Thursday, October 30, 2008

and now for something completely different...

...and if you are a Monty Python fan, you know that what ever follows this line is more of the same and not at all different.

It is shortly before 10 PM, which is very late for me, especially these days when every day requires me to be up in time to give Nino kitty his morning insulin shot. The occasional weekend days of letting John get up to feed cats and dog while I get a couple of extra hours of sleep are gone for the present. I have had some thoughts knocking around in my head for several days, so despite my need for sleep, I'm going to try to capture a few of them and try to pin them down in linear fashion.

We (John and I) have become campaign junkies, turning on the cable morning shows when we get up, and watching the cable prime time shows each night. In between we read stories on the Internet between work tasks. I am filled with both hope and fear. This is I think a moment in our country's history when big changes could actually happen -- changes that could reverse the trends of increasing inequality and a thinning of the middle class; trends that, as a sociologist, I have tracked with concern for three decades. It is also a time when subterranean rifts of race, ethnicity, religion, and culture, could come to the surface in disruptive or even violent ways.

In spite of -- or is it because of -- my preoccupations with matters politic, I find that these last two weeks have been filled with moments of great peace and awe as I drive back and forth to work through our glorious, gold and scarlet autumn mountains. Every October, I have the same thought -- this year is so beautiful, so much more intense and colorful than last year. I think that this is because the human mind is not sufficient to hold on to this glory of nature; of necessity it must fade in our memory to something less than it is. So each year it appears as new and miraculous and more beautiful than ever.

We humans try, through photographs, paintings, poetry and prose to capture the color, the light, the awesome beauty of autumn in the eastern United States. But none of it is quite as rich, as warm, as thrilling as the real thing. How extraordinary it is, that what we humans cannot quite capture or remember fully, nature is able to reproduce exactly, perfectly, with out error year after year.

I think that I am lucky to live here at this moment in time. Seventy or eighty years ago most of these mountains were timbered, and it was decades before the forest grew back. In the present day strip mining is taking more and more of the forest cover, leaving behind bare grassy mounds, that take decades to regain any shrubbery much less trees. Also a century ago, even before the timbering the forest was different, with American elms and chestnut trees, where now maples with their flaming scarlet leaves fading to yellow, deep red oaks, yellow poplars and buckeye dominate. If climate warms and summer lengthens, and winters moderate, perhaps these trees will be succeeded by still others. This would likely change the autumn palette. So I am thankful to be here now, to come around a bend and see rising before me hillsides banked with scarlet, flame and gold.

The politics is important, it matters, but one must keep things in perspective.


Jessica G said...

I feel the same way about the elections. Most of the morning before I leave for work is spent tying shoes and flipping between CNN and our local news. I too, am filled with both hope and fear. I hope Obama can win it and I fear my education, job and goals that I have set will be stopped in their tracks.


Sue said...

I'm planning on getting to the polls EARLY!!