A Serviceable Set by Circespeaks

Drum Roll

Not long ago, in the middle of his senior year in high school, my son and his girlfriend came home and proceeded to unload an entire drum set from the trunk of her car. They trundled upstairs with the set, and it wasn’t long before the house was filled with the sound of drumming. It was not just the bashing and smashing I had feared.

At first I thought the mom who was so thrilled to see her son’s drum set leave through the front door was the lucky one. And I almost felt as though she should have asked me. She probably did say “Are you sure this is okay with your mom?” And of course he answered “Yes.” But, drums don’t have many needs. And like most musical instruments, they are quite good-looking. He has gone through phases with saxophone–lengthy–piano lessons–painful–and electronic keys–brief, so I wasn’t surprised to see a new instrument appear. Music lovers all in the family, we two are among the less gifted, but active participation compensates for native talent in many areas of life. (So maybe when he is not home, mom will be drumming?) Honestly, I just don’t want to hear a beginner on violin or viola, but am surely persuadable on that point as well.

Today, the free and serviceable drum set–with the exception of some nice cymbals–is about to be replaced by a Yamaha drum set formerly owned by a professional musician. The original owner is a jazz drummer from Colts Neck, New Jersey who played with the Springsteen crowd. Next time I speak with the musician and friend I purchased the set from, I will ask him whether it really was the guitarist, Richie Sambora, of Bon Jovi’s band, who played at the new set, or whether it was the drummer. Seems that it was Bon Jovi’s drummer drumming, but more importantly for those from NJ, it has Southside Johnny roots. It has history! I really do hope it will fit in the bedroom dormer where the free set now sits. Otherwise we have just lost a family room, where I enjoy sitting by the fire in the winter. Like my son, I am often more impulsive than practical. I knew that I could purchase this excellent set for a very reasonable price. Never did think to measure the set or the space.

Not that much of a realist, either, my plan is that by the end of Thanksgiving break, or at least the end of winter break, he sounds like John Bonham. Something like this? At least his hair is perfect. He’s got the early ’70s look.

Minsk is the capital of…?

Quick! Can you tell me of which European nation Minsk is the capital? I confess to not knowing. This largely agricultural nation which has a history dating back to 5,000 BCE, suffered terribly in World War II, losing about a third of its population, most of its Jewish population, and physical devastation including (Wiki is my source) 85% of its buildings at the hands of Nazi Germany. Let me rephrase that: these people, non-Jews and Jews alike, were not “lost,” they were killed in the war or in concentration camps.

This nation is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, one of which is considered a cultural site, the Nesvizh Castle of the Radziwill Family, dates back to the early 1500s. The site is also known as The Architectural, Residential, and Cultural Complex of the Radziwill Family at Nesvizh.

One of the countries this nation borders is Ukraine. The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine (was it a complete meltdown?) affected about one fourth of the land and five million of the 9,5 million people of this nation. Rates of birth defects have risen. Caesium binders are dispersed and rapeseed is planted since the rapeseed oil plant binds radioactive caesium.

Side note: In Canada and the U.S. rapeseed has been genetically modified to create the highly unwholesome, unnatural canola oil plant. Don’t buy or use canola oil!

What is this nation with a population almost exactly the size of the population of Sweden? It is Belarus.

As Americans, our geographical isolation is one contributing factor to our sometimes profound ignorance of other nations and international affairs. Though I often watch BBC International news, I must plead ignorance in this case, and hope that someone from Belarus, or with greater knowledge than that I have hastily acquired, will comment and inform us.

Belarus declared independence from the former SSSR in 1990. The European Union has just voted to continue sanctions–trade sanctions–against Belarus. Belarus is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, all members of the former Soviet Union.

Learn something every day!

Suicide and Six Degrees of Separation: You Can Get Help

I Need to use my Yellow Ribbon! by Circespeaks

I Need to use my Yellow Ribbon! by Circespeaks

Suicide is a problem worldwide. May we all have the good fortune to only experience suicide at such an arm’s length as “six degrees of separation” implies. This is not, unfortunately, the case for most of us: We have friends, or our children have friends, who have committed, or attempted, suicide.

