Lady With A Weather Station

MY BEAUTIFUL COCOON

I suppose I should claim to have left the child in me behind. In truth, I cannot do so. While some my age feel like dancing, I often feel like napping.

A cold winter cuts deep with age. I dread walking out of doors on particularly cold days. My wife and I study weather signs and predictions assiduously – my wife much more than I.

But there is a flip side to the dread of cold air. I confess adoration of my cocoon – or my many cocoons. First and foremost is my lovely bed. In winter I wear a white cotton skull cap or, my current favorite, I loosely wrap my head in an empty pillowcase, lightly binding my ears and covering my forehead as if wearing an Egyptian headdress. My heavy gray wool blanket lies folded but tightly pressed against the left length of my body. My top sheet and blankets rest upon me, tucked tightly at the edges around my chest. A large fluffy pillow is wedged to the right of my head to keep it from moving, to give me the sensation of sleeping on my right side when in fact I am flat on my back, lying diagonally across a double bed that I built of yellow pine forty years ago. My head rests softly embedded in between two small down travel pillows put inside a cotton pillowcase. My jury-rigged pillow puts me very close to lying flat with no pillow at all; this aids nighttime breathing, protects my back, and prevents reflux from unsettling my nighttime wanders.

This is but one place where I spend a blissful eternity in imaginary adventure. There is my Walmart leather recliner, which is neither from Walmart nor made of true leather. There are numerous oddly shaped homemade pillows upholstered in faux leather fabric found at Walmart; a homemade foam-filled headrest extension, loosely fixed in the same material; and a full-length fake-leather-weave kitchen floor mat that supports my pliable body and keeps it from sliding around. All this is topped with a forest-green fleece throw blanket. Here, invariably, my eyes flutter in periodic submission during familiar or dull moments of nighttime movies.

My car seats, the firm gray cloth ones in my Honda Civic rather than the slick tan leather ones in my Accord, offer similar delight and comfort. The heat of my car is a blessing after a brisk walk to and from work.

All these places are my work stations – or rather my think stations. I would have few creative thoughts otherwise, except for the muted quiet afforded on my four-mile walks each morning, bundled up in so many layers that I look like a nomadic tribesman on the tundra.

All relates to the weather, the all-important condition that envelops each day and makes it different and uncertain. Knowledge of the weather connects science with practical and sensitive awareness of surroundings and change.

I offer a story related to the fundamentals of weather and its importance in our everyday lives. It is very brief but long enough. It is akin to a children’s tale about the culture of science and teaching, and the presence and palpable consequences of nature.

Please follow this trail to my reading room and sit warmly by the hearth.

Our Ebola

There is indeed an insidious disease threatening our country, its people, and its culture. It oozes isolationism, spite, protectionism, racism, sexism, defeatism, dread, and panic. It drains the humanity from its victims, who continue to stagger among us.

I am reminded every day of life as an immigrant in a precarious world. Descended from Scotch-Irish who immigrated to this country a couple of centuries ago, I still sense enduring health vulnerabilities, social incomprehension, separation, and hardship, even in my native land. And I am considered a full-fledged established member in good standing. It is not just that I work around exemplary students, academics, medical personnel, and patients of foreign descent on a daily basis. When I go to restaurants in New York City, I sit at tables surrounded by people who are not speaking English. The same applies when I infrequently visit a restaurant in Nashville; though others speak English, or some mutant form of American dialect, many obviously are visitors from other countries or recent immigrants. This mixing both socially and genetically, this constant negotiation with novel elements, is very good for us; it makes our country better prepared to cooperate and do business with the rest of the world. It deals us a superior hand for future play and worthy survival.

Thinking I had witnessed the lowest of the low in recent years in terms of political chicanery, I see new depths in the employment of a few Ebola cases as an explosive diversion a few weeks before a mid-term election. It is a horrible sight – and I don’t just mean the suffering in West Africa. Perhaps the panic is mainly a flash-in-the-pan circus of frenetic journalism and loose tongues and not penetrating or prevalent – which is the consoling assessment that my seasoned opinion favors.

Our narrow-minded, short-sighted, self-centered, and greedy Ebola is in part the by-product of our heritage, stretching back to Europe and beyond. But we do participate in effectively spreading it around the world. Perhaps ISIS is not genuinely grounded in a religious backlash against Western values and products, but Western exploitations and myopia in the past have certainly fed its fever. No place has been abused and spoiled more than Africa.

Now we should be thinking about how to help West Africans, not about how to wall them off. Panic sickens the soul and issues very poor, self-defeating results.

Despite radical conservatism’s posturing against science, its adherents – consistently inconsistent – run to the medicine cabinet of research whenever confronted with actual personal challenges in modern life. Science can combat the other Ebola, but please, God, strengthen our gift of humanism to help us overcome our mindless and spiritless strain of excessive poisonous excretions. Somebody please wake this patient up and fortify its backbone. Serious no-drama purpose, thinking, and method will best resolve our crises large and small.

The Two-Thirds Party

A couple of easy-going Princeton grads put forward the idea that a new political coalition is in order. Seeing as two-thirds of Americans agree on solutions to several key political problems in the United States, they wonder if there ought to be a third party with a platform that concentrates on accomplishing only those agreed-upon goals. At least then something significant gets done. And the two main parties can be left to their perpetual food fight in the media about everything else.

I have often ridiculed (without regret) the dumb and dumber business of the radical right. However, occasionally I am reminded that there is a tincture of wacky libertarianism, a sniff of lazy rot, in both the left and right among us – and in all their most pernicious political posturings. A recent article in The New Yorker is one such reminder. The writer begins with a recitation of a long list of accolades bestowed on a particular ecology activist; then he presents her positions and tactics in a raw and condensed manner. The longest part of his essay is spent ripping her positions to shreds, exposing the dangers behind radical speech, and examining the distorted thinking such illiberal obsessions too breezily propagate.

In my mind, that wacky other fraction of this country is a faction whose adherents are de facto members of the paranoia and conspiracy party. It is the educated among them who are chiefly to blame for the failings of the two main parties. Were they to seek balance and reason, there would be little need for the two-thirds party.

But please do not take my word for it. Perhaps I am sometimes in error. Please read it and judge for yourself.

Click here to read the story for yourself. [1]

FOOTNOTE:

1. Michael Specter’s article “Seeds of Doubt” in The New Yorker on August 25, 2014.