Friday, April 30, 2010

Why The Tea Party Concept is Stupid

I've been watching the Tea Party movement with interest and that interest has turned into disappointment. You see, I was not completely happy with the outcome of the 2008 elections. Delighted as I was with the win by the Obama-Clinton ticket (okay, I am pretending she is Vice President instead of all too forgettable what's-his-name and instead of whatever all too forgettable position she really holds) I was not totally thrilled with the majority win in the legislature. There is danger in one group having too much power and there is benefit in a forum where multiple positions are forwarded and discussed and there is good when compromises that make everyone a little better off are made. But with the more or less implosion of the Republican party with their bland presidential candidate and their laughable vice presidential candidate, I was really hoping for a take-back of the party by the people. I was hoping for a resurgence of the traditional Republicans that were for less government and simpler government and accessible government and visible government and for the environment to they could hunt and fish and play in it and were for independence from other countries in the name of self-sufficiency instead of adversorialness and all those old fashioned traditional Republican values. I was hoping the traditional Republicans were going to kick the weird extreme "Religious Right" right out of their party and return to solid constitutional values of keeping government out of our religious life and our religious life out of our government. I was hoping and wishing that the Tea Party movement would be about that and about rallying support for those ideas and for recruiting new candidates aligned with those values and moving our country back to having a two party system that engaged in debate and cooperative or even competitive problem solving and real solutions.

Instead what we seem to have gotten is a motley crew of disgruntled rabblerousers hell bent on bashing Obama and blaming him for everything, including often contradictory things, that they see wrong with our nation.

But let's just go with one of their basic premises from whence they get their name: The concept of taxation, which they seem to be claiming is without representation or without adequate representation or just plain too much or something like that. And their solution seems to be that government is wrong and the process of government is wrong and they refuse to participate. So they get together now and then and insist they are not a political party for the purposes of putting forth candidates and they wave signs and yell and then they go home and brag on blogs about how many of them there were in attendance and write inflammatory pieces on the various concepts that were summarized in their misspelled signs.

But okay, I am sorry, you are NOT taxed without representation. Just because you LOST the elections does not mean you are not represented. No one guarantees everyone gets THEIR candidate in. If you are too lame and discombobulated and fractured to find GOOD candidates, well, it isn't OUR fault you lost. And WE didn't bitch about taxation w/o representation in the 8 years your guy was in the Oval office and your guys had majority rule of congress and senate. We got to work and found some good people to run.

So, we have a SYSTEM and the system works and the system represents all of us all the time even though the balance of whose side is in power may shift, so you ARE represented within this system and unless you are proposing some fixes, well, please shut the hell up.

I mean, unless you are really hoping to over throw the current government and displace the elected officials and replace the current system with your own, the only way to CHANGE anything about the system is to USE the system to change it from within. So no amount of rallying and bitching is going to fix anything. The way to end your alleged taxation without representation is to get down to work and define some platform issues that are real and honest and have broad appeal to traditional Republicans and to edit OUT the junk trash that has corrupted and tarnished and ruined your party, and by that I mean the constant references to religion and the constant attempts to intrude religion into government and the silly Obama bashing starting with the birth certificate nonsense and ending with harsh critiques of every single thing he does. And then find candidates that are willing to run on those core less-government less-expensive-therefore-less-need-for-taxes more-visible-government values and get to work getting them in office, and once they are there, don't let them waste time protecting your oil interests and your war interests, but get them to work on paring out silly laws and simplifying and restructuring and making the government truly representative of the people.

