We were walking around the small town of Munising, Michigan on the shore of Lake Michigan and I came upon this scene. The memorial acts as a mirror, reflecting the man’s image as he does the careful work of placing another name on the long list of soldiers who served to defend democracy and keep us safe – who now only live on in the memories of those who knew them and on this piece of stone.
I have thought about this image a lot, wondering to what extent we all are reflections in this memorial of people who loved country and chose to defend it with their hard work and possibly their lives. This is an especially important contemplation at this point in our country’s history when so many who love our country and what it stands for are blinded by lies and hate into believing in a way of fight for it that is actually threatening the democracy that is the very core of our governmental system.
In response to the Week-end Challenge of “Mirror.“
Early last week I stepped out on my front porch before the sun was up over the trees of the hedgerow and I felt late summer. The air was cool and dry on my skin and I heard the silence of the morning that seems to come when summer has spent most of her energy and nature is slowing down. I smiled because I welcome this slowing down but it lasted only that one day – then we went into a stretch of the dog-days of August with high heat and humidity.
I’ve noticed that my garden is also starting to take on the late summer look. My attention has shifted from fighting weeds to dead-heading in the hopes that the plants, mainly daisies, will send out some more buds. There is still a lot of color with black-eyed susans, echinacea, zinnias, a few late-blooming day lilies, a bright pink hibiscus, and a few other flowers of various colors sprinkled in. I like what I’m seeing in my garden but I am also thinking about some changes I want to make for next year.
I came across the photo below taken nine years ago and I smiled because I love the goose neck that is featured center front. I believe that was its last year because I realized that it was spreading way to fast and I dug it all out. Well almost – it is still growing in the daisies. And every time I find a plant I think I might let it settle in my garden because I love it so much, and then I remember how fast it takes over – so I pull it out. It will be back next year.
As I look at this photo I realize that the only plant that is still growing (with my consent) in this area is the daisy. The shrubs have been removed, and the cat mint (purple) was transplanted when the stone walls were rebuilt a few years ago. And the lilies are struggling in other places, they just aren’t happy in my garden soil. During the past 14 years my garden has been evolving; and my life seems to be on the same trajectory. Neither me nor my garden are what we used to be.
I know that the aging process involved losses and a lot of change; I developed courses on aging. A life-span development course I developed and taught helped students learn that every phase of life involves some loses that are replaced by new ways of being in our world. Each phase of life has developmental tasks that need to be accomplished in order to be physically, spiritually, and emotionally healthy. As we transition from phase to phase some familiar and comfortable ways of being are either taken away or we let go of them. These are frequently treasured privileges, what we have thus far built our identities on. As we approach the end of each phase we need to recognize what we need to give up, what we no longer have, what is no longer useful and then to have the courage to step into an unknown future and learn new ways of thinking and behaving. Have you noticed that what happens to one person in a family or friendship community, impacts the other people, frequently with overlapping demands for developmental change? A fun example to think about is how the developmental tasks of adolescents mesh with the developmental tasks of parents.
Jim and I (and most of our friends) are transitioning into old age. We have retired from paid employment with a mixed bag of sorrows and joys. I miss the status it brought me and the joy of meaningful work that was recognized by colleagues. Jim was overjoyed to leave a job that had become difficult for him to do while maintaining his integrity. He took a part-time job that brought him great joy – can’t wait to get to work joy. He had to leave that so we could spend winters in Florida and travel while spending summers in Michigan. Both of us have been robbed of energy through chronic health issues and normal aging. At core we are struggling to know who we are now that we have moved beyond being productive in our culturally salient way of making money. We both like to help people, but are struggling to know how to help others when we have just about enough energy to take care of ourselves. What seems to have surprised me most is that I am struggling to know how my religious faith can be relevant in my old age. I am in the middle of working through this and will share my doubts, my struggles and new insights in another post.
We have had a mix of weather during our December stay in Michigan. We had a beautiful snow just after we arrived, but also had rain, ice, and slush. There were a few sunny days with comfortable temperatures. Unfortunately I had a multitude of excuses for not going out with my camera – most of them centered around my comfort and safety. I want to believe that I can trapes through snow on slippery, sloping ground with the agility I did when I was 40 years younger. My dream of the perfect composition of woodland, fields, snow and shadows doesn’t seem as compelling as the nightmare of falling again. I did venture out into our yard to capture the intersecting beauty of a coating of ice that foretells of hard winter to come, covering fall leaves hanging onto their branches in spite of strong winds, and buds that have formed as a sign of hope that spring will come once again.
