An almost all-white robin is nesting in one of the hemlocks in my neighbor’s yard. Her tail feathers are almost all white. So are the feathers on her wings. Her breast is mottled – white, splotched with rusty red.
She stays close to her nest. White feathers are more fragile, and when she flies, it’s only a short distance. She hops along, pecking for bugs, only returning home with a fat worm or scrap of something to line her nest.
The difficulty in describing her simple life is ironically overwhelming. She is likely mostly white because of some industrial pollution. She is vulnerable because she’s so physically different from others of her species.
Yet, she’s nesting. Building a home.
An almost all-white robin. Brown head, rusty red collar, white eye–ring, fragile white tail and wing-feathers. Unable to fly far, destined to over-winter here.
I hope to sell my home, soon. I will also need to dispose of virtually all its contents. The garden tractor that cost more than my first new car, the wheelbarrows, a constellation of garden tools, hundreds of feet of garden hose, extension cords, etc., and even the house, will be easier to part with than the antiques that were entrusted to me by my ancestors.
The easiest way to do this may be to hire an auctioneer to inventory, appraise and advertise the family treasures before the house is on the market, but I’d like to give the next owners of this home priority. I’ve spent thousands moving, storing and insuring this stuff, and truthfully, I wish I didn’t have to part with it, but if I can be sure it goes to someone who will appreciate it and care for it, I will feel better.
I have no idea how to do this. I’d appreciate any thoughtful suggestions.
While my brothers were sliding beneath the table in a restaurant in an effort to kick each other, or reaching over me or one of my parents to stab each other with their dinner forks, I’d invariably spot an older person eating alone. As I wiped my tears with a napkin, my mother would silently hand me a tissue.
Because of my mother, who handed me a tissue without making eye contact, I’ve never had to say to my own children, “Others have it worse.”
“Harmless pranks,” said one mom, shaking her head, “kid are kids.”
“The kids are ready for Spring break,” laughed another. “They get to take time off from school, but I still have to work!”
Neither seemed upset. Many residents don’t like to discuss incidents such as these, for a variety of reasons, principally the belief it makes our community look bad. Others clearly have a different perspective, noting the incidents are completely normal, and even celebrate them.
“How many times did we blow something up in the Chemistry lab? It was my best memory of high school.”
‘We were so bad, we gave three of our teachers nervous breakdowns.”
“I think it’s pretty funny. ”
“No one takes this seriously. None of these kids are bad; they’re just mischievous.”
When a handful of students walked out of class on March 24, some called for them to face harsh discipline for their open defiance of authority, although some teachers and a handful of community activists helped them stage the protest. Others rolled their eyes and characterized the event as an opportunity to get out of class.
Bomb threats and a student protest in commemoration of the deaths in Parkland Florida are not equivalent, but it’s impossible to explain the difference to those who believe they are, and self-defeating to suggest their observations are inaccurate, their personal experiences false, or their opinions wrong.
I won’t offer facts, or express an opinion.
I’ll just leave this here, for your consideration, if desired.
I didn’t worry that I’d lost my voice because it was constantly screaming in my head. I needed to remain still for awhile, to filter out the noise of others’ anger.
Each of us is entitled to our own thoughts, which have been formed by our education and forged by our personal experience. Although the combination of these two influences require me to listen to the opinions of others, I’ve reached the point where I can no longer thoughtfully consider those that are driven by fear.
Without our permission, fear-based and emotionally driven schools of thought have infiltrated our thoughts and lives. It’s tough not to be intimidated, because their proponents wield guns instead of ideas, but as anyone who is sentient realizes, firearms are incapable of rational thought.
This is America, like it or not. I do not like it.
I can’t ignore the increasingly angry voices whose fear is infectious. While I’ve been taught there’s a difference between righteous and self-righteous anger, and separate these opinions into two distinct categories, I am spending more time filtering angry messages than I would voluntarily choose, and struggle with the impulse to react, to denounce, to use facts as proof in order to persuade those who have been indoctrinated with fear-based beliefs. I have been so intimidated by the proponents of irrational schools of thought, I avoid listening to them, or reading their words.
