Archive for October, 2013

Autumn in Black and White

October 30, 2013 2 comments


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.


The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees–Part of the Solution

October 28, 2013 Leave a comment



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


PhotoDistribution of high energy biscuits and medical supplies in Kibati, Goma, Congo (2008). Author: Julien Harneis, WikiCmns; CC 2.0 Generic.


Local and Global: The Black Plague & All That

October 27, 2013 3 comments

File:World distribution of plague 1998.PNG


Revolutions happen when nobody is looking; the same might be said of disasters. The map above is none too reassuring.  Before they arrive at your doorstep, problems are easy to ignore.

Yersenia Pestis. This was the spark that set the dry tinder in Medieval Europe blazing in the 14th century and cost the continent somewhere around half its population, bringing the Middle Ages to an end in the process. YP, the bacterium that caused the Black Plague, devastating western Asia and Europe between 1347 and 1351, remains loose in the wild today and could be used as a biological weapon.  The disaster that ushered in the Modern Era stands ready to create another phase shift.

Couldn’t we find a better way to dis-invest in our current system and take history to the next level?


It’s not like RT’s schedule is full of free time to explore new subjects with, but here is a topic, first raised by Aubrey in one of her comments in these pages, that cannot really be ignored. Just why hasn’t humankind gotten around to creating some kind of global coordination on global threats?

Certainly, one of the reasons has to do with reconciling local and global considerations, a theme with far-ranging implications. RT will be exploring some of these in future posts, possibly tying them to the cultural issues that form the core of this blog. Climate change, unchecked threats to human health, nuclear arms, abject poverty amid staggering wealth–just why can’t we see ourselves as a single community?     RT


Map: World Distribution of Plague, 1998. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

George Bizet, Etienne Carjat, and Crowdsourcing

October 25, 2013 1 comment

File:Georges Bizet (flipped).jpg


RT has been testing the waters of crowdsourcing the last two weeks or so; he’s pretty sure that an upcoming post will detail his latest venture into economic self-sufficiency. In the meantime, he offers yet another superb portrait, this one of the composer George Bizet, by Etienne Carjat; your loyal publisher is willing to wager that some reflections on Carjat will appear in these pages before much longer.

There is also the matter of RT’s toothache and his search for affordable dentistry. Never a dull moment…    RT


Photo:  George Bizet (1875); Etienne Carjat. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

Federal Subjects of Russia

October 23, 2013 Leave a comment

File:Russian Regions-EN.svg


and, on a totally unrelated note, here is a map of Russia’s component provinces and republics. A demographically and politically complex country…   RT


Map: Federal Subjects of Russia; author: Luís Flávio Loureiro dos Santos. WikiCmns; CC 3.0 Unported.


Douglas Street Bridge

October 19, 2013 2 comments

File:Ak-Sar-Ben Bridge 1938 LOC 11763u.jpg

After doing some research, RT is pretty certain that his mother traveled over this bridge into Omaha when her mother took her cross-country to Lake Tahoe in 1938. The story is part of A Daughter’s Song and Dance, his mom’s memoir of her childhood years. (RT has been working on Chapter 3, which relates the cross-country trek).

A great photo…   RT


PhotoThe Ak-sar-ben toll bridge (A.K.A., the Douglas Street Bridge) between Council Bluffs, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska in 1938. Farm Security Administration. WikiCmns; Public Domain.


Carrot Pineapple Coconut Cake

October 17, 2013 1 comment

some of RT’s favorite ingredients–go ahead, dig in!  RT

(reposted from I WANT TO COOK THAT)

Carrot Pineapple Coconut Cake.

Victor Hugo, Man of Letters

October 16, 2013 1 comment

File:Victor Hugo by Étienne Carjat 1876 - full.jpg

What a portrait! Victor Hugo (1802-1885), the great man of letters, author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1832) and Les Miserables (1865), and champion of Republican government and the downtrodden. What a writer!    RT


Photograph: Victor Hugo (1876); Etienne Carjat. WikiCmns; Public Domain.



