Monthly Archives: September 2013

Groundhog Nation

joel-vollmer-02-03-09With a weariness from having presided at five memorial services for mass killings during his five years in office, President Obama noted this week at the Washington Navy Yard, “Part of what wears on us as well is the sense that this has happened before. Part of what wears on us, what troubles us so deeply…. is how this senseless violence that took place here in the Navy Yard echoes other recent tragedies.”

“…. sometimes I fear there’s a creeping resignation,” he shared, “that these tragedies are just somehow the way it is. That this is now the new normal.”

Have we become stuck in time, living the same occurrence over and over? In the effort to enact gun control in this country, it would seem so.

“That’s America, we say, as news of the latest massacre breaks…. and move on,” writes The Guardian in a September 21 article entitled “American Gun Use is Out of Control: Shouldn’t the World Intervene?”

“No other advanced nation endures this kind of violence,” continued President Obama at the Washington Navy Yard memorial service. “In the United Kingdom, in Australia, when just a single mass shooting occurred in those countries, they understood there was nothing ordinary about this kind of carnage. They endured great heartbreak, but they also mobilized and they changed. And mass shootings became a great rarity.”

What does it take to change public policy?

It took years and years but we ended the war in Vietnam.

We went from mindless littering to respecting the environment. We learned to recycle, compost, and plant trees.

We learned to respect gay rights. For gay rights to be recognized it took enough people coming out for everyone to discover a gay person in their lives. Someone they cared about, perchance.

Are we waiting now for someone in everyone’s life to get shot before we enact gun control in this country? Must it become a crisis of that magnitude? In many of our communities, it already is.

“It may not happen tomorrow and it may not happen next week. It may not happen next month. But it will happen,” assures Obama, “because it’s the change that we need.”

“…. no nation sees itself as outsiders do,” observes The Guardian. “Half the country is sane and rational, while the other half simply doesn’t grasp the inconsistencies and historic lunatic of its position, which springs from the second amendment right to keep and bear arms, and is derived from English common law and our 1689 Bill of Rights. We dispensed with these rights long ago, but American gun owners cleave to them with the tenacity that previous generations fought to continue slavery.”

Oh, and we abolished slavery too. Let’s not underestimate our ability to fly like an eagle.

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Finding Time (or Growing Mornings)

If I want to get anything done now, I have to squeeze it into the morning. That is where I am in life. Morning is my best time for doing anything. If only I could tell myself it’s always five o’clock in the morning somewhere!

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It wasn’t always this way. Like the sun & the moon & the tides and & seasons, the best time of day changes with well, time.

In adolescence, it was clearly the night. I wasn’t alone in having enormous  energy all night long, and difficulty rising anytime before noon. High schools should be rescheduled into night schools to accommodate for this phenomena. The hard part would be finding teachers. Students might have to police themselves and run their own curriculum. Older adults and high school students would totally miss each other, and perhaps that would be a good thing.

We are either Morning People, Afternoon People, or Night People, and as we age, we change tribes. I haven’t figured out who the Afternoon People are.

“I know this much,” writes Julian Barnes in The Sense of an Ending, “…. there is objective time, but also subjective time, the kind you wear on the inside of your wrist, next to where the pulse lies. And this personal time, which is true time, is measured in your relationship to memory.”

Which reminds me to get busy and redesign my clock. I would have it that the clock read a.m. all day long, and only go into p.m. at night, when I want to wind down. Mornings simply aren’t long enough anymore, and if I am going to accomplish anything in life I must try to absorb the Afternoons too—until someone comes around to claim them.

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Just Doing It

How to be your own personal trainer. I should be able to do this. Look at how I have taken to writing. First thing in the morning, before getting dressed, before going online or going anywhere, I write my Morning Pages. And while I hope to make more of a dent in the writing world than just being a disciple of Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” I find a certain comfort in that. What else would explain why I have practiced it for more than a dozen years?

Sitting each day for Morning Pages is my zazen.

Now I am hoping to bring about another practice in the form of physical exercise. The longer I live, the more connections I see between things. Walking, writing, they are the same. In writing and in walking I am making the same expression in different mediums.

“We live as we move,” writes Julia Cameron, “a step at a time, and there is something in gentle walking that reminds me of how I must live if I am to savor this life I have been given.”

I have started with walking the 4.3 miles of The Loop daily, no ifs, ands, or buts. https://alittleelbowroom.com/2013/04/03/the-loop/

At one time I had a personal trainer. Well, I hired a friend to walk with me. Not that I don’t love to walk, I do. But this was different. She was younger, thinner, more fit than I, and faster. Whereas I am basically a browser and overly interested in homes and gardens.

One of the first things she insisted on was that I leave my little dog at home. I felt bad about that, but there would be no sniffing around in the bushes or wandering off in the grass for us. We had to hightail it every step of the way.

There is nothing like the power of the knock on the door. A personal trainer comes to your place and there is nowhere to hide and no way out. Throw in the friendship factor, and I didn’t want to inconvenience her by canceling. So I never did. Whereas left to my own devices I can come up with a million reasons why I haven’t the time: the house needs cleaning, the garden needs weeding, the manuscript needs editing, or I can convince myself that what I really need is a nap.

Now my friend has moved and I am on my own again, trying to make it happen every day. My technique is to pretend that I am her, not me. I know all my tricks too well: the penchant for short-cuts, the stop-in-my-tracks gazing at view. In other words, I have to be her to push me. It’s still a joint effort.

Then, with The Loop under my belt, I find I go out of my way to add as many more miles as I can in the course of the day. As in, one good turn deserves another. Here I think like a NYC woman, or think environmentally, and walk everywhere I can. It helps to live in a city or live in a town, but that market may be closer than you realize.

Hoping I will become as addicted to my mileage stats as I am to my blog stats on the WordPress website, my tech savvy daughters have given me a fitbit to track myself each day. Again: walking, writing, it’s the same thing. I’m getting it, really I am.

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O Canada!

Slip away for two weeks and what happens? My dear, dear, President Obama loses his mind and threatens air strikes over Syria.

We keep returning to Canadian waters in our boat. The goal this time was to go beyond The Puget Sound, through The Gulf Islands, up the Straight of Georgia, and into Desolation Sound. In speaking to my father, I called it our “destiny” when what I meant was destination. But I don’t know; maybe it is our destiny?

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Located between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Island, in particular, has a distinctive history. In the mid 1800’s ex-slaves from Missouri who had made it to California came up from San Francisco at the invitation of Sir James Douglas, the first provincial governor of British Columbia. Here the British granted all the rights denied them by the United States: the right to vote, to become part of the local militia, to homestead and own property. Some of their descendants are established there today.

Then in the 1960’s and 70’s, American draft dodgers began arriving on Salt Spring and once again the island opened its arms. Again, many stayed and are among the artists, musicians, farmers, and small business owners contributing to the quality of life there today.

Are they ready for another wave of American ex-pats?

I don’t want to come home if we have to go to war. With all the work there is to do, we have to protest this now too?

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