The daughter of neighbors, my daughter’s friend, committed suicide just before her fifteenth birthday. It was the end of the school year. Her brother, suspecting nothing, left for yearbook signing at his high school. Her family’s world changed forever. Our neighborhood changed forever. I had seen “Alicia,” my daughter’s friend, taking out the mail earlier that day.

Some suicides occur without warning signs, but knowing what signs to look for, and taking rapid action, can prevent many. What I have since learned is that people do not commit, or attempt to commit suicide to end their lives. They take this extreme action to end pain, pain which they can find no other way out of at that moment.

My response to learning what had happened was feral, completely wild. Neighbors came home to find me screaming and crying in the front yard. As we do, I pulled myself together, and did the only thing I could think of doing: I made and brought food for the ever-growing group of family and friends who gathered at the home that evening. At first I felt that I was being intrusive, but this small act, even at the most tragic time, was appreciated.

My children grieve, become angry, and are sometimes too sad, and simply worn down, as though this is an inevitable scourge, to fully engage when they lose a friend to suicide. One of my children did report a suicidal threat to a school guidance counselor. All threats of suicide should be immediately reported. Never take the threat of suicide or a question about how to commit suicide lightly. Breaking the code of silence, especially among teens, may make you unpopular, but it may save the life of someone you care about. Stay with the person if possible, and report the incident to someone who can help. My son was first shunned, and later thanked, by the child who had made the threat.

Suicide remains a somewhat taboo subject, so is under-reported. Many single car accidents involving young men are suicides. Many gun “accidents” are also suicides. What can we do? The Yellow Ribbon Society of Southern California, formed by parents after a son’s suicide, suggests one obvious solution: If you have any concern at all, do not keep a gun at home. Many young men, especially those with any known social or emotional difficulties, or those exhibiting unusual behavior, are too impulsive and unstable to safely live in, or even visit, a home where guns are kept. This is also true of young women, and people of all age groups, but young men are at highest risk.

This is not an attempt to blame the victim. If someone you know has committed suicide, or a violent act using a gun, it is very likely that you had no idea that your child, parent, sibling, partner or friend had any deep-seated emotional difficulties. Suicide, as mentioned, may be an impulsive act that cannot be predicted. Do not blame yourself, but grieve and honor your lost loved one, as in any case of tragic and untimely death.

There are many worthy suicide-prevention organizations, but I leave you with the website information of an international non-profit organization that has saved many lives over many years, the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program: http://www.yellowribbon.org/ This program has saved the lives of young people from Australia to the United States. Awareness and vigilance are the first steps in preventing preventable suicides. Depressed, abused, LGBT youths, and youths who have recently experienced a loss are especially at risk.

The recent spates of suicides and suicide/homicides are a reminder to us that none of us is immune. A friend who lives in California knows one of those injured in the recent LAX shooting. My son is an acquaintance of one of the unsuspecting (but not immediate) and also devastated family members of the shooter. We are all in this together. No one likes to discuss suicide, but bringing this issue out into the open saves lives.

YOU CAN GET HELP, ANYTIME OF DAY OR NIGHT

The National Lifeline will access local help for you, whether you make contact through an email, or a live chat, or a phone call. http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ Do not hesitate to call to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255.) Don’t wait. If you are thinking about, or anyone you know, mentions suicide, get help right away.

You, alone, should not attempt to determine whether your own suicidal thoughts or threats, or those of a friend or family member, are serious or not. Let a medical professional help make that determination. Take thoughts and threats of suicide seriously, and help save a life. Be a lifeline.

May you, and those you love, be well.

Voting Rights and Wrongs

There is much to be said about voting, and not all of it is pleasant. Because I am neither a political scientist nor an attorney, I do not pretend to any specialized knowledge. Because I want people to be able to vote twice you can vote in my poll now that you have had, or soon will have, the opportunity to vote at your polling place in the United States. Unless of course, for a variety of reasons, you are disenfranchised, which means you do not have the right to vote.