Fear is a powerful motivator, as the small group of children who survived yet another school shooting have demonstrated. They’re pushing back with courage against the fear of those who have abandoned rational thought. These kids demonstrate that courage is more influential than fear.
Despite all they’ve been through, they’ve retained clarity of thought, without the noise of anger and fear.
We can learn from them.
Those who claim they aren’t are perhaps the most troubled of all.
I’ve been most troubled lately by my inability to “be positive,” to “count my blessings,” to “bring joy,” or to embrace similar well-worn adages. I find myself constantly lapsing into cynicism, and eventually realized that in some circumstances, cynicism is healthy. A low bullshit tolerance is a valuable trait.
I’ve become better at distinguishing the strength and wisdom that sometimes arises after a loss from the false bravado that accompanies denial. Our experiences inevitably change us, but if we are truly fortunate, we are able to resist allowing them to define us.
Some of you are nodding in agreement, while many are shaking your heads, insisting I’ve offered yet another platitude, negating my own thesis. I will offer this suggestion to cynics. Hang onto that cynicism. It is a far better state of mind than anger, and the best alternative to despair. I won’t offer examples, as I’m sure each of you can identify legions of them. We each have our favorites, supplied by our individual experience, and each day adds more opportunities to hone our cynical skills.
One caveat: be judicious with your cynicism. If you know something is wrong, don’t allow cynicism to cause you to second guess your judgment. Do not let it cloud your assessment of truth. Do not permit it to temper your joy.
Many of us are suffering from mental fatigue in varying degrees. The negativity that has been the recurrent theme of the past year has affected us all.
We try to laugh, but it’s forced, or our laughter is inappropriate. Others’ attempts to lighten our moods fail, or meet with resistance.
We feel angry and express that anger all too often.
We’re edgy, and cranky. Sometimes we say things we don’t mean, and wish we could take them back.
I’ve had too many “Debbie Downer moments” recently, when I’ve said something completely irrelevant to the conversation that sucked the joy from the moment. I heard the “wah-wah” of the trombone even as the words exited my mouth, and wished I could rewind, or highlight and delete.
On some occasions, tubas have joined the trombones.
I used to take pride in my ability to laugh at myself, but there’s no way to reframe these moments as humorous. My commentary wasn’t purposely hurtful, critical, or inaccurate. It wasn’t malicious, cruel or insensitive. It was, quite simply, stupid. That’s not suggesting it was excusable.
To their credit, those who know me well have laughed and teased me afterwards, witnessing my horrified and humiliated expression. Some have flashed disapproving looks, and others’ faces have expressed bemusement that I’ve said something they agreed with, but knew better than to express aloud.
Stupid statements can’t be ignored, or worse, glossed over. They most certainly cannot be forgotten. They can sometimes be forgiven, depending on who made them, and the circumstances in which they’re made, but there’s no way to retract the words once they’ve been uttered, either verbally or in print.
We all have the right to express our views honestly. Irony, sarcasm and parody have their place, and context is important.
I’ve never been and do not aspire to be, a preacher. This is intended to be an apology, rather than an explanation. When someone offers a sincere apology, the circumstances and the apologist’s character should be considered, but neither is exculpatory.
This is also a promise. I will make a conscious effort to think before I speak, to choose my words carefully, and to be thoughtful of those who hear, or read, my words.
If I fail, please bring the entire brass section of the orchestra, and the marching band.
If you think I’m deserving, please forgive me.
I was 12 years old.
There were piles of burning rubble and young women and men, a few years older than I, carrying machine guns, everywhere.
We visited the Dome of the Rock, the Mount of Olives, and the dead sea. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a Greek Orthodox priest stroked the back of my head and looked at me with kind eyes as he said the word, “angel,” in English.
Jerusalem is a holy place to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
It is no holier to one religion than to another.