RT is no stranger to the Winter Blues; he’s dealt with them off and on since he was a teenager. For whatever reason, this year the arrival of winter has struck him a little more deeply than most changes of the season. But not to worry: RT has been taking steps to deal with blah feelings and is doing better.
But this particular episode has reminded RT that our lives ride on profound currents of energy and mood. Women are traditionally supposed to be the moodier gender, but the tides of emotion that run through men are all the more powerful for being hidden under still waters.
And the currents that everyone deals with do not necessarily dissipate in a few months or even years. These are the great rhythms, which flow through us for decades and must be regarded with the utmost respect. Swimming down into their pull and struggling to change and understand them is a part of every health life. Feelings have to be processed, and in a busy life these can accumulate until they overwhelm us. We need time to assimilate, to explore, and to grow more skillful. RT
Photo: Picture of the moon dark. Arjun. WikiCmns. Public Domain.
RT has learned from hard experience not to pronounce any manuscript of his finished, but he will allow that the latest round of corrections on A Daughter’s Song and Dance, his mom’s memoir of her childhood and early adult years, has brought that manuscript easily over the 200-page mark. What remains to be added? A new chapter to attach the last third of the story to the earlier parts, an epilogue, and a couple of sections here and there. After that? A read-through with his mother, accompanied doubtless by debate over what to put in and leave out (not to mention themes). a further set of corrections and any adjustments to take account of theme and message, and then, RT imagines, fine-tuning. Getting another editor to vet the manuscript, and well, then RT might be willing to use the joyful word, finished. And what then? The vast vistas of publication in, say, 5 or 6 months. He will only mention in passing such objects on the distant horizon as Gilgamesh; he’s still there, and doubtless the GE fever will grip RT at some unpredictable point, but for now he is beginning to savor something like relief…
… and along the way, RT has learned that the first car his mother owned was a Willys Americar…but really, that’s not what he’s feeling. RT
Photo: 1940 Willys Coupe; Author: http://www.flickr.com/people/phyls_photos/; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/phyls_photos/2944955112/. WikiCmns; CC 2.o Generic.
Surely, in a parallel universe somewhere, RT is a top-drawer nature photographer who takes breaks to shoot amazing architecture in the big cities and work on creative book design projects. The eye is neighbor to the heart, at least in men.
These reflections are by way of saying that RT has been spending a lot of time on Pinterest, the photo-sharing web site that has attracted users all over the globe. (And for the record, this post was inspired by a pin of a red-on-red portrait that reminded RT of the sheer gorgeousness art is capable of.) Be that as it may, RT suspects he has been spending too much time on Pinterest. Gilgamesh and A Daughter’s Song and Dance both are patiently awaiting their latest round of corrections; Mechanical Turk and other crowdsourcing sites are ripe for further work and exploration; and, hey, what about taking a break and getting out in the beautiful, if brisk, autumn air? And, come to think of it, RT has gotten locked out of his Yahoo account because of some mix-up over his password. So why the tomfoolery with beautiful pictures?
RT is pretty sure that one of the reasons for Pinterest’s success is the lack of beauty in everyday life, or at least for most of us. Walking past a large box store the other day, one that had gravel strewn in front of its nondescript exterior in lieu of a lawn, RT was forcefully reminded of how ugly public life has become. Convenient, serviceable, yes. But beautiful? Almost never.
In a world starved for beauty, Pinterest is an oasis devoted to pleasing the eye. No cruddy compromises here, just the best photographs by talented photographers, famous or not. Not to mention great historical photographs. And if you are a WP blogger, the site is a treasure trove of ideas for new posts. Plus you can pin images from your blog (something that RT needs to catch up on). So what’s the problem?
RT wouldn’t say that Pinterest offers eye-candy (though some of that is to be found on the site). What worries RT is that Pinterest has very little to do with the day-to-day or ordinary; there is always something special about the subject. One of the ways that art contributes to our life, and perhaps the main way it helps us, is by finding beauty in the ordinary, or even in the apparently ugly. Graffiti, the faded and peeling side of an old house, a familiar skyline made arresting by being captured from an unusual angle–all these things help us see the intrinsic beauty of the world. And if the artwork is spontaneous, a discovery made on the spot, then so much the better. We can all hope to experience something similar in our routine.
Pinterest of course contains such visual material, but in RT’s experience, not enough of it. Maybe each member should be required to submit a certain number of images that he or she has made. It might help reintroduce each of us to ourselves. (And maybe RT should be pinning more images that meet his standards.)
We search for meaning in the ordinary; perhaps we should be searching for beauty, too. Dare we rediscover the poetry of the world our eyes and minds shut out?
(& what about that latest round of corrections?)
Print: Courtesan and Little Girl; Hiroshige. WikiCmns; Public Domain.
something fun…enjoy! RT
Drawing: Two Figures (by 1926); Albert Muller. Crayon on paper. WikiCmns; Public Domain.