Because I don’t want to read anything offensive, and because I doubt that many of the other folks who follow or visit my blog wish to read anything offensive either, please keep your comments civil in tone as well as language. I will moderate comments.

Nobody thinks much about the voting age here, but in some countries, it is as young as 16.

Nobody thinks much about a woman’s right to vote in the United States, but not all of our grandmothers had that right. Women were only given the right to vote in 1920 in the United States, when the Senate voted to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Speaking only of the industrialized Western World, fantastically enough, Switzerland did not give women the right to vote in national elections until 1971, and in some cantons (they are like states or provinces) women were not given the right to vote in local elections until 1990. The right of all people to vote is called universal suffrage, but the term doesn’t really mean everybody, there are many exceptions. Historically, the term universal suffrage applied only to men.

We are mistaken, if we believe that universal suffrage exists in the United States. Anyone who has seen the news or read a newspaper thinks a lot about voting rights and race because our legal system has disenfranchised a huge segment of the population: In most states, previously convicted felons, who have served their time, commonly known as having “paid their dues to society,” can do just about anything but vote. Why might that be? Well, it might be because you are an African-American male in Virginia where 1 out of 5 African-American males do not have the right to vote, and politicians do not want you to vote. Why might that be? To my knowledge, felons who have served their time can only vote in the states of Vermont and Maine.

Is the disenfranchisement of a large segment of the population by race and gender fair? What do you think? Why? If you decide to answer, please let me know whether you are from Virginia and whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, an Independent, or a member of another political party. Virginia has been a Republican state in recent years, but that may be changing, possibly as soon as this very evening. Again, my statistics are not based on my own research. Please check the Pew Forum, Gallup Poll, or some other similar organization, for what might be considered authoritative statistics.

In New Jersey, we are voting on whether to raise the minimum wage. On behalf of all “hard-working” minimum wage workers and their families, I have voted to raise the minimum wage, even though it will still not provide a true living wage in a state with a high cost-of-living. And, by the way, I think even those who don’t work extremely hard–who is the judge of who is working hard and not working hard?–should also benefit from a small increase in the minimum wage in New Jersey from the current minimum wage of $7.25 to “at least $8.25 an hour.” What is all this rhetoric about working hard, anyway?! Are people supposed to suffer to earn the minimum wage? Why not work the right amount, not work when overtired, not work when sick, and be healthier and happier? Here’s to a healthier, happier, more equitable world! That’s why I vote. Do you vote?

Science Fair

Science Fair by Circespeaks

Science Fair by Circespeaks

…I may now be cured, until another WordPress update comes along, or it seems sensible to upgrade to iOS 7,of creating posts in my iPhone. 700 words gone into the ether.

Fractured, Refracted, Diffracted…distraction. How can two adults who are neither interested in watching television, nor working a crossword puzzle spend the evening? We watched an excellent three-part series on PBS–presumably a BBC production about British barristers–called Silk a couple of months ago. PBS has since disappointed with an absolutely awful knock-off of Downton Abbey called Paradise, which I cannot recommend to any but the truly desperate.

Out of my writing struggle not to mix metaphors, came the idea to actually see diffracted light. The hook in the first sentence developing my thought was the word “facet.” When reviewing my work, I discovered a classic example of mixed metaphors. In the very next sentence, a theorist was “untangling braided, hopelessly intertwined ideas.” The facets of the theory, and not their condition of being hopelessly intertwined was my subject, so I followed with “fractured light.” Dictionary.com and resident scientist were both fairly clear that I could have fractured metal, or stone, but not fractured light. The light being shed would have to be refracted or diffracted. Searching definitions forced me not to improperly diffract that meaning of the word “fractured.” It also led to links and YouTube videos explaining light diffraction–the bending of light–and, at last, to a simple science experiment. I think what I actually saw was refracted light, not diffracted, but I’m not sure. The horizontal bar I saw between the tiny slit in two pencils held tightly together, was a multi-hued bar code of lights. Further research may reveal whether this was due to near-sightedness, astigmatism, or not conducting the experiment correctly.