To review, the only way in this country to implement change is to work within the system to change the system. And your silly Tea Parties do nothing to that end. While I support your freedom of expression and to gather, until you get it together and start to work the system instead of rejecting it with silly anti-everything signs, I also support the right of the entire rest of the world to laugh at you.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


It was one of those family holidays where we were gathered with the cousins and aunts and uncles at Grandma's house, which was the rural equivalent of about a block away from our house on the same farmstead. In the usual way of childhood fickleness and temporary allegiances, for some reason unremembered, my sister and my cousins were refusing to play with me and I was nearly hysterical with sorrow and frustration and shame. My mother saw me crying off in some corner and rather than lecture and force the issue with the errant cousins, merely took my hand and walked me out the door. We walked to our house, where she took me into the living room and picked out not just one but a whole STACK of books, and settled me in next to her on the sofa and began to read to me. No pointless questions about why they were shunning me or who did what, but merely showing me maternal attention that was a pure and true form of affection, and showing it to me exclusively. Nestled there next to her, hearing her calm and smooth voice reading stories to me, I have never felt more loved. That moment would never leave me. No matter what happened ever, that day or for the rest of my live MY MOTHER LOVED ME. At that moment in time in fact, my mother loved me most of anyone or anything in the whole WORLD.
That is all you need to know, that one person loves you and will be on your side when you need it.
Soon, we grew a bit bored with the books and a little curious what was going on back at Grandma's house, maybe a little hungry for the lavish banquet of holiday foods, so we set back off down the path. And having established such lovely rapport with the reading, we chatted all the way and were still chatting when we walked in the kitchen door to find the family engaged in the usual chatter and laughter and banter. The cousins who had wanted nothing at all to do with me previously now realized me for the valued celebrity that I was and wanted to know where we had been and what we had been doing and suddenly wanted, needed desperately to include ME in their games and activities.
All was right with the world and I hope I gave my mother one last smile of thanks before I ran off to play with them.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lost Camera, Revisited

Some have kindly suggested that the loss of the camera frees me to enjoy the experience of paddling, to enjoy my hike in the woods, to enjoy the views and the flowers for their pure beauty instead of their potential as a photographic image, to experience the experience without the obligation to photograph.
While I appreciate the friendly efforts to console and cheer me, I cannot really relate to that advice.
To me, part of the joy of nature IS the joy of capturing it in a photograph. To me, there is joy in seeing a beautiful scene and in the process of deciding to frame just a certain part of it to convey a specific message. When you see, you see whole panoramas, you see objects in their situation and in their relationship to all the things around them, but in making an art image, you must edit out much of that and make a conscious choice of what to include and what to exclude. Those decisions determine what message the viewer will take away from the art. Sometimes, there is more than one message, such as the beauty of an individual tree in fall foliage, the beauty of that tree surrounded by others of different shape and color, the separate beauty of the relationship of the reddening leaves to the red rock that gives our Lake Redstone its name, the shape of the individual leaf, or even the vein pattern on part of that leaf. Sometimes, the plant covered in flower is one message and the individual flower with pollen drifted onto its leaves is another and the visiting bee, with its leg pollen sacks stuffed to overflowing is yet another. Ferns say one thing from this angle with the leaf litter under the fronds and another thing from another angle where they rise up to the sky. Lit from behind, the leaf is a glowing bright green that stuns while photographed from the same side as the light source presents a more solid earthy sheen to the surface. Photographing the nature is a way to look at it more deeply, in more detail, to explore the relationships among the parts of the natural world, and to enjoy far more about it than would be seen at first glance. Photographing, or rather the looking and the deciding what message to convey, make nature a richer experience for me and allow me to see more deeply into the relationships and more precisely into the details. Quick, how many lobes on a maple leaf? What is the back side of a white oak leaf like? Where are the legs attached to a bee's body? In taking the photographs and viewing them later, these sorts of things can be studied and learned.
Photography to me is NOT an obligation but a joy, and a way in which I experience more fully the joy that is out there in the world. It is also a reason to linger. Someone might think me a kook if I just stopped and lingered too long in front of their house to look at their magnolia tree buds or their rose shrub thorns quite closely, but if I have a camera in hand, I can inspect and peek and stare and study and no one calls the police or yells at me or send their dog after me. They just smile at the crazy camera lady and leave me be to my joyful soaking in of the details of the world.
And then there is the sharing it with you. I NEED those images to show to my kids and to my spouse and to my mom and to my sister, to email around to friends. to post on this blog, to post on Facebook, to share my story. "I went for a paddle today" is some news, yes, but accompanied with a dozen of the finest shots, it makes other people smile a little bit and hopefully inspires them to get outdoors for a paddle or a walk on a trail or even just around their neighborhood, and maybe the pictures of the things closeup makes them walk a little slower and look a little harder and notice things of beauty that might have been missed. Maybe it makes them love nature a little bit more and support the conservation efforts of some local organization or vote for the candidate who has a 'green' record.
A walk or a paddle with no camera is just me alone, but with a camera, I bring you all along and share it with you in that little way and it is not just me alone anymore but all of us loving nature and our surroundings together. Yeah, it really it that big. I need my camera!

