I have two big events that involve travel this September. I’m headed back to Rochester — a very quick in and out trip — to receive a philanthropy award from the UofR School of Nursing. There’ s a fund there which provides an annual Dean’s Discretionary Award to a promising researcher whose work is not yet far enough along to attract major NIH or other funding. For me, it furthers Jerry’s and my commitment to entrepreneurship — it’s like seed money for a start-up. The fund bears both my name and Jerry’s, which he probably wouldn’t like. Jerry believed that giving should be altruistic, an act done in low profile for the charitable interest of giving, not to attract recognition to the donor. It’s an interesting point, when you represent the interests of someone who has died. Jerry was an enormously charitable person — I wanted his name to endure in philanthropy somewhere. I have to think he’d smile and say, “OK, if it’s really important to you to have my name on it.” It is.
For my Rochester friends: Sara, Ben and I are coming in late Thursday evening and heading out again mid-day Saturday. I love seeing all of you, although it won’t happen this time. I promise a longer trip in 2018, where I can share coffee or a meal and give our friendship what I call a “good watering.”
In mid-September I’m officiating at the wedding of Emily Ross and Dustin Bulthuis, friends from Minneapolis. Working with them to create a wedding ceremony has been pure joy. We began with the premise that shaping their launch into the world as a married couple is an important step in creating the architecture of their life together, not just an exercise in party planning. I think that perspective has given everything that has come up prior to the wedding a larger meaning — and as anyone who’s been involved in wedding planning knows, there are a million things that come up! Happily, we got the ceremony finalized with plenty of time to spare.
What’s your September like? Although I’m far removed from having anyone to get ready for school, I still feel passing Labor Day as a big transition point. I’m still hanging on to the lingering days of summer, but see that turn to fall fast approaching.
I read through John Hull’s magnificent reflection on his life of blindness fairly quickly. I do that — race through a book. Then, if the book is meaningful enough, I go back. This second time through Touching the Rock is more of a meditation. There’s something on almost every page to which I say, “Imagine that?”
In Chapter 5, Hull is talking about the wind and the sea. Sighted people locate ourselves by sight — we simply turn our heads around, or scan with our eyes, to see where we are. For a blind person, the physical world is invisible unless it makes a sound. One of the very welcome happenings for a blind person is falling rain. Rain sounds different as it falls on different things. In rain, the immediate world is revealed to a blind person all at once, and through a multitude of sounds. Wind does a similar thing. Here is Hull talking about wind:
“Blind people are accustomed to not knowing where things come from, where they are going to. Things rush past: one is in the midst of a melee of action, one does not expect to see origins and destinations.” [p. 95]
But in the wind, the blind person knows. He can simply turn to face the wind, and know that it is coming from “there”.
I was moved to wonder how I, as a sighted person, know where things come from. The knowledge is visual, of course. From my glass wall of windows I can see cargo ships. If they are facing toward the port, they are coming from afar. If they are facing toward the channel, they are coming from port, having delivered a load, and they are going back — perhaps with new containers bound for Asia.
The glass wall is thick. I can hear sounds of traffic, muted, but not ships. John Hull wouldn’t even know the cargo ships are there.
While watching CNN on Monday night I saw an interview with the mother of Heather Heyer, the young woman killed by a rampaging white supremacist in Charlottesville. Ms. Heyer’s mother described getting word that the hospital was looking for her daughter’s next of kin, being driven to the hospital while frantically calling to get word of her daughter’s condition, being told the hospital had “no patient by that name” — because her daughter was never admitted, her daughter was dead.
Life is so often very, very hard. The interview with this mother, still dazed and shaken by her daughter’s sudden death, was heartbreaking.
I know I said I was getting Trump out of my brain, but his remarks defending neo-Nazis and white supremacists from the lobby of Trump Tower can’t go without comment. This is a loathsome human being, and everyone who stands by him in his most recent tirade, or who defends him on cable TV — Pence, Kelly, Elaine Chao, former Governor Jan Brewer, Paris Dennard and others — are tarnished beyond measure as well.
Friend and regular reader Linda W. is a strong activist on environmental issues. She’s part of something called the Citizens Climate Lobby, whose white paper — which she sent me — presents this as their current mission:
“Citizens Climate Lobby, a national organization with local chapters across the United States and internationally, has promoted the carbon fee and dividend with a non confrontational methodology. Local volunteers meet regularly with their congressional representatives to encourage their support. These congressmen/women listen carefully when they see that there is support from businesses and local governmental units as well as individuals.”