Tonight’s plan, despite the fact that it is Monday, and both work and Monday night football could cause complications, is to bring out the potato, lemon and penny. My jumper cables were well-used last winter. Not only did I rescue other drivers, but I was also rescued because I had the cables in my trunk. Honestly, though, I still don’t understand why some people insist on grounding one of the cables on plastic. Is it on plastic? Something about batteries exploding and acid in the face and eyes. So I put on glasses or sunglasses and jump back quickly, but that may not be the best plan. It seems I haven’t really learned the third-grade science lesson about electric currents and how they flow. Update tomorrow.

In the meantime, I have easy ideas for science fair experiments for your third-grader (who isn’t intent on winning first prize or in a science magnet school.) Do you have ideas for easy science experiments that I can do at home?

Fall

Fall Leaves by Circespeaks

Fall Leaves by Circespeaks

Fall on the East Coast of the United States is a sensual feast, primarily brought to us by deciduous trees.

Fall

Leaves brighten Filling the spectrum
From startling gold, to
Flaming orange–
Clearly seeking attention–to
Fiery red, to
Sedate brown.

Rustling overhead,
Crunching underfoot,
Leaves, Pentecostal, speak with many flickering tongues.
Whispering wind
Sings through heavy boughs,
Soon bare and silent.

Leaves crushed and dispersed
Lie in wait to be plucked from their random resting places,
Impervious neither to sun nor rain,
Begin to decay.
Leaf mold scent,
Pungent and fragrant,
Rises with each step.

Memories of seasons past,
Years fallen out of time,
Are reborn from decay.

Fall Leaves by Circespeaks

Fall Leaves by Circespeaks

Hold Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand

To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.…

Auguries of Innocence, Wm.Blake 1757-1827

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Symmetry

A pedestrian event, indeed. I was merely eating dinner. At home no less, with a spouse too tired to leave the house or do much of anything but sleep in front of the basketball game. The simple garden vegetable on my plate resisted the process, by calling attention to its perfection and symmetry.
Meaning no harm, I posted a photo with no caption. Fascinated by things that grow, I do that sometimes. What a furor. I asked whether a scientist or mathematician could confirm whether my little broccoflower spear held within it the mystery of a Fibonacci number, as does a pinecone. Corrected, I now know that the formula which describes the formation of spirals in nature was is called a Fibonacci sequence.

I then asked whether this revelation might not “make theists of atheists, and atheists of theists.” Mistake. Or the most interesting conversation one could have with a diverse group of people. My attempt at making everyone right, “It doesn’t matter whether you call it God or nature,” did not cool matters, but enflamed the conversation. Those who are firm atheists were unmoved; those who are firm believers were incredulous at the inability of their peers to see meaning in nature’s perfection.

I have not returned to the conversation, but concluded that even we, who may not consider ourselves true believers, sometimes catch a glimpse of something more. Clearly I don’t believe the glimpse of something more must be transcendent, it can just as well, more likely in my worldview, be immanent. Yet, it is a glimpse of the extraordinary, the consummate, the perfectly miraculous. Tinker Bell flies by with her little lantern in hand, tiny wings frantically beating, and we catch a glimpse of the eternal. Or we don’t.

Happy Halloween!

