Category Archives: Random Reflections

The same, but different

It is good to take a few days away, where you can’t be reached with casual day-to-day communications. A few days when your job is to breathe in the mountain air and smell of wildflowers, and see the beauty in distant mountains and up close in the intricate pattern of dew drops on wildflowers.

The Tatoosh Range peeking up over a wildflower meadow.
Close-up of dew drops on Queen Anne’s Lace

We just returned from Paradise.

Paradise Inn on Mount Rainier with the Tatoosh Range behind it.

Every year we go to Paradise on Mount Rainier for several days. Every year it is the same, but every year it feels different as well.

Some of that is the way the season plays out, was there a large snow pack? was spring early or late? Is the weather hot or cool, clear or cloudy? Is there smoke from wildfires?

But some of it is what we bring to the mountain inside us.

This past year has seen several changes in our lives, including the death of two people dear to us and a great deal of upheaval from other sources. I am not gifted at dissimulation, and when asked how I was, I said “okay”. It was an honest answer, but it seemed to surprise the asker. I realized that the expected answer was probably “great!” After all I was in a magical place with good friends.

As I walked things out I realized that if I was truly”great!” after the events of the past year I might be considered a bit of a sociopath. In days of yore we had rituals for the loss of loved ones, including periods of time set aside for grieving, you wore black to let folks know that you were in mourning, so they realized that you weren’t “great!”

The meadows worked their magic on me. I can’t say that I went up “okay” and came back “great!”, but I did come back okay with being “okay” for now.

The answer is blowing in the wind…

Walking the dogs today I saw the two flags in the header. The crisp clean one at half mast, and the tattered one hanging by the door of a house with notices on the doors and windows indicating that it will soon be torn down. Blown by the breeze in a synchronized dance.

The flag is not a thing you should worship. It is a symbol. Hopefully a symbol worthy of respect for what it stands for. The symbolism that I see is e pluribus unum (from many one) in the field of 50 stars, and the 13 stripes standing for history. We do not have a perfect history, and much more work is needed, but a history of progress based on two principles: the idea that all humans are created equal and the rule of law applies to us all. There have been many fits and starts in that forward motion, and, to my thinking, we seem to be moving backwards right now. But I believe that we can reverse that. Just as McCarthyism was eventually shown to be malarkey.

For the past week, since learning about the mass shootings, I’ve been sick in my heart. I’ve read various theories and thoughts about our nation’s epidemic of mass shootings. Normally I don’t have anything to add to the conversation, but this time I think I do.

The usual suspects

No question, we need stricter gun laws. The need for guns is not what it once was: we no longer need to hunt for food and very few need to protect their families against threats from bears, wolves, etc. There are no legal activities that you can do with assault rifles. Anyone who wants one is at least somewhat sociopathic and should be watched.

Yes, we need to take better care of the mentally ill. But perpetrators of many of the shootings would not have raised a red flag.

I’m not crazy about the violence of video games. I believe they sanitize violence and make it seem like a fantasy. You can say that about an awful lot of television and movies as well, although they are less of a training type of activity.

My first bit of insight, from a drive in the country

Speaking of training activities:

My family hunted. Yes we had guns, and we learned to use them. We were told to NEVER point a gun at a person. When I was a kid my dad wouldn’t let us even point an imaginary finger gun at another person (I think a childhood friend of his was killed in some type of accident related to gun play, but he never talked about it). By the way, we also ate what was killed. It wasn’t just a sport.

Imagine my shock when we were driving out in the country a couple of years ago and a family (with two grade school age kids) were out shooting at people shaped targets. This is what passes for wholesome family fun???

When did that get to be okay? That was a trick question: it isn’t okay now, just as it wasn’t okay back then.

The real question is : How come people don’t know this?

Paying mind to the values portrayed in video games, and TV and movies may be part of the answer. Not sufficient on its own, but still part of the answer.

