people registering as Muslims in the United States.

There is a power in behaving with decency that is less obvious than the shock-value of barbaric outrageousness, but decency is the far stronger power, since it is based on values that enrich the soul, rather than corrode it.

“Against eternal injustice, man must assert justice, and to protest against the universe of grief, he must create happiness.” –Albert Camus

Tags : , , , ,

Manners, People. Manners

rockport

Yesterday, Richie and I were in Rockport, Massachusetts, a picturesque little town on Cape Ann. There, we got into conversation with a resident. He talked about his work (owning and managing apartments) and how much he missed his wife of fifty-eight years who had recently died. We were three humans, connecting. Then I looked up and saw in his window, a sign: “Proud to be a member of the basket of deplorables.” Oh dear, I thought, a trump supporter. {Still!} We carried on talking in our friendly way and Richie mentioned that we were here for the Gran Prix Cyclocross race. I could feel the man pull back, in much the same way I had when I read his sign. Oh dear, his body language said, one of them. (The Gran Prix is not liked by residents because it tears up the park—although the race hires landscapers to repair it afterwards.) But we continued talking, continued connecting, because we are well-mannered people.

Currently, within the United States manners have been, by some, derided as “political correctness.” They’re not. They are an essential survival tool for a society. When manners go, society goes. Good manners towards another human indicates respect. No, you needn’t agree with their positions on things, but your display of good manners confers to them the respect due to another member of your society and by doing so—and this is key—you also establish to them, your own sense of self respect.

Invariably, rude people are unsecure people. As President Obama recently observed about a certain someone who most decidedly lacks good manners, “he pumps himself up by pushing others down.” When we feel threatened—insecure—our instinct is to hit back to force our threatener to feel worse than we do. Ergo, we are not at the bottom anymore!

Manners prevent us from lashing out destructively while we (ideally) work out within ourselves that which is making us feel insecure. The process of working it out is self-responsibility. Accepting self-responsibility is growth. Growth feeds self-respect.

Courage: grace manners under pressure.

Tags : , , ,

No More Misogynist Feminists

 

The title of this blog post is thanks to Madonna, who tweeted out same recently.

It took me a long time, I am embarrassed to say, to understand Madonna. I thought her in-your-face sexuality was a cave-in, a return to the subjection of women by sexualizing them. When, of course in fact, she was taking charge of it. Her “Boy Toy” belt buckle particularly rankled me. But just like the LGBTQ community co-opted “queer” to become a statement of power and ownership, Madonna co-opted and empowered her own sexuality by taking ownership of it.

Now Madonna has, in a succinct sentence, captured what I feel about women who aren’t voting for Hillary because they find her “untrustworthy.” Oh for God’s sake. Hillary has devoted her life to public service, her every move is scrutinized. I find it trust-inducing that the only thing her detractors can find to detract is missing emails that have not resulted in anything detrimental happening to our country–unlike the propaganda of WMD that led to the Iraq war, or the deliberate dishonesty that led to the housing bubble meltdown. . . Oh, the Clinton Foundation? The donation detractors point to was signed off by nine separate government agencies, not Hillary.

Ladies, tell me what it is about having a woman in the highest office in the country—a women who is more prepared to do the job than anyone in recent memory—that you just can’t abide. Perhaps it will be the illuminating of women’s rights—just like President Obama’s terms have illuminated the rights of Blacks—that you find disturbing. Equal pay for equal work, the right to decide what to do with one’s own reproductive system, the exposure of the casual, insidious sexism all women live with—these will naturally rise to the surface when a woman is President.

If you say you “distrust” Hillary, please form a thorough, coherent, fact-filled argument as to why. Vague intimations about her “corruption” or “untrustworthiness” are not facts. And when you’ve gotten your argument down and you think it’s a solid one then do a little more thinking and determine why this makes her uniquely unqualified to lead. Unlike, say, the generations of men in government, whose lives, when the rug has been lifted, have been rife with mistakes, corruption, and cronyism. I believe Hillary’s life of service is more committed, honest, and authentic than her peers. I believe she is more intelligent and prepared than anyone else has been for the job. If all you can muster against her is “untrustworthy” then your attitude is misogyny, plain and simple.

 

Tags : , , , , , , , , ,

Cherish the Ladies

Our cyclocross season began last weekend with Rochester. A Category 1 race on Saturday and a Category 2 on Sunday. From my non-racer perspective, a C1 race means that the officials are Very Attentive about UCI rules. Must be wearing pit pass. Must have right size tires. Must not feed. The first two rules are yadda-yadda. The last is more of a problem. The “No Feeding” rule states that the racers can carry water with them, but cannot be handed water. However, many ‘cross bikes don’t have water bottle cages on them and skinsuits don’t have pockets. Cyclocross is a cold weather sport (theoretically) and the race lasts an hour, so the whole hydration thing isn’t supposed to be an issue. But it is becoming one, due to climate change.

On Saturday, when the Elite Women raced, the heat index was 97 degrees Fahrenheit. After their hour of racing, the women crossed the line for the final time and fell over. Literally. One racer was taken to the hospital for heat stroke. The race organization, seeing the sprawl of bodies, brought over bottles of water and ice. Now it was the Elite Men’s turn to race (they race after the women) and Rochester, a race organization that Gets Things Done, set up a hose to spray the men as they raced by and had people waiting at the finish line, handing out bottles of cold water to the men as they finished. Great! You say.