Molly Hunt–Local Poet, Local Hero

October 16, 2013 3 comments

File:Egyptian - Royal Seal of King Sahure - Walters 571748 - Side A.jpg

Molly Hunt is remarkable, a poet struggling to overcome some of the bigger obstacles the world can toss in our way; she has kindly volunteered one of her poems for The Rag Tree. By all means, visit her web log, Maple Warrior, and read more of her powerful work.   RT





Papa has red hieroglyphics on his forehead.

We study them closely—

*****A cross.     

*****A bird ascending to a cloud.

*****A flowering plant in a pot.

We’re a family that loves ancient mysterious symbols,

and we all see something different.

I am anxious for a pic

in his striped red shirt;

he’s crazily handsome this evening.

Even with the bobby pin to keep his hair away.

I do sometimes think he’s a saint,

but if it’s a stigmata, there was no ecstasy with this new mark.

And when I’m not admiring the bizarre aesthetic,

I am still terrorized.



It’s only been twenty-four hours.

Mom rushing into my room, saying something urgent; I

can’t quite comprehend through my ear plugs.

Until I do.


My debilities be damned,

I am a homing device for my father.


The pool of blood on the front walk

looking precisely like a spilled bottle of ketchup

in a cheesy horror film.

(He and I had been at the fridge the day before

looking for oils to soothe my skin.

He’d joked about using ketchup; I’d shuddered.)


Mom whisking him away,

but I had to get a glimpse,

hear his voice before they disappeared.

*****He spoke reassuringly and calmly,

*****but I could not see his face

*****behind the dripping towel pressed to it. 

And the brand-new flattering beige shirt Mom had picked out for him,

that we’d delighted in and played with earlier in the day

(me teasing him while he explored all those secret pockets boys love)

was now splattered with leopard spots of blood.

(Car engine. They are gone.)



Dizzy, alone, I pick a careful route back into the house.

Close the door. What next?


My illness-compromised brain thoroughly addled, I deliberate.

*****At the sight of a blood-drenched rag on the floor,

*****impulse takes over.

*****I disappear it into the garbage;

loosed, I attempt to carry out his evening chores,

her morning chores, as if

that would bring them back;

and we could resume as if little had happened.

*****I ricochet from one painful-to-use phone to another for

*****updates from Mom trying-to-sound-soothing—long line,

*****power outage at the hospital,

need for CT scan, stitches, broken nose.

It would be late, at best.

Midnight, I force myself to bed, but

find myself catapulted out at dawn,

nearly crashing into Mom coming to tell me she was off to pick him up.



Upon their return he was not yet handsome again.

Dried blood everywhere, wan, glued to the couch.

An unusually bad fly season had begun;

I hovered, ridiculously waving away the ones on his wounds,

and picking the loose hairs from his face.

The three of us huddled together in the living room,

the way people do after a trauma,

sharing our respective experiences,

me overriding all over-stimulus signals.


Their bodies have dimmers like some lights;

they could doze.

My dimmer is broken,

it is only set to increasing electrification.

So all I know to do is retire to my cave and write this poem, as

if that might help.



Papa is eighty-two. When did that happen?

How do you carry your undeserved crosses every day, Mom and Pop?

It appears as if Papa’s is now emblazoned on his forehead;

Mama, don’t you dare do the same.

(How blithely I had imagined a different future for all of us—

including my caring for you two, one day.)


We never can really know one another’s experience.

That seems lonely. Mom once sagely pointed

out we nonetheless love.

True, yet ultimately we have to do our own suffering,

as much as love may want us to take on that of another.

*****It seems the heart can’t help but love,

*****like water can’t help but flow downstream,

though eddies and rocks in the river sometimes deceive or distract.

Papa’s hieroglyphic evolves, a display of colors,

and settles finally into a scar—

*****a reminder, a

*****sign of honor, a mystery.

Will we decipher anything?

*****Or do we keep going, without the key?


–September 9, 2013



Copyright © Molly Hunt, 2013. All Rights Reserved. Published w/ author’s permission.

Photo: Royal Seal of King Sahure; Walters Art Museum. WikiCmns; Public Domain.


The Aegean

October 16, 2013 Leave a comment



too much history here for a brief post…enjoy the beauty!  RT


PhotoSatellite image of the Aegean Sea. NASA. WikiCmns; Public Domain.