Our job is to provide our representatives with the will to act. We can do this together.”
As someone who lived most of my life on the east coast but now lives in the Pacific Northwest, I experience in real time the changes to a once pristine environment and quality of life. The Washington Post made climate change in Seattle the lead story of their Daily 202:
“SEATTLE — This city known for its rain just went a record-breaking 55 days without any.
The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had not measured any precipitation since June 18 until the wee hours of Sunday morning, when it drizzled. Barely. Some sprinkles also allowed Portland to break its own 57-day dry streak.
Climate change is leading to more extreme weather, and no other region has experienced that so much over the last year as the Pacific Northwest. Seattle got 44.9 inches of rain between Oct. 1 and April 30, the wettest such period ever. That means, even with the record dry streak, 2017 remains above normal for rainfall.”
The Trump administration is hell bent on wrecking any forward momentum in dealing with the effects of climate change. Groups like the Citizens Climate Lobby are pushing back — harder when the federal government is actively opposing, but not impossible.
Linda asked if this is worth a blog post — yes. She asked if climate change action is a priority for me — yes. How can it not be for anyone who sees what is happening right before our eyes?
I fear that Trump creates such crisis fatigue that we take our eye off the ball on matters of real consequence. Are we really going to invade Venezuela?
I feel some crisis fatigue myself. After living through the turmoil of the 1960’s and 1970’s, I simply didn’t expect that country to fall into such profound conflict on all fronts yet again. I thought we’d moved beyond it, that the coolly intellectual approach of a President Obama, the value of making decisions based on evidence and real data and rigorous science, would prevail. Apparently not.
Many of us watched news of the Charlottesville Neo-Nazi protest and counter protest with horror, but from a distance. Here in Seattle we had our own protest and counter protest, which due to the work of the Seattle PD and a good bit of luck did not turn violent. When I say “a good bit of luck” I’m referring to the fact that events like this can turn violent on a dime, despite excellent police intervention. Ours did not deteriorate into a murderous rampage. The protest in Charlottesville did.
I was moved on Monday morning to read in the New York Times first-hand accounts of UVA students whose lives are forever altered by the arrival of white supremacists on their campus, angry white men and women claiming the mantle of free speech and the right of assembly to cover their violent intent.
If you haven’t seen this, you may want to read and reflect on what the students saw and heard as well:
Those of you who read the blog regularly know that I write about my Panama connection, about being a grandmother, about politics, and then about random bits that strike me. One of those random bits is the human vulnerability to which we are all subject.
Yesterday late morning I was in the women’s locker room at the Y, preparing to walk up the stairs to the exercise floor. Before setting out, I visited the bathroom, where there are about a dozen stalls and an equal number of sinks. During the week that the Y was closed for annual cleaning and upgrades, the bathroom got new stalls, with a different pattern from the ones that were there before. On the first stall, a simple “Out of Order” sign was taped on the door, which was apparently locked from the inside. A frail, elderly woman was standing in front of the sign, clearly distressed, tracing out the letters with her finger. I used one of the other toilets, and when I came out, the woman was still there, doing the same thing. She hadn’t moved.
I couldn’t tell if she was unable to read the sign — she looked English speaking, but who knows? — or distressed because her favorite stall was unavailable to her, or disoriented by the combination of the sign and the changed appearance of the stalls. But I assumed she was in that part of the locker room because she had to use the bathroom. And she was clearly making no progress finding another toilet to use on her own. The door next to her was slightly ajar, meaning that stall was empty. I pushed the door all the way open, made eye contact, smiled, and gently motioned her inside. She looked at me in vague distress for several moments, then went in and slid the lock shut.
I felt comfortable moving on, although I’m not sure what I would have done if she’d remained immobile. Found a Y staff member, probably.
The McCarthy era in the 1950’s destroyed a lot of lives. Despite that, it took a long time to bring McCarthy down. I’m struck by the number of articles drawing a parallel between Trump and McCarthy — worth a read for anyone not old enough to remember the history firsthand. Here’s one:
Trump and McCarthy shared Roy Cohn — Cohn was the lawyer for the Army McCarthy hearings, and Cohn became Trump’ s mentor — so the echoes are not surprising. Vicious bullies adept at manipulating the media and public opinion find each other, no matter what the era and how enlightened we thought we’d become.