Not so great, I say. The race organization should have known that the very high heat combined with no water combined with strenuous activity would lead to problems. Why did they wait to see the triage that was the women’s race before instituting adjustments? Why, in a nutshell, were the women the guinea pigs?

The Rochester race organization is superlative and they put on a great race. They would deny this implication of neglect. And I would believe them. Because this casual judgment that women are less valuable than men is insidious. It is certainly not limited to cyclocross racing.

But you have to start somewhere and call it out when you see it. So let’s start here. Women work just as hard as men during the race. Elite athletes are elite athletes. Enough with the casual neglect that speaks of a blind spot.

Let’s start giving women athletes the same respect, attention, and care that men athletes get.

Tags : , ,

The Vulnerati

the-breezy-day

 

There is a pervasive myopia, and it is, that talent and success come to fruition solely by the genius of the person in question.

No one has ever done anything that is worthwhile alone.

There is always someone or someones who maintain the foundation of—lets call it that incubative stuff they put in petri dishes—that matrix, so that the cells can grow, unimpeded. There is always someone who provides one or more of the following: financial support, child care, housework, emotional support, intellectual support, physical support.

Leaving out this other half —and it is at least half—of the story in a profile of a successful person perpetuates the tired, and let’s face it, untrue trope of the solitary genius.

Walt Whitman had, not only his sister, but a wife to wait on him and take care of his every emotional and physical need so that he could create in petri dish splendor. Edward Weston had Tina Modotti. And so on.

I am looking forward to the day when a profile of a successful person—of any gender—includes the other half of the story, which is, of course, the whole story.

Tags : , , , ,

The New Feminine Beauty

blog robles

The Democratic National Convention and the Olympics had a couple of things in common. They both exemplified the strength inherent in diversity and tolerance, and they both had some seriously powerful women’s bodies on display.

I’ve always been fascinated by the different shapes and sizes of athletes’ bodies during the Olympics and not because I’m objectifying them, but the opposite: their diversity proves to me that there is not one physical ideal of beauty—especially, most especially–in women. Gymnast Simone Biles is tiny and compact with the shoulders and hips of a linebacker. Swimmer Katie Ledecky is tall and long with big, big shoulders. And weightlifter Sarah Elizabeth Robles is a mountain. And thay are each so, so beautiful.

At the Democratic convention, Chelsea Clinton strode out on stage, post recent baby-birthing in a siren red, tight sheath, belly rolls, breasts and boutay on full powerful display. She owned her body and what it could do. The beauty of power and strength is the new standard of feminine beauty.

Sure there are holdouts—those women who still think that looking like Barbie is beauty. But I think if they gave it some thought—scratched the surface—they would see that Barbie is a man’s idealization of a women—blank expression on the face, large breasts, small hips, little shoulders—all the better to live in subservience.

And speaking of subservience, does anyone remember what those Republican convention women looked like? Hmmm, yes. Barbie.

Tags : , , , , , , , , ,

The Weekend That Wasn’t

IMG_1608

This past summer, I invited some good friends up. They have been regular visitors for the last six years and I looked forward to seeing them. Since we live far from the coast, fresh seafood is a luxury and they usually bring a big hunk of salmon that we cook on the grill. They also bring four or so bottles of good red wine. It is an agreeable confluence of good food, good friends, good conversation and fierce croquet—a not untypical summer get-together. But there was one thing about this weekend that was as rare as a sighting of a snow leopard.

The weekend went completely undocumented.

There were no photos taken and posted on Facebook to underscore to “friends” that we are having such a good, good time; no tweets to same. Nothing survived of this weekend but our personal memories, and alas, I realize now, this blog post. Which is a darn shame, but I am trying to make a point.

After my friends left, when I realized that there was no residue of the weekend except what I remembered, I felt a rush of joy. An undocumented weekend! No one else knew about it! It felt like discovering Machu Picchu and then just letting it be.

It okay, nay, it is most excellent to keep things to yourself. To hold a memory close, like the jewel that it is. To take it out and look at it every now and then and remember those golden days that belong to only you and the people you experienced them with.

Yes, sharing experiences on the World Wide Web is fine—just understand that you don’t have to. A memory solely in your heart is just as valid as the affirmation of it on social media.

Tags : ,

Peeves: Three A Words for the First of April

Absolutely.

How many times have you heard someone say “absolutely” when what they really mean is “yes” or “maybe” or even “no.” Absolutely has become the “I only have the tiniest clue, but prevarication or anything less than complete confidence is regarded as weakness so I am using this word.” In our one-upmanship culture, hesitation or thoughtfulness is considered a sign of weakness, apparently.

Awesome.

A picture of your lunch on Facebook is not awesome. Awesome really means something extremely impressive, whether of the apprehensive or inspiring variety. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is awesome, actually.

Amazing.

Means to be filled with astonishment. I’m not astonished that easily, so my days are not filled with amazing events. Maybe yours are. Or maybe you’d be more accurate to use, in its place, the British “quite”—that polite neutral dismissal, alas.

I think it’s time to be amazed and awed by the layers of nuance in language and the close attention demanded to select just the right word. And to that end, I think this photo is Adorable.

IMG_2304

Tags : , , , ,