Sunday, August 20, 2017

Muddy Man-Child

Yesterday, JT and some of his cross country teammates, including his coach and some assorted friends of the team, joined one another for a local mud run.  He’s never participated in an event like this, but for a boy who grew up logging countless hours at local parks and playing in puddles, it was a fitting start to his final high school cross country season.  The race was a 5k, punctuated by 21 muddy obstacles.  The team started off clean but ended rather muddy.  JT ran the race with his buddies L and E.

At the final obstacle, there was no avoiding the mess.

They got right in it and triumphed.

After a wash in the outdoor showers, the racers celebrated their finish.

I was a spectator to the muddy spectacle, marveling at how much my kid loves a messy challenge and reflecting on the places I will travel to watch him race.

Senior season, here we come.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Timely Reminder

The flower pots on my backpack are a source of daily happiness to me.  They are lush and bright and as the August days slip past I am yet again aware of how fleeting this summer has been.

School starts in a few weeks; JT has already begun practice for his last high school cross country season.  The amount of sunlight in our days is slowly shrinking.  While the summer lasts, I’m determined to enjoy the time to relax and lift my face to the light.  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Garden Report, Week Eleven: Monday, August 14

We’ve had a nice, wet summer and all around the backyard things remain green and lush.  

The garden has reached the abundant harvest point in the season and that’s really quite lovely to behold.

We’ve enough tomatoes for BLT sandwiches, caprese salads, fresh chopped salsa, and bruschetta whenever we please.  

That’s happy!

Monday, August 14, 2017

August 14 in My America

It’s Monday, the day I usually post a few pictures of my garden and reflect upon the growing season to date.  But today, a garden post can wait in favor of a more serious discussion about race in America.  I have been teaching U.S. history for more than 20 years, so it’s fair to say I have spent a good deal of time thinking about racism in this nation.  It’s part of the very fabric of our founding and cannot be ignored if you wish to understand who were were in 1607, let alone 2017.

As any historian can tell you, this nation has made progress on inclusion and equality, but not so much progress that racism is gone.  Our progress is well short of perfection.  We may have elected an African-American president in 2008, but we’re not in post-racial America.  There can be no such animal in a country founded upon the original sin of slavery.   Which is not to say that we can’t get better, that we can’t work to fulfill Martin Luther King’s dream.  We can and we must.  But neither can we pretend that more than 250 years of legal slavery founded upon racist principles can be wiped out in a century and half.  Some problems take longer to correct than they took to create.  And this is one hell of a problem.

Since the events in Charlottesville over the weekend, I’ve seen plenty of people of color reject the sentiment of well-meaning whites who saw the weekend’s white supremacist rally and claim, “This isn’t America.”  In fact, this is very much America.  We are a place that incarcerates blacks at a greater rate than whites.  We are a place that memorializes Confederate history as if it is a benign story of disagreements instead of an ugly tale of gross racial inequality and injustice.  The North may have won the Civil War but the South won Reconstruction.  We can’t even acknowledge that fact.  We are a place where opportunities are not equally available.  We are a nation founded in slavery, often unwilling to own up to all that implies about the truth of our origins.

That is our America.  

But it needn’t continue to be our America.  It’s not mine; not the country I want for my fellow Americans; not the country I think we can be.  Martin Luther King told us that the arc of history is long but that it always bends toward justice.  I would add that the bend toward justice happens more rapidly when we push it in that direction.  That means speaking out, especially when it is uncomfortable to do so. That means acknowledging the ways in which privileges for some of us has meant exclusion for others.  That means demanding that we live up to the promises of equality and justice in our founding documents.  We didn’t do it at our founding.  We don’t do it now. 

But this is our America and we can be better than we are.  In point of fact, we must be better.  We must make this the nation we want it to be; an America for everyone.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

An Open Note to the GOP

You pride yourself on being the party of Ronald Reagan, the grand old party of Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.  None of those leaders were perfect, though Lincoln may have come close.  But please understand in the coming years that your continued willingness to tolerate Donald Trump will wipe out all those other distinctions and forever brand you the party of Donald Trump.

