Monday, September 22, 2014

Week Without Roosevelts

For those of us who were engrossed in Ken Burns' latest film, this is the "week without Roosevelts.
It was fun to come home from the workaday world of the 21st century and enter, for two hours, the 19th and 20th. This was recent history, though, times that my parents and grandparents lived through, and times, therefore, that I don't always consider history.

But  it is history, and well worth learning. The film left me with curiosity — wanting to read books about TR, FDR and ER — and with  hard-to-forget images: a diagram of where the bullet struck Teddy Roosevelt as he was giving a campaign speech. (He spoke for another hour before going to the hospital.) Photographs of ordinary Americans, their heads inclined toward big boxy radios, listening to FDR's fireside chats.

On those nights, you could leave your house, walk down the street and never stop listening to the president's voice, said one commentator. FDR's words, calm and comforting, were pouring out of every window, were soothing the jangled nerves of a troubled nation.

Would we ever again be so unified? Maybe on September 12, 2001. But then again, maybe not.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tale of A Trespassing

Yesterday I had my comuppance. I clambered over a fence, tiptoed through a beautifully manicured lawn and was just preparing to scale the second fence into a horse pasture when I heard a voice. It sounded angry. I pulled out my earphones.

"What do you think you're doing? This is private property," said the irate homeowner.

"I'm so sorry. I was just cutting through your yard to get to Parker's Mill Road," I answered, by way of apology and with just a trace of a question mark at the end of my sentence, hoping he would see the utter harmlessness of my actions.

"This is not a cut-through," he thundered.

"Don't worry," I said, my voice rising now. "I don't even live here. I'm just visiting my mother."

"Make sure it doesn't happen again," he said, rage bubbling up through his words.

"Got it," I said, all attempts at politeness vanishing. The only way out at that point was to climb another fence, which I did as quickly as possible.

This was at the beginning of my walk, and after that I started trotting, hoping I could bounce the bad feelings away. It was what I deserved, I know. But the punishment did not fit the crime. It made me think about how many times it doesn't. Not a bad thing to ponder from time to time.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Thinking of Scotland

For me it means solo travel (my first), discovering the charms of Inverness and Edinburgh, the endless depths of Loch Ness; the panorama of earth and sky and bare, dark hills leading up to Ben Nevis. I took the West Highland line to Mallaig, and watched the ferries scuttling off for the Isle of Skye. I felt like I was at the roof of the continent, on top of the world — and, in more ways than one, I was.

So this morning, when I learned that Scotland voted no to independence, I was excited. I know little of the politics and the frustration — mine is an admittedly romantic view of this misty, feisty nation.

But I'm glad it will keep its ties to the United Kingdom, glad it will not become another casualty in this strange new world.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Washing and Drying

The dishwasher is fixed so now I can look back wistfully to the weeks of washing and drying. OK, not too wistfully. It was getting old. But the glasses did feel squeaky clean when I rinsed them and  the plates stacked up nicely after they were dried.

There was the pride of completion that I don't feel when the dishwasher does all the work. And I never ran out of knives or spoons. Dishes were washed after they were used. No two-day limbo while the food left on them grew ever more caked and dried.

So yes, washing dishes by hand had its charms. But I'm glad the old machine has been pressed back into service.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Dentist

On Monday I went to the dentist for what was supposed to be a routine extraction. It was a wisdom tooth, not impacted, and I was assured that I didn't need to consult an oral surgeon.

Wrong! The routine quickly became difficult and I experienced two hours of what can only be described as medieval dentistry — with gloves.

As I reclined there, hands clasped tight, mouth pried unnaturally wide open, the young (key word) dentist experimented with tool after tool. (I was waiting for him to try a come-along!) And I kept imagining those old illustrations of medieval dentists. I've seen this kind of art in modern dental offices; it's supposed to be a humorous nod to how far we have come.

After Monday I would say we haven't come far. Because now I know that underneath all the equipment, all the whirring, spinning bells and whistles of modern dentistry, there is still just the dentist and the tooth. It's a contest of wills. In my case the dentist won. But just barely.

Johann Liss, Farmer at the Dentist, 1616-17 from Wikipedia


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Home Leave

Yesterday word came from Suzanne. Her home leave is approved! She will be arriving at Dulles Airport at 1:30 on October 20 — and she'll be in the U.S. for six weeks!

The Peace Corps grants paid home leave to folks who sign on for a third year. Suzanne has already started her new job, as technical assistant to Population Services International and its Beninese partner, planning and training for the peer-education program there known as Amour et Vie. PSI estimates that in 2012 alone its services helped prevent 1,340 HIV cases, more than 70, 000 unwanted pregnancies and almost 30,000 cases of diarrhea.

The peer educators now give Ebola prevention suggestions, too. But their primary work is to bring about the sort of deep-boned changes that will someday lift the country out of poverty — and these will continue long after the epidemic is in check.

It's good, important work — but it's thousands of miles away. I'm beyond excited to know that our girl will be home soon — at least for a while!

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Leaving "Black Care" Behind

"Black care seldom sits behind the rider whose pace is fast enough."
                                                      — Theodore Roosevelt   
So the man I met last night in Ken Burns' new film "The Roosevelts" is in many ways the man I knew: the man of action, man of privilege, man of tragedy and loss. His father died when he was in college; his mother and wife died a few years later on the same day.  In an agony of grief Roosevelt headed west, to the Badlands, where the limitless sky and active life helped him heal. 

Hearing all this last night — especially the quotation — makes me think about walking. How many suburban amblers stroll just fast enough to make their worries go away. I know I do. Sometimes I can outrun my troubles, sometimes I can't. But I usually return in better spirits than I left. "Black care" is almost always left behind.

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