My second bit of insight, from Facebook

I rarely go on Facebook anymore, for a variety of reasons. I don’t feel passionately about it, one way or another. But it has its uses, and one is that it is easy to communicate and share with certain people. My dad and I took a nice day trip to the water front in Seattle and I wanted him to have access to some of the photos I took, so I posted them on Facebook. That has the benefit that his friends and family also could see them.

It had been a long while, so I ran my eye over some of the feed to see what folks were up to. For the first time ever I unfriended someone. I can’t go back on and find the exact post they had shared to show it to you, but it went something like this: You’d better support (the current incumbent of the White House) because with a single tweet he can mobilize a bunch of people with guns (numbers were listed but I don’t recall exactly what they were).

When I heard about the shooting in Gilroy, I thought about that post. When I heard about the shooting in El Paso, I thought about that post. When I heard about the shooting in Dayton, I thought about that post.

I wonder how many of the perpetrators of the recent attacks saw that post?

You can blame trolls for many things, and that post was likely written by one. But it didn’t need to be shared…by anyone… ever.

In summary

We all get scared, frustrated and angry. But, while self-control and restraint may still be viewed as virtues by some, if you crave attention (which seems to be how people are measured in our society today) then in-your-face acting out is the way to go.

Patriotism

Patriotism is a word that means different things to different people.

We have come to a point where a bunch of folks seem to think that the right to speak freely means that they should use that right to promote hatred of various groups (Jews, Hispanics…). The right to bear arms seems to mean to them that they can go and shoot their neighbors buying groceries, on a night out, or worshiping in a synagogue.

Matriotism

Maybe we need something new and different: Matriotism? the idea that we need to take care of each other and stand up for what is right. It can be as simple as being very careful what you encourage on social media. Think about it before you “like” and “share”. Trolls invented the “anti-fa” movement to try and drum up conflict. Don’t let them have the win.

Yes, we need more restrictive gun laws. We need to find a way to take care of the mentally ill. We should try to find ways to entertain that do not romanticize violence or make it seem like a game. But we also need something else.

To view all people as people, and you don’t point guns at people, ever.

Never blink…you might miss something

My second niece graduated from high school last night. It seems impossible that she is an adult already, about to head off into the future…and feeling like all of our futures may well be better because of her.

One of my favorite things through the years has been spending time with my nieces. Here are some pictures from the recent graduate’s murky past, in no particular order.

Lens Artists Photo Challenge: Favorite Things

Times they are a changin’

Winter is here. I don’t really care what the calendar says. It happened yesterday. In the morning the sun was shining and it wasn’t very cold, so I took the pups for a long-ish walk. It was still fall then.

By evening it was winter. Not cold snowy winters like the mid-west or east coast. The dark, wet enough to work the chilliness into your bones of a Puget Sound region winter. No doubt we’ll get a few more flashes of sunshine, but this time of year the sun arrives with a cold north wind.

I love it when Thanksgiving and Christmas are over a month apart. Things are less frantic. I’ve taken down the fall decorations and not put up the Christmas ones. I wait until December.

One benefit to the longer time between holidays is that most holiday special attractions are open this week, but not yet crowded. So today (while my spouse wrestled with the clogged drain in the kitchen… they really should saint that man!)I took myself off to visit the “Gingerbread Village”. I put “Gingerbread Village” in quotes because it’s more than gingerbread and more than a village. It is really sculptures. This year the theme is The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and the entries were imaginative and filled with fun details (to see any image larger click on it).

I called this one “Mount Crumpet”

I called this one “the grinch’s lair”:

This one was Whoville plus Mount Crumpit:

This one was Whoville:

Last, but not least, was “The Feast”:

They have official names somewhere but I was so entranced looking at the details that I didn’t catch them. For more information about the annual Gingerbread Village here is the website: GingerbreadVillage.org.
I wouldn’t say that I am ready for the holiday season to commence, but, after today’s outing I am feeling a good deal less hostile to it.

It’s foggy today

The light is different. In the winter when it’s clear the sun is either intense or it’s dark. Feast or famine, warm or cold. The fog diffuses the light mellowing the extremes.

