Thursday, April 28, 2011

Side Benefits

There are side benefits to being sick.

I have the croup but now that the cough and pain are medicated, I am not really suffering. The medicine makes me drowsy so I can’t drive. But I can take an afternoon nap. And do a lot of reading.

I’m contagious so I can’t go to any kind of gathering. But I can stay in touch via email -- (not telephone until my voice recovers).

And my cats are apparently taking turns checking in and cuddling so I have a modicum of affection.

This is my second day of required bed (and couch and chair) rest. I’ll put up with it one more day then, assuming restored health, I’ll venture out into the world again.

But, for now, it’s a nice respite.

Except for the fact that this happens to be the most beautifully perfect spring day ever and I am inside.

Still. I have windows – five of which are open to admit gentle breezes. And all of which afford views of nascent leaves and rainbows of flowers. I can hear the delighted bird song and watch an addled squirrel’s acrobatics among the branches of the tree outside my window.

It’s not so bad.

Health will be better. I wish it for all of us.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Remember Japan

Relegated to small items on the back pages of newspapers, Japan’s story has not ended.

None of the people I know personally have been killed or threatened by the tsunami, aftershocks or nuclear radiation.

Still. So many lost so much – more than I can imagine losing. On this day before Easter, I can only wish that their lives would be resurrected.

About 10 days ago, I tore out an NY Times article about several former residents of Minamisoma, Japan who came back to say good-bye. It was one month after the initial devastation.

“Those who came out last week despite the [radiation] warnings seem to share the spirit of quiet defiance shown by many people in northern Japan, who have borne with stoicism and dignity the sorrows of nearly 30,000 people dead or missing. They said they wanted to get on with the process of healing, despite the risks.”

One woman left a letter for two of her young students who died.

She placed the letter on the concrete foundation, pinning it with a piece of broken cinderblock against the wind. She and her husband…pressed their palms together in silent prayer.

Suddenly, a bird’s chirping broke the hush of the barren landscape.

“It’s strange how the seasons continue, as if none of this ever happened,’ Toshie Nagasawa said, ‘Spring comes back but these little lives never will.”

But she will remember. And we need to remember her and all the others moving through debris and sorrow into whatever remains.

Happy Easter.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Memory: Corner Office

Memories can be triggered by the oddest things.

Glancing through the newspaper I noticed an ad for something entitled “Corner Office.” I believe it was the title of a game or a course (I did not read it closely) that would determine or abet a person’s leadership skills. It implied that if you had sufficient leadership skills, you would work in a coveted corner office.

I remember corner offices. I even had one once. The manager’s spot in the department where I worked had become vacant. My predecessor urged me to apply. I applied. And I waited. It took several weeks for all the applicants to be interviewed. Several weeks of waiting, working and trying not to look anxious.

One morning I walked onto my department’s floor. Rounding a corner, I saw that a very large stuffed animal (a teddy bear, I think) was propped up in the chair behind the desk in the vacant corner office. I approached, puzzled. The rest of the staff laughed and showered me with congratulations.

I was it.

The organization's cost saving strategies moved me out of the corner to another nice office. (The corner office became the throne for the division manager.)

And later, cubicles replaced offices. Rank or status was indicated by cubicles next to windows instead of the cubicles in the Escher-warren-interiors.

That’s when I quit.

I don’t know what happened to the stuffed animal.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Language of Doom?

In the course of one week-- even today, I have confronted, been confronted by and contemplated language.

A speaker this morning proposed that language – our ability to form and share symbols --is not only what makes us human but also what generates religions. He called it our bi-level reality: one level is the everyday stuff we stumble through and the ‘other reality,’ the sense that there is something beyond – perhaps above – that has significance and value.

And this afternoon, I heard two dozen people read their poetry. Some were high school students, some septuagenarians, maybe octogenarians. And the subjects were as wide ranging as their experiences, perceptions and attentions.