This year Christmas was as wonderful for me as a sappy Hallmark movie – once I got my head screwed on straight, or more accurately, eliminated almost half of my healthcare appointments. I told my kids I couldn’t do our Christmas Eve family gathering this year after I realized that my daughter couldn’t be with us to help out with preparations and cleanup. As Christmas got closer I realized I didn’t have to sacrifice getting together with children & grandchildren, & one great-granddaughter. I would keep it simple. We got our usual spiral sliced, bone-in ham (left-overs for everyone and the bone for soups) and I bought frozen mac & cheese. My granddaughters love corn soufflé so I told them I would buy the ingredients if they would make it. Emily got here first and she made two pans of it so there would be plenty for everyone to take some home. I opened a jar of my home-made applesauce, pickled beets, and made a cranberry-orange relish the day before. Jim bought rolls and a vegi tray. Daughter Carol brought Christmas cookies and an apple pie. It was so simple and instead of fussing about, I spent my energy having fun with these wonderful people who are dear to me. I don’t regret those years when there were twice as many people and I made multiple dishes from scratch. They were a lot of fun – but not any more. Now I find fun and joy in different ways.
Wishing you safety, comfort and joy as we navigate the coming year together.
We just returned from spending four nights in our travel trailer midway up Michigan’s Lower Peninsula over towards Lake Michigan. We didn’t go for any particular reason except to be away from home for a little bit in a place that we enjoy visiting. On our second day we decided we wanted to go over the Big Mac Bridge to St. Ignase to get a pastie (short ‘a’ as in past} from Bessie’s – they make the very best and we have been known to plan vacations so we go through St. Ignace at the right time to go to Bessie’s. It wasn’t a short drive – two & a half hours each way but we knew it was worth it. Problem: Bessie’s wasn’t open when we got there early afternoon. Maybe they weren’t open for the season yet, in the U.P. June can sometime feel like very early spring, or (Good-God-No) they were closed for good. But they weren’t making pasties and we didn’t have a plan B because we (or I) knew they would be open. We were hungry so we pulled into a restaurant back on the main road that had outside seating. They had pasties so our plan was for Jim to order one and I would order the white fish basket and we would share. The waiter said they didn’t have white fish (this is a restaurant just a couple of hours south of White Fish Point on Lake Superior – how could they not have white fish???) We both ordered pasties and had a fun meal even though their pasties weren’t very good. At that point it seemed a very long way to go for a pastie but we had the excitement of going over the Big Mac, something that never gets old for us.
I was sitting at the table one morning drinking my second cup of coffee, working sudoku puzzles and half watching the man camping next to us clean the roof of his big fifth-wheeler trailer. I think they have the site for the whole summer and Randy was up there scrubbing and patching and doing those things he felt he need to do to have a well-maintained summer home. I heard a noise-of-fright from Randy and then his wife started yelling up to him to “Rinse on your knees! Rinse on your knees, Randy!” He snapped back that she was “treating him like a very old man” (they appeared to be in their late 50’s).
I remember those exchanges in our marriage. I remember feeling offended when Jim became overprotective, just wanting too keep me safe when I was doing something I felt confident doing, something a young person would feel confident doing. I remember back a few years ago when I didn’t like it when people treated me as being old. I remember making sure I moved with confidence so people wouldn’t think my aches and pains were because of old age.
I don’t have that problem any more, probably because now I know that I’m old (but not really, really old). I’m old enough where I appreciate Jim’s help and how our children seem to be watching, ready to step in if needed – but I’m not so old that I want strangers to think of me as old. I want to be perceived as active and involved and healthy (for my age). But I did notice that we seemed to be the old couple over there on site #50. Old people seem to be easily ignored, is what I’m experiencing lately.
Wishing you times of joy and fun during the coming week. If you haven’t been vaccinated, please do so for yourself and the people who love you.
The end of the last year and beginning of a new year involved an ice storm followed by snow. It really didn’t matter because we didn’t go anywhere and didn’t have guests driving on bad roads. It was a nice kind of quiet, giving me time to prepare some special meals with my daughter. I also sat observing what was happening outside and thinking about what is going on within my head. Occasionally I took some photos through the window because stepping outside was treacherous.