RT has been rather reticent these past two or more weeks: it’s hard to be garrulous when your teeth are aching. Ouch! This particular ache was deep and throbbing and resulted in the extraction of two teeth on Halloween, one of which was infected. Penicillin (remember that?) and ibuprofen got our fearless writer through his convalescence, and now he’s going to present an excerpt from his mother’s memoirs, A Daughter’s Song and Dance.
Plane Spotting (Late 1941–Spring 1942)
War fever was at a pitch, and many people who were not eligible for the draft began “to do their part” in the war effort. Opportunities abounded: from volunteering for the United Services Organization (USO) to participating in neighborhood “scrap drives” that collected scrap copper and brass for use in artillery shells to growing your own vegetables. If none of this appealed, there was plenty of work to be had at war production factories. Many young women took the places of men who had been drafted into the military; for the first time in the country’s history, women were able to find high-paying jobs. They worked round-the-clock in factories that produced materiel for our troops: everything from boots to tanks to bombers to k-rations. The wages they earned gave them an economic freedom—and independence—that they had never dreamed of before. Although the old social taboos re-emerged after the war, this taste of freedom would lead to the rights-for-women movement. The war-time production effort marked the beginning of a profound social revolution.
All of this had an effect on my mother.
Early in the new year, Mama joined the Red Cross, rolling bandages and supervising the training of other volunteers. Then she heard about the Civil Air Patrol, the plane watchers who were supposed to spot Japanese planes off the coast. The romance of this appealed to her, and she signed up.
She and the other airplane watchers would go out every day with their government-issued kits and binoculars; they would stand on the bluffs overlooking the ocean trying to keep track of the planes that flew overhead; they had gone to class to learn how to tell the airplanes apart. It made them feel they were doing something for the country besides giving up cream in their coffee and butter for oleo. To be honest, I can’t remember how long she was a plane-spotter, but she thoroughly enjoyed her duties.
In the meantime, rationing was a burden on everyone. Almost immediately, we were issued ration coupon books for all the basic foodstuffs: meat, milk, butter, and bread. Bacon was an unimaginable luxury. Gas and women’s silk and nylon stockings were also restricted, so for many people life became boring, if not monotonous. California is car country, and with rationing came the end of trips to the movies and Lake Tahoe. But we were lucky in one respect: we were able to grow a wide variety of vegetables in our now-famous “victory gardens,” which made meals both tastier and more nutritious—and gave us something to do. Even the borders along city streets were used to grow produce.
But perhaps the oddest thing about these years was that it marked a much-anticipated milestone in the country’s history: amid the tight rationing regime, the Depression had finally ended. The United States could not find enough workers; many states even allowed teenagers to work in factories, and a guest worker program for Mexican emigrant laborers kept the fruit orchards of Texas and California in production. In fact, America’s entry into the war marked the beginning of a decades-long economic boom that would transform the country. …
Copyright © 2013, The Rag Tree
RT figures he was introduced to Autumn when he was 3 or 4; his family had returned from Brazil to Washington D.C., for what turned out to be about 6 years. He has some sharp memories of growing accustomed to the change in light, and one Thanksgiving in particular, when we drove out into the country to share the holiday with friends. Vivid images of the newly bleak landscape, punctuated with maple reds and muted gold, everything under the slanting light, lodged in his mind.
Light is a powerful thing, and so are shadows. RT recalls the story of another little boy who came back to the United States from Brazil (and specifically, from the treeless environs of the newly dedicated Brasilia): this particular boy was scared by the shadows that trees cast. One can only imagine that his first fall back in the country was an uncomfortable time for this child.
Halloween is the day the dead walk: they have long memories and tell us things we’ve forgotten. RT suspects it is better to overcome fear and listen to what they tell us; not all their news is troubling.
Photo: Gathering Weather (1898); Alfred Horsley Hinton. WikiCmns; Public Domain.
Think about this: there are 45 million refugees in the world today; 207 nations each have smaller populations than this figure. Yet refugees, people who have fled terrible conditions in their home countries or who have been forced to leave, have no government.
Or think again: refugees do have a government of sorts–one that is administered by the United Nations and that is responsible for delivering the most basic of services: food, clothing, housing, and medicine. What is this amazing organization? The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
This is what UNHCR does: 1) advocate for the basic rights of refugees; 2) ensure clean water, food, basic housing, and medical care; and 3) seek long-term solutions via repatriation or resettlement. In its efforts, UNHCR has an indispensable partner: the World Food Program. WFP provides food, on average, to 90 million people each year.
The labors of these two organizations rarely make the press, and yet there can be no question that they have eased the suffering and saved the lives of millions over the several decades they have operated. UNHCR and WFP should be incorporated into any future world government or coordinate as part of the essential services it provides. And surely, any world government’s primary goals must include, when possible, the repatriation of all refugees. RT
Photo: Distribution of high energy biscuits and medical supplies in Kibati, Goma, Congo (2008). Author: Julien Harneis, WikiCmns; CC 2.0 Generic.