The Lake's Steely Grip

I've heard the tales of others' mishaps, dropped keys, eyeglasses, sunglasses, fishing tackle, favored barware dropped from the pontoon boat serving as party barge, tools dropped while assembling and dissassembling the dock or working on a boat motor, and the very modern versions with dropped cell phones and GPS devices. So when I am out paddling in my little canoe with my treasured camera, I have a system. The camera goes into the chest pocket of my life vest in a zip lock bag. When I am taking landscape photos of the scenery and fellow paddlers, the wrist strap of the camera is snapped into the strap that holds that pocket closed. I can take most pictures with the camera safely snapped into its combined pocket strap/wrist strap tether. When I need to reach out to take a shot of a shoreline flower or the leaves of an overhanging branch, the wrist strap goes around my wrist where it belongs. Alas, the weak point in that fine chain of safety procedures is the transfer point between pocket and wrist, and it was just such a weak point that allowed my beloved camera to be stolen from me last week. I was drifting under some overhanging shoreline branches trying to shoot a little bright green plant growing in a leaf litter filled gap in a tree root that had been eroded bare along the bank, when I decided I had to put the camera away and do some serious remaneuvering to get around an offending shrub that was blocking the perfect angle. I had slipped the camera off my wrist and was moving it to the vest pocket when my boat drifted me into a tree branch that snagged the camera and some other part of me or my boat then released itself to fling the camera out into the water. At least that is what I think happened. One moment I was sliding the camera into its plastic bag lined pocket and the next, I was watching bubbles rise about a foot and an half from my boat.
I stared at the bubbles, stunned. I cussed. I tried to look down into the water to see if it was visible. I stuck my paddle straight down in to see how deep it was: about 4 feet. When you can't swim, four feet under water might as well be fifty. There was no way I could go into the water along that shore of rocky boulders to ever try to get it back, especially not when out there alone. The lake had my camera as though in a steel trap, as though buried a dozen yards underground, as though on the surface of the moon. I would not be taking any more pictures with that one or even retrieving from it all the wonderful shots I had taken so far that day. I cussed some more. I cried. I called my husband on my cell phone, daring the risk of the loss of another electronic devise. He said it was just stuff and to enjoy the rest of my paddle. I cried some more. And paddled away, after one last look at the unphotographed pretty little plant growing in the tree root. And I paddled resolutely down the middle of the channel to the lake. With no camera to photograph it, I chose to avoid the shoreline with its taunting spring wildflowers and fresh green mosses and ferns and rock shapes and sculptural tree roots. I stayed out farther in the deeper water and paddled continuously, testing my stamina and my fears of the deeper waters. I paddled one landmark past the farthest I have paddled alone and then turned around to head for home. It was about then, in that last half hour before sunset, that the light wind diminished totally, and the clear bright light of the low angled sun made the shoreline trees glow warm and brilliant. The reflections in the water were perfect, rippled slightly in a uniform pattern, much like looking at a mirror made of antique rolled glass. I could read the words of the shoreline signs in their reflections, I could see individual catkins on the reflections of the birch trees, I could count the five individual needles that identify the shoreline trees as white pines in their beautiful perfect reflections. Ah, the photographs I could have taken. But I just paddled slowly, cognizant of the limited daylight left in which to make my way back to the home dock. I stopped now and then to drift and soak in the beautiful perfect views. It occurred to me at one point that the views were so perfect that it was as if there was no surface to the water and I was suspended above a perfect upside down world. I decided not to dwell on that thought too long, lest it rouse my latent fear of heights to combine with my suppressed fear of water which might come to bad result in my heightened emotional state of loss about the camera and joy about the beauty around me. So I paddled and drifted and enjoyed the amazing reflections of the beautiful nature of the lake.
And in case you are fond of details, I ordered a replacement camera last night. It was a $215 mistake.

