Today brought the sight of bright red male Cardinals hopping in our tomato bushes. Sagging with fire-engine red cherry tomatoes the bushes needed a little help, and the green/red contrast was an added delight.
There’s beauty everywhere, impossible to photograph unless you’re professional — but it will forever be emblazoned on my brain.
Today is the anniversary of the declaration of war, in 1939, by Britain against Nazi Germany. The resultant string of disastrous defeats did not cease until the Battle of Britain, in 1941, which was not so much a victory as a dogged refusal to concede defeat.
What held people together during that time, and the years that followed? It was, quite simply, the refusal to give in and live under a rule they could not stomach.
My doctor sent out a news letter, which said, in part, that with all the bad news we read about the ‘president’, racism, riots, covid, the economy, and so on we are effectively walking into a public mental health crisis.
This matches what I’ve been noticing for a while; events may be bad, but the media are also bad for our health.
So I’ve decided to pay less attention to the ghastliness that gets shouted at us every day, and focus instead on that which is good, beautiful, and inspiring. No. I’m not running away. I’m taking care of me.
At the polls today we saw a group of young people with handmade signs in favor of Markey (Democrat, who won, HOORAY!!) and The Green Alliance. Certainly we need a Green Alliance; we also need Markey, a low-key, highly effective legislator; and above all we need young people to vote and be engaged – as these ones certainly were. It was a most encouraging sight.
Elsewhere other positive handmade posters appeared, too. There’s more going on in the US than the newspapers will tell you.
I got stung by a bee today, on my cheek. I was placing a feeder in the hive when one of the bees decided I was encroaching on its territory and gave up its life to sting me and warn me off.
It reminded me of how, when I’m coaching, I sometimes try to provide all sorts of benevolent hints and ideas only to be rejected. The bee was just acting on what it was programmed to do, something provided in its deep nature. I was attempting to be helpful, placing a feeder that would bolster a weak colony through the winter.
I’m like that bee, though. I sometimes reject helpful notions because of my old and unexamined ways of being. And the flip side is also true — when I’m the counselor I have to remember to accept a few stings, not take it personally, and do what’s necessary.
The memory that surfaced yesterday has led on to other memories, on the topic of coming in second.
I am a second born. My older brother was not just a first born but also the first grandchild in the family. Tremendous excitement! Huge expectations! Massive amounts of attention, too.
Inevitably he was the one one who got the new stuff and I got the hand-me-downs. He got the new bike, and I didn’t. And so on. I didn’t mind – after all, it was the air I breathed and that was Just The Way It Was.
But since I didn’t get things handed to me I found that I could go out and get them anyway, even given my limited means. I became a repairer of things, things others had thrown out. For a while in my teens I was even buying and reselling antiques. I found ways to travel cheaply, also, on junked and repaired (by me) motorcycles, mostly.
Good or bad, this has made me the person I am – thoughtful about certain things, certainly less eager for the latest shiny geegaw, ready to work on a situation that others might walk away from. I like to think it’s also made me independent in certain ways. And so on.
Is this a gift or a curse? Who knows? I didn’t choose my birth order, but it has shaped me.
When I was 10 I had a friend called Nicholas Bentz. He was taller even than me (and I was tall) and he was athletic in a slightly teutonic way, like a well-bred greyhound. Our tiny school Sports Day rolled around. The event that people seemed to be most looking forward to was the 100 yard dash, and it was even bets between me and Nicholas. I knew I was fast and that I’d probably win. What made the race so special was that the prize was a full-sized adult tennis racquet, a gleaming wood and varnish item in a spring-loaded press, a top of the line Slazenger. My mother was very keen on me becoming its new owner.
We ran, I came in first, and followed the instructions not to break the tape (I think they hadn’t enough tape, so we were forbidden to run through it). I put my hands around it. Nicholas arrived behind me and put his fingertips actually on the tape. So who had won? I hadn’t touched the tape so could I be considered the winner? After much discussion amongst the teachers he was awarded first place – he was older, he’d be leaving that year and I’d be around next year. It was stitched up that way.
Nicholas smiled his dazzling smile, held up the racquet and was hero for the day.
My prize was a copy of Charles Lamb’s “Tales From Shakespeare”. I read it, kept it through college, treasured it for its synopses of the plays, and it’s still on my shelf.
Of course, there wasn’t a ‘next year’. This was the only year we ever had a sports day.
But I still consider that I got the better prize, Far, far better.
I confess I’ve been feeling somewhat seedy. I told a couple of friends that I was not quite top material and several replied that with everything that’s happening in the US and the world it would be surprising if more people weren’t feeling somewhat queasy. The bizarre RNC and this ‘president’; wildfires; covid; hurricanes in Texas, protests and shootings. It is enough to make anyone sick.
I have to remind myself to be patient. November is coming.