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Halloween seemed unimportant to me this year. For the first time, I would have no child of my own at home.
Through the years, we have continued to put a selection of candy–usually three individually packaged “fun size” candies into small, Halloween-themed paper bags. My mother and I did that together when I was small, and it is a fun tradition I have carried on with my own children. Since the candy is in a little bag, the kids aren’t sure what they are getting. Many ask “What is this?” The response to my “Bags of candy!” reply is usually “Oh, cool!”
Maybe it is the sociologist in me, but unlike my husband who hands each child a candy bag, I hold out a tray full of bags to see what happens. Some just grab and go. Others are very thoughtful, choosing among the bags like fortune cookies. The bags are not all the same, but isn’t trading the candy you don’t like part of the fun? And there should be some leftovers for your parents, shouldn’t there?
Of all the kids who came to the door, only four tried for more than one bag of candy. One was a very young toddler, too young to understand the concept of only taking one. Another was a boy of twelve or so, who was sorely tempted. He let his hand hover over the second bag long enough for me to say, “Just one, or we won’t have enough for everyone.”
At the beginning of the evening, after overcoming my resistance to the whole affair, and putting on a long black skirt, black top, black necklace, and heavy black eyeliner–just a Halloween-attired mom, no costume–I was not quite in the flow when the first couple of groups pounded on the door. One boy managed to persuade me to give him a second bag by saying that his friend hadn’t come by. That worked once.
Children do not willingly share candy. As the mom who had to pry too much piñata candy away from her quick and fearless kids, and force them to share with shy malingerers whose parents were glaring at me, I know this. Our home Easter egg hunts were competitive and fun. Public Easter Egg hunts were also painful. My kids were always the ones with too many eggs, and redistribution was always the painful part of the event. I wanted those shy kids to figure it out, to dive in there, and do their best. While I do believe that everyone should have equal access to safe housing, good healthcare, nutritious food, and a good education, all things need not be adjudicated. Everyone will not win the New York City Marathon. I wanted the kids to work it out. My job, as I saw it, was too make sure no one was hit in the head with a baseball bat, and let the Smarties fall where they may!
Last night we enjoyed a Halloween of all nations, sizes, and ages. To some the costume is all-important. I am just as happy to see the middle school or high-school-aged boy in his soccer uniform minus shinguards, as I am to see the creative child or young adult who has made his or her own extremely creative costume, or the little bumble bee, ladybug, or ballerina. Having handed out 150 bags of candy last night–despite some foot-dragging and a late start–I can say that Disney is, happily, “out” these days.
The one quality that all last nights trick-or-treaters shared was that of being polite and saying “thank you.” We were complimented on our decorations. Teenage boys stood patiently aside while toddlers made their way slowly up the steps, and made their equally slow selections. The older kids joked with us, and were friendly. I do not remember being that nice when I was a trick-or-treater myself, nor having much appreciation for the efforts of adults to make the night fun for me.
One girl, in a group of ten or so teenage girls, was unable to resist. As she was turning away, her hand darted out very quickly, and, thinking I wouldn’t notice, she grabbed a second bag. I said nothing. Was I tempting the kids too much by letting them decide how to handle the situation? I don’t know.
What I was reminded of last night is that we are raising very friendly, engaged kids. It was hard to begin again for the first time, without having one or more children of my own plus friends be the first to plunder from our trays of goodies, but I want to remain part of the communal village that makes all kinds of kids feel cared for, not the Grinch that Stole Halloween.
Boy of Silence, in your amazing, possibly homemade, costume: Thanks for explaining it to me. I don’t play video games. You may have more interesting things to say than you give yourself credit for. Next year, I hope you have one friend to Trick or Treat with. Unless, of course, you really do prefer going out alone.

9/11 Memorial Fatigue

Our town is embroiled in a debate about what to do with a piece of metal from one of the World Trade Center Towers. The cross-shaped beam is further decorated with a cross cut into the piece of metal.

Even though my religious background and affiliation is Christian, I am astonished, and even offended, that our mayor would consider using a Christian symbol to memorialize 9/11 victims. How do we know whether some of these victims were not Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, animists or pagans, to name but a few options? Atheists die, too, and possibly don’t desire posthumous conversion, so covering the cross in any and all religious symbols, even if the Darwin fish is added, still doesn’t hit home for me.

Honestly, I have 9/11 fatigue. Our nation has 9/11 fatigue. We are tired of the Iraq War and the ongoing war in Afghanistan. We have honored 9/11 victims again and again, and in a fitting memorial in the place where they died. Some were self-sacrificing heroes, indeed, and others had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, just as are victims of train wrecks. We have had national mourning and very private, family services and mourning. We did not turn the other cheek–through no fault of the innocent victims. But our government used their tragic deaths as an excuse to start war even when no WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) were found in Iraq. We surely need to reflect on what continuing to turn the 9/11 attacks into an unending Holy War–exactly what the attackers would have wished for?–and what constructive actions we might take.