I was surprised at my strong reaction to the end of 2020. Usually the transitions to the new year have gone by without much notice in our home. Usually just a “Happy New Year” and a little kiss in the morning because we didn’t want to stay up for midnight. The other thing that surprised me was that, on the one hand, I couldn’t have been happier to see 2020 in my rear view mirror but on the other hand I was very much aware that nothing had changed between December 31 and January 1. I have strong hope that there will be governing stability with the new administration, righting damage done by the previous administration and moving forward by leading congress in creating economic, environmental, criminal justice and health care policy that solve our social problems. There is a lot to do and his cabinet appointments seem to be good picks for the job.
Then we experienced the attempted insurrection by a large group of thugs and traitors. We are proud of our freedom to publicly demonstrate, to let our needs and beliefs be known through physical presence. But that freedom doesn’t include threatening riots with fire arms and bombs, carried with the intention of threatening and harming others. It doesn’t include destruction of property and stealing. I was shocked as I watched it unfold, and I spent way too much time in front of the tv but I couldn’t walk away. I was horrified and angry at what I saw.
For my over-seas readers, be aware that we have the same far-right extremists that you have, those who want to destroy the government, want to protect white privilege, want to seize power for their own enrichment. We always have, but Donald Trump brought them out from under their rocks and out of their holes – told them it was okay to express their grievances that people of color and women were gaining too much power. Donald Trump and his supporters in positions of power (congress) fed them lies and told them they could fight, be violent. They told them not to trust or respect the institutions of our democracy and his followers wanted to hear this. They all worked hard to destroy truth and spread lies. You know the story, you have lived with this threat yourself.
As I hear news of our political crisis from the perspective of other countries, I am hearing a lot of caring and concern for the health of our democracy. Thank you for this. Please keep caring and know that President Biden and his State Department will quickly begin to reach out to try to mend fences and break down the walls that Trump loved to build. From what I have heard Biden has been highly respected around the world whenever he has traveled abroad in a professional capacity.
Here are some observations I have about our democracy from listening to hours and hours of very knowledgeable and brilliant experts with extensive leadership experience and doing a lot of reflecting:
The freedom of our press is very strong. What has saved me during the past five years has been the courage, intelligence, dedication, and truthful reporting of so many journalists. I am so exhausted that I am having a hard time writing this post, so I can’t comprehend how the journalists covering the White House, Congress, the election, the pandemic, and racial tensions can keep going. Some journalists were laughing that usually we see the President age as he goes through his time in office – this time it has been the journalists that we have watched aging before us. Our journalists continue to explore difficult news stories, make contacts with multiple experts and eye witnesses, and write endless articles and make multiple reports for tv news reports. Newspapers have provided excellent coverage and many are providing on-line free access to information about the pandemic (yes we are all still overwhelmed with a pandemic as the oldest democracy on earth has been assaulted). In spite of Trumps constant verbal assaults on reporters and news organizations, inciting his followers to make violent threats, our free press has held strong and flourished. Thank you.
Our Justice Department has been a mixed bag as Attorney General Barr became Trumps private pawn instead of being separate from the Executive Branch and working strictly for the citizens while upholding the Constitution. He will be gone soon and seems to be changing tune as he is thinking about his life after Trump. During this mess there were many federal judges at the state level who were making decisions based on the law and the Constitution – not on what Trump wanted. We do need justice reform because we have two justice systems – one for whites and one for people of color. I believe Vice-President Harris will work hard on that.
Our Congress has been crippled by almost all of those within Trump’s party either believing in all the evil that Trump is or have been to chicken-shit to stand up to his bullying. They have been spineless and lack integrity as they chose Trump over our Constitution and the well-being of our citizens. The Republican Party has lost power until the next election in two years. Hopefully we can heal and strengthen the moral compass of our government in that time. In my mind, this is the weakest link but I believe we have the best man for the job coming into power. He has years of experience working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
I am very hopeful that there are now many more people who understand the perils our democracy can face if we don’t stand up for what is right. I am hoping there will be enough social pressure against white supremacy and anti-democratic beliefs to force these traitors to our Constitution back into their holes as we work to make the justice system strong enough to prosecute them when they stick their head out.
I believe we have always been a bit too far towards personal freedom (especially for white males) and haven’t taken seriously the “justice for all” and common good of society. This stems from the DNA and personalities of the people who have come to our shores from the very beginning and the nature of democracy as our forefathers (white, male, and usually slave owners) defined it.
Here’s to a new year and a new page in the on-going work of pursuing a “more perfect union.” We are all a work in progress.