Monday, August 22, 2016

12 Months of Miss Read: August

The backstory: At the start of 2016, I pulled out my very favorite Miss Read book, Village Centenary.  The novel is structured in months and each chapter explores a month in the year of a village school that is celebrating its 100th anniversary.  This year, my own school is celebrating its 250th anniversary and as we think of our past and look to our future, I thought that Miss Read would make a lovely companion for me.  For each month of 2016, I plan to read Miss Read’s reflection on the month.

Miss Read is a pseudonym for Dora Jessie Saint, an English author who wrote between 1955 and 1996.  Her novels were tales of every day life in small English towns.  Village Centenary is set in Fair Acre, an imaginary Cotswold community.  As is the case in nearly all of the Fair Acre novels, the novel is written in the first person and it is through our narrator, school teacher Miss Read, that the story unfolds.

August with Miss Read
By August, Miss Read is enjoying her summer break.  She fits in some overdue chores, works in her garden, and plans time away from home.  That’s a month a great deal like my own.  As the close of August approaches, Miss Read sees signs of the coming fall on her outdoor walks.  I read of this cooling weather with some envy, as we’ve had a sweltering hot August.  But yesterday brought an afternoon rainstorm and with the rain came cooler weather and an easing of the humidity.  When I walked out to the porch this morning, it was refreshing and lovely, with a cool morning and a breeze on the wind.

As August bends past its halfway point, my preparations for school fill my days.  I’m not ready to give up the leisurely mornings (or the flip flops!) but there is comfort in the return to our school routines.  Miss Read, who also begins school in September, certainly understands how it feels.  

I like the fact that Miss Read and I are on the same trajectory in the month of August.  In so many ways, this character is a companion to me.  We share a strong sense of the school as the center of a community of people who care about one another.  She looks for happiness and finds it.  She's content and not afraid to feel that way.  She unfailingly reminds me to stop and mark the passage of time and honor its meaning in my corner of the world.  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Sound of Summer

We’ve reached the point in August when the heat simmers in the afternoons, glasses fog up when you step outside, and the buzz of the cicadas can be heard in the evenings and early mornings, drowning out the air conditioners, and reminding me that August days pass quickly.

JT started fall sports practice, I finally cleaned off my desk, and I’ve started to organize my classroom.  I’ve cleaned off my office bulletin board and begun to sort out the things I will pin on it this year.  We’ve all got September on the mind.  I’m getting ready to welcome back students.  JT is hurriedly at work to finish his summer reading assignments.  The familiar routines of the school year are beginning, and soon we’ll be settled in.

But there is still time for a leisurely morning on the porch, for extra time with a good book, for a lazy afternoon nap.  So I am soaking up all that summer offers while it’s still here for the taking.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Flower Friday

Week by week, more zinnias are blooming.  That means more bouquets are coming my way.

That’s happy!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Green, Green Grass

Normally, August’s heat results in lawn that looks parched.  Mowing slows down to once every two weeks.  This summer, we had a period of dry heat in late June.  August has determined to make up for that and though it’s been hot, that heat has been accompanied by otherworldly humidity and frequent drenching rainstorms.  The grass isn’t parched; it’s thick and damp. The mower is earning its keep this August.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tuesday Garden Update: August 16

Last week, I treated the tomato plants for blight, which is always of feature of my August garden.  Happily, plenty of tomato blooms are still setting and I expect plenty more tomatoes will be served at our supper table.

The zinnias have come along nicely and I’ve the privilege of picking a bouquet each week.  

That’s happy!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

On Electoral Legitimacy

While I don’t think it’s been lost in the daily attention to Trump’s latest ridiculous claims, I confess that I am increasingly concerned about his suggestions that he believes the election may be rigged.  In a democracy, that’s a dangerous charge to be throwing around, especially when it’s not born out by the facts.  I think that Trump is like a playground bully, hedging against the prospect that he will lose the election by floating the suggestion the whole process is illegitimate in the first place.  This is easy to dismiss, because it’s part of the usual Trump bluster and attack mode.  But such claims are deadly dangerous to our democracy and they must not be ignored.

Whether or not Trump actually thinks the process is rigged, the claim that it is sets up a very dangerous precedent.  It means that when he loses in November, he can derail our representative democracy and our Constitution all in an effort to assuage his outsized bruised ego.  Rather than graciously cede defeat to Hillary Clinton on November 8, he can instead announce that he was robbed, thus encouraging his followers to believe that our entire system of government is illegitimate.  His contributions to the Barack Obama birther movement suggest that he’s more than willing to derail democracy to promote himself.

A false claim that our system is “rigged” has the potential to do real and lasting damage to our republic.  The American system isn’t perfect; nothing is.  But neither is the system rigged.  We don’t have a problem with voter fraud (see this to understand just how little fraud exists).  The electoral college is peculiar and complicated, a creation of founders who worried about uncertainty as an electoral outcome.  But it is not rigged.  

Democratic systems like ours are built upon a foundation of trust and legitimacy.  Elections only work as a method for selecting leaders if all the participants fundamentally believe that a fair system is just that.  Winners of elections are seated into power; losers are free to criticize leadership and participate in other ways.  If electoral losers instead criticize the system as rigged or unfair, we all lose.  When the legitimacy of the system is in doubt, representative democracy fails.  

All of us need to call out Donald Trump on the matter of electoral legitimacy.  We cannot let him pretend that the election is rigged.  It is not an exaggeration to write that such claims can ruin our republic.  I commend the Republican leaders who have been critical of Trump on this matter.  I respect the fact that their desire for their party to hold control of government has a boundary of decency.  The rest of us, especially the media and Republican leaders in Congress, must also call out Trump on these dangerous false claims.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

August on the Front Porch

We returned from California late on Tuesday and seem to have brought sultry heat with us.  It’s good for the plants, though a little withering for me.  Even so, August is the last full month of leisurely summer days and I am out on the porch as much as possible.  I put out my weathered polka dot tablecloth.

My handmade patriotic wreath was set away for next July and the green-ribboned bow is back.

The impatiens by the rocker and in the planter by the front door are fuller at this point in the summer.

August mornings are a reminder that summer is fleeting.  I’m determined to enjoy them, heat and all.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Flower Friday

The zinnia season has arrived in my garden and each week, I can treat myself to a fresh-picked bouquet of cheery flowers.  This makes me ridiculously happy, as if summer might very well last forever.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Tuesday Garden Update: August 9

 I’ve been away for the last week, making my annual trip to visit family in my hometown.  The break from daily life was lovely but I have missed checking in on my lush garden.  This morning’s walk through my garden was exhilarating.

There are tomatoes to enjoy with our supper.  There are enough zinnias to pick my first bouquet of the season.  Better than that, is the promise of may bouquets yet to come.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Three Boys

We made our annual August visit to California last week and that meant a chance for my sister’s boys and JT to get together.  Since 2006, I have made it a tradition to take their picture together.   That year, we took a sweaty pack of boys to Disneyland.

In 2016, they’ve grown quite a bit larger but remain good friends.  

As the photo attests, my nephews come from tall stock.  On the left is C, a tall 6 foot 3.  His baby brother S is 6 foot 8.  JT, at 5 foot 9, is at the small end of this threesome.  The little boys, JT and S, are headed into the 11th grade; the big one, C, packs off for college in a few weeks.  They’ve been friends their whole lives, a very happy thing.