Is it time to remember other victims and perhaps provide a tableaux with the possible power to prevent future accidents of a different nature? If we must decorate our town square with twisted metal to be patriotic, a very charged word that seems to involve loving ourselves and hating others, surely not the Christianity or humanity we strive for, why not the charred automobile wreckage in which someone died because they or someone else was driving recklessly, or inattentively, or under the influence of alcohol?

There is hunger in the country, and big agriculture-chemical companies want to keep it that way. Monsanto keeps forcing its GMO (genetically modified food) onto people and farmers. Supposedly crop yields will be higher, but pesticide and herbicide application rates grow right along with crop yields, and cost farmers lots of money. Small farmers in the United States continue to go out of business at rapid rates. The rates are even higher for African-American farmers, so this is a matter of social justice as well as health. The two are often tied together.

Small farmers in India have been committing suicide for over a decade now, suicide by ingesting the very pesticides they have been sold because monoculture agriculture fails them, their crops fail, and they are unable to repay the ag-chem giants. Crop yields, even with high–need I say toxic?–rates of pesticide application eventually peak, and then taper off, or dry up, when the effects of other matters such as drought or flood, or insect or weed resistance to pesticides or herbicides occur. Monsanto is not the only evil giant, but it is the one that made Agent Orange and DDT, so possibly my least favorite. Monsanto is currently trying to get pro-Monsanto legislation pushed through, to put even more family farmers out of business. (If you don’t like this idea, check out the Sierra Club site, which is gathering signatures for a vote as early as this coming Monday.)

So I suggest a tribute and monument to wholesome food, which can only be grown on healthy, nutrient-rich soil, with unpolluted water, and in clean air. Put up a monument to organic food. Less use of chemicals will decrease rates of cancer and many neurological illnesses. In New Jersey, we might want a monument to corn, strawberries and tomatoes. In California, where the strawberries taste like water, and tend to have an unpleasant crunchy texture, what about a monument to lettuce and grapes, held up by the farm workers who tend and harvest them? Farm workers are also healthier without being exposed to pesticides. We can’t all afford to buy organic, but we can all voice an opinion in matters of public health.

There are many, many heroic people and many, many social ills that plague this country. 9/11 was a great and horrific tragedy. But a monomaniacal focus on that tragedy, to the exclusion of the daily tragedies of gun and auto deaths and hunger, does a disservice to the living, who must also be honored, and whom we are in a position to protect.

A Bouquet of Memories by Circespeaks

No Disinterested Act

No disinterested act is possible. No matter what we do, no matter how altruistic our actions may appear, we have our own best interests at heart. We can’t help it.

The return we receive for the time, effort, love, resources–financial and other–we invest to help others is sometimes obvious, and at other times veiled or opaque. It is obvious why we go to work and to school. We receive a paycheck, a degree, and possibly elevated social standing, as well as increased self-esteem, in return.

The same, minus the paycheck, is true of volunteer work. Volunteer work or charitable work is a particularly controversial subject. In order to volunteer to help others, we must live in a stratified society, where some people do not have the basics. Everyone should have health care, housing, food, access to a good education, employment opportunities, and–unless a violent criminal–freedom to live unincarcerated. Since this is not the case, a crazy quilt patchwork of volunteers and volunteer organizations attempts to help those who are deprived of life’s basic necessities.

The disparity between those who have, and those who do not, continues to grow in the United States. Thus, to be in a position to provide charity to others, we must have, somewhere along the line profited by inequality. My grandfather was wealthy, so my father was born wealthy. Not extraordinarily wealthy by any means, but wealthy enough to attend a university, and thus to enlist in the Korean War and immediately be granted the rank of captain, and a pleasant service in New Mexico. He did not go to Korea and freeze to death, or I would not be here today. Eventually, with some help from his parents and the G.I. Bill, my parents bought a home in a safe place with good schools. We were financially strapped–Thomas’s English Muffins were the basis of many a meal–but we were not hungry and lived in a safe environment.

