Monday, February 12, 2018

For Days

The camellias were growing next to the kitchen window when we moved here. Actually, they were struggling to grow... they had too little sun, and too much standing water, so we moved the tall shrub, and crossed our fingers. Happily, the shrub has rallied, and now, eight years later, we are enjoying a really bountiful season of bright pink, lightly fragrant, multi-petaled blossoms. I affixed a flower in Maria's braid, for the Pink Martini concert.

All of the garden is in bloom, and over and over, again, I gaze, in awe, and wish I could sing, or write the poem, or paint the picture, that could express my joy and wonder, my humility in the face of such beauty and fortune. For days, I have been smitten, and speechless, yet pensive, over beauty and kindness. For days, I've been sad, too, because the world feels less familiar, less kind, and it's a constant push against the dead weight of hostility, a culture of divisiveness, enmity. Even the idea of feeling sad can seem to me like an indulgence, for my part. But that, too, is part of the weight, the stress of trying to be good, and do good, and remain hopeful, and carry on resiliently, effectively.

Saturday, at the start of a long drive, I noticed a panel on the side of my Odyssey was flapping. I pulled over and we all got out to investigate. Alex pulled it back a bit, and a part dropped out, and rolled under my poor car. Sigh. Shockingly, we did not have a roll of duct tape with us... this is so unlike us. We were going to be late to meet Bambi, and we were debating whether we should just pop the panel all the way off, saving it from sheering off along the interstate. Then I realized we were nearby our friends' home.Come on, we're going to Robin and Sean's. They'll have duct tape, or something better we haven't thought of. And they did. They had hugs, and breakfast offers, and laughs, and three colors of duct tape. We got to see James, and just touch base a bit. I even got a custom made, fitted lid for our hanging chicken feeder... I've been trying to devise one for years. I don't think any of this happened to teach me a lesson, and yet... there it is, a bit of bad luck and a whole lot more good luck, kindness, friendship, support, beauty. I am humbled, in awe.

Friends, flowers, dear pets, an invitation to dance, to play percussion, to sing in Arabic, or Japanese, multi-colored duct tapes, an extra ticket to share, a gesture of kindness, an offer of support... I am so thankful to see these, to have resources, to enjoy moments with this side of life. I wish I could sing, or write a poem about sadness and hope, about seeing grace and beauty in spite of grief, sorrow, to raise our thoughts when things get heavy, to project real happiness... I would be so pleased to spread it everywhere, to everyone, for days.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Here and Mars

We watched SpaceX's launch of Falcon Heavy, live, including the brilliant parallel landings of the side cores. Nothing else in news, or Tweets, can touch me. I hear David Bowie. I hear the cheers of scientists, engineers, makers celebrating greatness, I feel the reach of visionaries, and artists, dreamers, and I am uplifted, inspired, revived.

When making, and invention, are the achievements of science and imagination, I am thrilled. When cooperation and the confluence of our knowledge and experience bring us to new heights, daring, exploration, conflict resolve, healing, and art, I feel indescribable exhilaration, joy, awe, and hope. This is our greatest... the pursuit of knowledge, the consideration to work together, to see beyond strife and petty impulses; this is what brings me to champion STEM and Art education, to protect net neutrality, to believe in the improbable.

I believe in science. And dreamers. I believe in the place where art and engineering meet, a balance of our humanity and empirical data... and there is art, again, and music, poetry, discovery, love, and rockets.

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?

Robert Browning

Life, here, feels pretty ordinary, in comparison with trips to Mars, and that's alright. I am enjoying a happy sense that what we cherish and uphold is good, worthwhile. I feel renewed in my impulses to make, to create, to celebrate tinkering, trying, asking, sharing, failing, trying again. The garden, the blank pages of books and the marks we make, our ideas, and plans, our curiosity and queries are that reach, that stream in the confluence of knowledge, achievement.

We are studying. Max is back to formal studies... biological anthropology, world history, and art history, philosophy. Alex is enrolled in chemistry, more art. Maria is studying world history, too, and Spanish, math, illustration, yoga, science. She's been creating biographies of her Dungeons and Dragons characters, with illustrations, inventories, backstories. William has more props in the works. History, design, and manufacturing come together in the pieces he makes. I'm sticking with my resolution to be an art student... frequently entreating myself to keep drawing and painting, no matter how I feel about the results. Geoff has his busy time of year, finishing the game for PS4, and he joins us, tinkering, dreaming up new ideas, and sharing, whenever he can. We always have the next project to look forward to.

The hens are laying, again! It's been an egg a day for a few days now. Then, this morning, the hens were making such a fuss, I admonished, There'd better be a lot more than one egg, ladies, when I went out to feed them. And lo! Three beauties.

Carl Sagan called this place, our home planet, a pale blue dot. The wonders, complexities, and challenges of this dot take my breath away. I love our Earthly home, the gardens, and markets, the cozy places, in libraries, on a boat, beneath quilts, among friends, meeting strangers, in a comforting embrace.

And I love the impulse to exceed our grasp, to imagine new strategies, to build rocket ships, to map a plan for the good of all. It's those "risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things," that President Barack Obama described in his 2009 Inaugural Address, that I love, that I find great...

"In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

My feet, and heart, and imagination are pretty firmly fixed on this pale blue dot, but the stars stir my soul, and witnessing the achievements of SpaceX, the convergence of disciplines, ideas, calculations, over many years, through many people, is a great and inspiring thrill.

"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam...

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

"For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act – not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do."
Barack Obama, Inaugural Address, 2009