And earlier this week, on the left side of the New York Times’ front page, an article reported on the claim of a New Zealand biologist, Dr. Quentin D. Atkinson, that human language is at least 50,000 – perhaps 100,000 years old.

I’m going to keep studying that article and pondering its implications. What particularly blew my mind was the ending of the article in which it refers to theories of a biologist in England. That particular professor, Dr. Mark Pagel “sees language as central to human expansion across the globe.”

“Language was our secret weapon, and as soon as we got language we became a really dangerous species,” he said.

Last paragraph of the article, verbatim:

In the wake of modern human expansion, archaic human species like the Neanderthals were wiped out and large species of game, fossil evidence shows, fell into extinction on every continent shortly after the arrival of modern humans.

Read that over a couple times. Then remember, now we are everywhere. And everywhere accelerating extinctions.

Perhaps even our own.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

an apology

No excuse

Once again, I’ve let too much time slip by without posting new blog entries. It’s amazing how tiny particles of pollen, drifting unseen in Colorado’s golden air can clobber all but the absolutely necessary activities.

Even wincing, I have been able to admire all the color popping back into the landscape: the tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and the occasional forsythia exploding on just-beginning-to-green lawns. My own redbud tree is beginning to blossom.

And I know that I should not begrudge the floral dander that has created my one long-term practically perpetual sinus headache.

And I don’t. But I haven’t been functioning very well.

No excuse. I now have irrigating devices, nose sprays, pills, herbal teas, tinctures and (today) an acupuncture treatment.

I will be back in action soon. Abetted, at last, by that rarest of all Colorado commodities: rain!


Monday, April 4, 2011

Radiating Truth

I subscribe to Netflix and often, following their suggestions based on my ratings of movies I’ve seen, wind up watching extraordinary films that would never have made it to an small town in northern Colorado. None has been so eerily timely and foreboding as the one I watched this weekend.

It was Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams, made in 1990. Comprised of eight vignettes, all surreal to a greater or lesser degree, the film accumulates into a powerful message about our relationship with earth and our fellow inhabitants.

The sixth and seventh segments were particularly spooky. The first, Mount Fuji in Red, depicted the effects of exploding nuclear plants. Then Weeping Demon depicted the mutations of plants and people caused by radiation.

I once had a work assignment in Hiroshima. I visited the Peace Park where I saw depictions of the effects of the bomb and memorials to all those killed. And I saw the thousands of origami cranes (sent from all over the world) piled at the foot of the statue to Sadako Sasaki, the little girl who died from radiation poisoning – like so many others. Her death made the legend of the paper cranes an international symbol of peace.

Now much of Japan – and the rest of the planet – is again dealing with radiation.

It would have been too hard to watch the film if it had not been so beautiful and had not ended with the final dream: The Village of the Watermills. In ultimately lovely surroundings – clear water streams, flowers, trees – an old man tells a traveler of village life, deliberately kept simple … and clean. Never, he says, did they succumb to the allure of convenience. His warning: too much is destroyed, too much is lost when people insist on choosing the easiest way to do things, to communicate.

I suppose that that’s not the answer to all the challenges now facing this planet and its predator people but it was certainly something to contemplate. And I’m glad it wound up on my television set in a small town in northern Colorado.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Unavoidable Connections

There was a headline in the March 31 New York Times that bothered me:

“Can We Do Without the Mideast?”

It was the title for the lead article in a special section on energy and the topic was, of course, oil.

And we should ... do without the Mideast’s oil. No question.

But we should not, and indeed cannot, do without the Mideast. The Mideast is where what we call civilization began. It is where our species developed agriculture and alphabets, to say nothing of zeros (without which it would not be possible to calculate the national debt).

We can’t do without Asia or Europe or Latin America either. Every tribe and nation contributes to who we are. Especially us, the United States, the most polyglot of countries. There is an interdependent web of culture (and Facebook) that ties each to each, informs our fashions and music, poetry and politics.

It is not possible for any of us to be insular, no matter how much we (or the New York Times) might think it desirable.

Just an idle comment on an early spring day.