In many another country we would now be comfortable and saving for retirement. Instead, we eke out tuition payments to an out-of-state university. We have not put a dime into retirement savings in six years. I have placed my bet, instead, on my sons: they should be able to attend college and graduate debt-free. If not, they would be the first generation burdened by student loan debt at an unreasonable interest rate. The government profits doubly by our actions. No income is sheltered from taxes in our retirement account, and we are providing society with two graduates educated in the sciences. (Not quite yet, since one son started his university education less than a month ago!) We just hope to die young. No, I am not kidding. But it is natural, and not noble, for people to put their children’s interests ahead of their own.

Those who work to promote social justice, to convert others to their religion, to protect the environment, to risk their lives protecting the lives of others, to care for their children or aging parents have objectives for the society in which they live. They also have the resources to put their beliefs into action. One cannot participate in unpaid work when bills are unmet. The preponderance of women doing unpaid work in our schools– to cite one possibly controversial example — arguably does disservice to women, while, at the same time, promoting the interests of their children, and possibly their own social standing in their community. These women are, however, not amassing social security, pension, retirement benefits or job experience which they may later need. Meanwhile, their male peers are working in the traditional economic sphere, in which such benefits are collected and amassed. Younger and middle-aged men working in the sphere of economic power are able to capitalize on their work in many concrete ways, while younger and middle-aged women continue to work in the highly rewarding, but unpaid, volunteer sector, are not.

Are Bill and Melinda Gates saints? Certainly they are preferable to Donald Trump, who is clownish in his bombast and self-interest. They are, most would agree, “good people,” doing more for others than is strictly necessary. But having amassed their fortune, why wouldn’t they want their children to grow to adulthood in a world plagued by fewer diseases, and in which more people are grateful to the efforts of Americans?

I am now on my way to pick vegetables at our local, organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm. Not so short-sighted as to want to consume organic produce only for the sake of my own health–I do breathe the same air, drink the same water, and walk on the same earth as all other living creatures–it is more for the precious earth, to spend time outdoors, to protest all things Monsanto, and to help a small, organic farm to succeed even in hard times that I go.

And since I have my own small, organic garden, I go for inspiration. But more than inspiration–I will stick with easy crops and let the farm family struggle with managing the difficult ones–I go to be close to the earth and the food. I also go to make a small stand on the issue of division of labor. Not wanting to deprive workers of their jobs, I still want to participate, side-by-side, at getting down in the dirt. And, yes, unless I must do this in order to feed my family, and unless I must do this five-to-seven days a week, it is really only a symbolic act. Symbolic acts, as sociologist Pierre Bourdieu pointed out, perpetuate and reify the existing social order. So maybe I do more harm than good. I have not thrown in my lot with farmers or farm-workers, but I have a son who thinks he would like to be a farmer. My son’s interest in sustainable agriculture is a recent development, subject to change. We have participated in the same CSA farm for many years, both the good and the bad. This has been helpful to the farmer, but it has not been a disinterested act. I fear for the future of the earth, the health of my own children, all children, and future generations if the agribusiness industry continues to have its way with us.
When I make a bi-monthly pilgrimage into local fields, in good weather and bad, I am closer to the earth I love to smell and touch, and also make a small, quiet political statement, and an attempt not to become “Comfortably Numb” (Pink Floyd, 1979.)

The tomatoes we eat, and, more than anything, the flowers we pick, feed my soul. Today, together with other family members, I visited our family memorial garden. The pink cosmos, purple verbena, feathery yellow and red celosia, and globe amaranth, red, pink, and purple, now decorate the site where my father’s ashes are spread. Carefully selecting each flower in the field, sharing them with family members, and gently placing them where my father’s physical remains lie, was a powerful, loving ritual.

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A Bouquet of Memories by Circespeaks