Whether or not you truly understood that Trump’s rhetoric would normalize the kind of white nationalists who marched in Virginia over the weekend, the fact is that he has done that.  You’ve had plenty of time to see Donald Trump for the bigot and nationalist that he is.  When he ran a campaign promising to make America great again, you knew that meant he longed for a world of unquestioned privilege and power for men like himself.  You put up with it because you hated the Clintons and you wanted a Republican Supreme Court nominee.  It was a craven political calculation.

On Saturday, you reaped the reward for those decisions when your president couldn’t summon the character or the will to stand up and reject white nationalist fascists and Nazi sympathizers. This president is yours now.  In the coming days if you don’t condemn Donald Trump and seek to remove him from office for his obvious abdication of leadership then his stink will taint your party forever.   You will be the party of Trump.  Generations to follow will know that first when the name Republican is invoked.  You will stand for bigotry, intolerance, racism, and exclusion.

Your move, GOP.  One of you must show some courage and take the lead.  The nation is watching.  The clock is ticking.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Value of a Green Thumb

Last summer, I got myself a small fuchsia plant.  It thrived on the front porch.  It came indoors for the winter and at first seemed to do fine.  Then it hit an unhappy patch and has looked peaked every since.  It came back outside in May and all summer long I’ve nursed it along.  In the past few weeks, it’s finally started to look better.  There are nearly a dozen flower blooms in the process of making an appearance.

It has tiny leaves looking like they are set in to stay.

Amongst the other front porch plants, it still looks a bit anemic, but it’s coming along nicely.  Flowers and plants provide me with a satisfaction and happiness that endures long after a hard day.  They are my reminder to be patient, to live in the moment, and to invest time and care in the world even when results seem elusive.  

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Harvest News

I’ve reached the point in the garden season that I can pop into the backyard for a tomato whenever I please.  This is a very happy development.

There are enough tomatoes to have one with supper nearly every night.  I serve them in salads, made into bruschetta, or even freshly sliced on a plate with some salt and pepper.  But we love them best piled high into a BLT.

That’s happy!

Monday, August 07, 2017

Garden Report, Week Ten: Monday, August 7

I have had a few cherry tomatoes in the previous weeks, one at a time.  There were plenty more on the plants, so I knew those one tomato days were just a beginning.  Early last week, there were four cherry tomatoes one day, a teasing promise of a harvest to come.

This week is looking very promising.

We’ll have plenty for supper this week and Im already thinking about how delicious that will be.  

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Water Lily

There is a small ornamental pond at the Colonial Park flower garden and when I visit the garden I always stop to admire the water lilies.  

I’ve not ever seen a lily in this shade of pink and the reflection of the clouds above on the placid water was lovely.  I wasn’t sure how the picture would turn out, but I am pleased with the results.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Front Porch in August

When I lived in Nebraska, there was a house by a local bridge over the Missouri River with a row of plastic ducks in the front yard.  The ducks were always dressed in seasonal clothing.  From red, white and blue capes for the 4th of July to Halloween costumes, these ducks were on target each time I saw them.  I was regularly bemused by the duck project and sometimes think of that house as I plan the display that decorates my front porch for each month of the year.  I enjoy organizing the wreaths, flags, lights, and table items that I set out.   I think they make my porch a welcoming place.
Just as I imagine that the duck lady planned ahead, I keep my eye out for items that will look good on the porch.  Over the years, I’ve accumulated a nice collection of things to set out; I enjoy the variety.  From polka dot pots to plant stakes, the collection of porch ephemera makes me smile.  In the summer, there are plants and flowers outside, soaking up the sun. My shefflura plant has had a splendid growing season and now towers over the other plants on the table.  It will need a new pot before it comes inside for the the cold season.  

Each morning, I take my coffee and book out to the porch and enjoy them as I plot the course of my day. These hopeful begonias have been putting on a splendid display all Summer and I like the way they welcome the day.  Flowers can be over-the-top without seeming garish and I admire that trait.

The summertime popsicle flag will enjoy one more happy month.

My purple violets seem to be past their prime, but the New Guinea Impatien baskets that T gave me are still looking quite lovely.  I gave the trailing vinca a bit of a haircut to keep things in order and think I’ll have these baskets through September, a cheerful thought.

This striped wreath is my go-to for the summer months.  

I sit out on my cheerful porch a great deal in the Summer.  I listen to the birds chirp, I read and daydream, and I admire the blooms.  In warm weather, it’s my favorite room in the house, a visible reminder to stop and enjoy all the happy things in my world.