Friday, April 9, 2010

They Grow Up So Fast

I am going to try to write this without crying. People tell you this when you are pregnant and when your kids are little: Enjoy them while they are young because they grow up too fast. I am kind of a bitch about being told what to do, especially by strangers, but this one, I always welcomed. I had known friends and relatives who had kids years before me and now some of those babies were in their early teens. I knew it was so so true, and I welcomed those occasional reminders.
And I did treasure my kids. I held my babies more than the books said you should and I took too much time off from work to hang out with them and sometimes I left work early to get them out of daycare just because I missed them. I tried to remember to take them special places on days off and weekends and in the summer. I tried to remember to take them with me on errands as often as they would agree to come with me and I tried to talk to them in the car and at dinner and whenever I got a chance. Sometimes I am sure they were rolling their eyes, thinking, Jeeze, Mom, get your own life.
And now, now the oldest one has been at college for three years and I still miss him every day and the youngest one is deciding which college to go to in the fall, an especially mean trick of life since having him be my only child has made me get to know and adore and enjoy him more than ever.
And so, there is this thing I do. When I am out in public places, I smile at kids and I smile at their parents and sometimes I even tell them something good about their kids. "Aw, even when he is tired and a little cranky, he still cracks a beautiful smile" or "Your kids play together really well!"
Today, at a cafe in a big department store, a tiny boy was crying and having a fit as his grandmother was trying to watch him while the mother got their meals. But the grandmother gave up and took him to his mother, so when the mother got to the table with all their meals stacked on one tray in one hand and the boy in the other arm, she set down the tray and roughly plunked him into his seat. He was at the edge of crying all over again. I looked him straight in the eyes and smiled my biggest goofiest smile. He smiled back. His mother noticed and I smiled at her. She said "Oh, aren't you a pretty boy!" and went from angry and frustrated to delighted in her beautiful son again.

It's a small gift I can give to remind tired and cranky parents what a joy their kids are and it takes some of the sting out of how grown up and independent my own boys are.
Yes, I miss them as they move on to their own lives, but it's what we have them for: To enjoy and shape and send out into the world to make their own ways. My success at raising them to be competent and confident was due to involvement that makes it all the more bittersweet for the connections we share.

If you are a parent of young kids now, take a deep breath and reach for the joy: Appreciate them as much as you can every moment of every day because the DO grow up so so fast.

If you are a parent whose kids have grown up and moved on, take the time to share a smile with somebody else's kids and to remind them to enjoy their beautiful children who will grow up oh so much too fast too!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Yes, I know: Resolutions are usually made at the beginning of the New Year, around the first of January. But as a person subject to Seasonal Affective Depression Disorder (S.A.D.D.) who is prone to deep dark moods in winter and also subject to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (A.D.H.D.) who tends to go overboard with enthusiasm for things and then abandon them with equal fervor, January just seems like a bad time for introspection and goal setting. The introspection is apt to be overly critical and dark, due to my moodiness from lack of sunshine. And I am apt to go gung-ho off into some therefore misguided self-improvement plan then abandon it in despair and misery when it does not yield immediate and abundant results. Instead, winter for me, post-holidays, is mainly a matter of 'getting through'. Getting up and getting showered and dressed each day can be hurdle enough and seeing some people and doing some things are added bonuses. Just get by.
The turning point for me is spring break. Having kids who, to my thinking, must be entertained in grand manner during their holiday from school forces me to focus on planning a trip and executing the steps to get us there. Once on our trip, there is time during each day of touristy touring and quiet nature appreciation to objectively think and assess and analyze and ponder what has been going on and where improvements could be made. And then, on return, when the days are longer and the weather more mild and the flowers blooming on the trees and the ground, I can make my list of what I want to do and accomplish and change and improve. The list will be made on the optimism of spring rather than the gloom of winter and I can immediately begin to put my plans in action and expect a measure of success. The list is make, the process begins. Happy New Year!