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Monthly Archives: August 2009


Rowan Berries and Blushing Haws

August is one of my favorite times of year.  Here in Minneapolis, MN, the rowan tree in my back garden is full of brilliant orange berries. My hawthorn tree is laden with haws, the fruit of the whitethorn, turning from green to pink on their way to deep crimson.  The bees are ecstatically harvesting the nectar from my hissop flowers.  I have a few tomatoes ripening on the vines amid the other curious plants in my herb patch.  I am nurturing a Scarlet Firethorn and a variety of winter-hardy holly which, in a few years, I hope will take over that space beside the patio.  My two hazel trees are doing well.  The male, which started as a contorted hazel, but was smashed by some workers taking down a neighbor’s elm, is now about twelve feet tall.  The little female is bearing lovely plump nuts again this year.  Of course the squirrels always whisk them away before I can see the matured nuts, but that’s all right.  My garden fruits are mostly for the benefit of the little creatures.

This morning we had a beautiful crashing thunderstorm roll through just at sunrise and it is still quite dark and drippy.  But that did not stop my wee cat Minerva from begging to go out and hunt.  So many chipmunks, so little time!  Among the dead bodies buried in my garden, I  now number a crow.  A very large and handsome fellow, all in shining black.  I do not know how he died.  Perhaps just passed away i his sleep perched in the ash trees and fell beside my drive.  No signs of a fight.  No reason to suspect fowl play.  I gave him a burial and laid a large flagstone over his grave.  A worthy familiar of Bran the Blessed and the Great Queen Maeve.  Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

This year we have had uncommonly cool dry weather.  It has only decided to be rainy this past month and we have had a few hot days.  Beautiful weather on the whole.  Because of the lack of heat and humidity, it has not been a good summer for tornadoes. However, we did have the excitement of a couple of small tornadoes that went right through downtown Minneapolis.  Little damage, but quite amazing.  Of course, here at home we saw nothing except on the telly.  It was perhaps thirty blocks away from us, so all we had was the rain.  Personally, I think the presence of a convention of Lutheran ministers trying to decide whether they would allow openly gay ministers had something to do with the tornado passing directly over the convention center.  Just a little reminder of who is boss?

I prefer to sit and watch the growing things and the beauty of the natural world, rather than to listen to all the troubling news on the radio.  The idea that people are mounting threatening and abusive protests to disrupt the “own hall” meetings of their congressional delegates is in itself appalling, but the fact that they are protesting the attempt to reform the healthcare and health insurance system is horrifying and disgusting.  Once again, I am ashamed of my fellow Americans.  Why do we have to be this way?  Why do humans resort to verbal abuse and conflict instead of coming together to solve problems?  More especially problems that have the capacity to destroy our entire economy.

It is particularly perplexing to me that so many of these people who do not wish to do anything to help the poor and disadvantaged call themselves Christians.  What Jesus do they think they are following?

I do have at least a little sense of history, and to watch an element in our society rise up and call the liberal government “fascists” and compare it to the Nazi party of Germany strikes fear into my heart.  Because these people seem to me to be just like Hitler’s “brownshirts.”  They are rabble-rousers playing on the emotions of the mob and working them with lies to create a climate of hysterical fear.  Hitler rose to power by whipping up the fear of communists in the German people.  It was a real fear for Germany with the Russian Revolution on the other side of Poland.  But these people today, who presumably also call themselves Republicans, are raising boogey men, a straw man they call “Socialism” and “Big Government” which have nothing at all to do with party politics.  Both of the major parties in America have continuously increased the size and power of the federal government.  And no one has demonstrated that doing so is intrinsically bad.

Instead, there is this loud and violent faction in our country who promulgate the myth that government officials are the ultimate evil, that “bureaucracy” is always bad.  It is thinking that is strikingly similar to the black and white ethics of certain religions — a myth which people embrace thoughtlessly and believe as if it were an absolute truth.  One finds, sadly, that it is the so-called “conservatives” who tend to believe in the possibility of absolute, unchanging truths.  But this way of thinking is also nothing more than a matter of blind faith.

Homo sapiens.  The “sapiens” aspect which is supposed to be about reason, language, and the use of tools, all too seldom rises above the level of low cunning, rationalization of selfishness, and superstition.  The news does not do much credit to the species.  The result for me is that I feel all the more alienated.  How is it that there can be such enormous differences among members of the same species?  Does one find Bengal tigers polarized into those who like to hunt and kill and abuse other tigers, and those who try to help their fellow felines (not to mention all the other animals of the wild)?  No, it is almost as if some members of the species Homo sapiens are predators and some are cooperative, gentle, herd animals.  The latter too often  becoming the prey of the former.

A wise Masonic brother of mine last night remarked that Capitalism as a system could not do anything other than advance to the state of its own collapse.  Its own logic perpetuates scarcity and so cannot possibly be used to create a stable, sustainable economy in which our species can be at peace and those with wealth take care of those without, compassionately.  I am not sure if this is an intrinsic systemic structure within Capitalism or whether it is a matter of Capitalism combined with a religious and philosophical culture of conquest and conversion, a philosophy of “enlightened self-interest” that never actually became enlightened.

I haven’t the cranial capacity to figure out such large problems, but it does seem unlikely that we are going to be able to extricate ourselves from this mess.  Capitalism has become dependent upon cheap energy during the Age of Oil, and that is coming to an end.  If our social order and democratic institutions of government have not evolved beyond shouting and name-calling and partizan politics, then we will not be able to solve these problems and America’s demise is certain.  Of course, some of us will remain and make a new life.  But will we be overrun by religious fanatics?  War lords?  Roving bands of pirates and brigands?  Will we be overwhelmed by the rising oceans and the collapse of commerce and governments.  Where then will our liberal  belief in the power of education to enlighten be?  When the vandals are at the gates and the halls of learning lie abandoned along with the halls of government?

The prospect of a new Dark Age is too frightening and even those who can see its approach must turn away from it.  I can derive no hope from technology or “American ingenuity.”  I derive hope only from the brilliant rowan berries and the bees gathering the hyssop nectar.


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