The other week I was home in Washington State while my Aunt Leslie visited. She wanted to see some local sights -- in the Aunt Leslie sense, which is to say less along the lines of driving to Seattle to go up the Space Needle, and more along the lines of walking through the woods and collecting samples of bark, moss, lichen, and other textures. We went to a park in North Everett, a little overlook whose name I do not know, with a view out over the Sound past the tip of Jetty Island. It was not 'charming'. It was an ordinary place, strange to me, and I was somehow delighted. Overcast late-afternoon light disclosed brambles on the bluff -- train tracks and idle tanker cars at the bottom -- a sand road and puddles near the water's edge. To my left I spotted a patch of dry brown weeds, white fluff still waiting to disperse their seeds, and went over for a look. Something in that place sang to me -- something about its isolation, its plainness, its strangeness, its neglectedness. And until the humid and chill air robbed me of all comfort and I retreated to the car, I wandered gently about the place -- browsing, savoring, smiling.
Then and now, the more I think upon this feeling the more my thoughts turn to Ukraine and the former Soviet Union. It's a place where the grand and the common overlap, where abandoned industry sits amid green fields, where plainness is a virtue and an inescapable, and where my feet trod a thousand common paths. It breathes tragedy, yes, but also the austere and abundant creations of both nature and man, and both its sadness and its hope are more beautiful than I can say.
A New Abolitionism
In late 1918, armistice was signed and the 'war to end all wars' drew to a close. The treaties that followed did not abolish war; they scarcely held its passion in check for two decades. Since World War One we on this earth have put the lie to its slogan often and broadly. But fifteen years still remain to us until the centennial of that armistice. It is not too little time to reclaim a vision -- not too little time to remand war to barbarous peoples -- not too little time to redeem peace. May true stories teach us in these years -- then perhaps the new century will do what we honorably dreamed in 1918.
Um, uh, you know
Filler words don't get much respect. But they are getting some attention. Seems they're not necessarily the worthless random vocal tics that your schoolmarm said they were.