I think foggy might be how I’m feeling as well. Not bad, not great, generally on the bright side, but it’s diffused light, not intense.

Thanksgiving is Thursday. For the first time in a long time it will be at my house. My husband and Dad built a ramp so grandma can be brought in.

The turkey is thawing in the garage, which is the same temperature as a refrigerator, and the house is getting a good scrub up. I try to keep up, but time goes by so quickly that “I just did that” means I did that six months (or longer) ago.

I don’t like doing housework. I like the place clean, but it doesn’t last, and when it’s done (rarely) things are just the way they are supposed to be. It doesn’t have the sense of accomplishment of making something new.

I suppose that may be why people do projects just before the holidays. I don’t. The newspaper on Saturday made me laugh: it contained an article in the “Home” section about revamping your dining room for Thanksgiving by adding elaborate molding. Five days before Thanksgiving?

The sun is burning through and the light is getting too bright.

100 Years Ago

The armistice that ended World War I began 100 years ago today. Europe lost almost an entire generation of men in that war.

20180609-Poppies-01

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.

The Poppies: Weeping Window art installation is a memorial to those who lost their lives in World War I. These photos are from when it was at Carlisle Castle last June.

Patrick Jennings Pic and a Word: Remembrance

If we were having coffee…

This past weekend it would likely have been in the cafeteria or lobby Starbucks of the hospital. Of the past 9 days my grandmother spent 7 in the hospital, in two visits. This is wearing on me in a lot of ways.

It starts with a call in the wee small hours from a nurse saying they called 911 and have taken Grandma to the hospital. They say the name of the hospital, but on one occasion they were incorrect so I phone around trying to locate her. By the time I locate her and talk to her nurse I’m awake, the nurse always says don’t bother to come right away wait until morning.

To speak with the doctors you have to catch them while doing their rounds. Which means being on site. Grandma is all there mentally but she doesn’t hear well and her back up plan is to pretend she does hear and give a reasonable answer based on context. She’s very good at it and people rarely realize that she didn’t have a clue what they said. For that reason I like to hear for both of us, then I can explain it to her.

Hospital time is different. It seems like it is always wait then hurry up. As we waited for them to coordinate yesterday, we watched a “reality” TV show about weddings, with the sound off. Although it is a bit hypnotic, I think the premise is wrong. Four brides compete and judge each other for the chance to win a fancy honeymoon. Tens of thousands of dollars are going into these affairs. I guess what bothers me is the judgement and competition about the event itself. A wedding, in my old-fashioned view, is about recognizing a relationship and the formation of a family unit, not the dress, the venue, the food and the experience (the four judgement points for the show).

Somewhere I heard that there is not a correlation between the cost/elaborateness of a wedding and how well the relationship lasts. What they were able to correlate was whether or not the couple took a honeymoon or not, and it didn’t have to be a fancy one. Probably not a surprise that spending time together is more important than putting on a show for others. I wonder whether turning the wedding into a competition has an effect on the longevity of the relationship.

Is this obsession with drama and competition over substance and relationships what is wrong with so much today?

Watching these shows and seeing these folks head off to Bermuda and other tropical locations on a dark day with a sliver of a view framed by two brick walls is a bit depressing. Especially since costs associated with this week of hospitalizations have probably eaten away any chance that we will get much of a vacation this year. Making it more depressing is that the second hospitalization is because the insurance company refused to approve a prescription ordered when they discharged Grandma on Wednesday and they gave her a medication for breathing that caused her heart rate to skyrocket in its place.

We took her home again today and are paying out of pocket for the prescription, which is way cheaper than the cost of just one day in the hospital. Supposedly we will get reimbursed when the approval comes  through…

Hopefully she is stable for a while.

When we got home we took the dogs for a walk to enjoy an unseasonably warm fall day. There is still a lot of pretty color, although some trees are looking bare. A nice, peaceful end to a stressful period.

I hope your weekend was peaceful.