Nature Wants Us Dead

On Monday of this week I dropped my car off for service. It was time for regular maintenance – oil change and tire rotation – and my car’s blower motor was making noise. It rattled on the low setting and it sounded like a prop airplane on high. The dealership informed me that a new motor had to be ordered and that I’d have to wait until today, Tuesday, for repairs to be completed.

I received a call this morning that the root cause of the problem was that a rodent, likely a mouse, had built a nest in and around the blower. Fortunately, after a good cleaning, the original blower performed as quietly as always, which is fortunate, as I’d would have had to pay out of pocket for a replacement. Rodent nests are not covered under warranty. This comes about a month after I had to pay to my sewer line cleared, likely due to tree roots. And with the weather turning cold, we’re beset by earwigs … again.

Nature is invasive and assertive. It’s constantly trying to make us ill, grow into our space, nest where we don’t want it, bite us, sting us, flood us out, poison us, kill us. Nature wants us out of the way. Nature wants us dead so that it can feast on our rotting carcass. There’s always a virus, a spore, a rodent, a storm, a predator, an invasive species waiting to take advantage.

And it really doesn’t matter if we care, if we’re paying attention, who is in office or whether we’re getting along with each other. Nature is just waiting for us to slip up, wait too long, take it for granted.

You’d think we’d learned by now after years of fighting malaria and foot rot and bed bugs and fleas, mold and plague and floods. And earwigs.

But no, we continue to undercut one another, jostle for political position and power while all the while the rodents are moving in.


So I’m watching HBO’s Deadwood again for the umpteenth time. I’m a sucker for good dialogue and Deadwood has some of the best. Not only good scripting but some of the cleverest, and unexpected, word usage I’ve ever experienced, utilized in a Western no less.

Ian McShane is a gift as Swearengen. Ruthless, profane, complicated, and the most self aware and  discerning of all the characters. He doesn’t commit sin. He inhabits it. But he doesn’t kid himself about it.

Besides McShane, Brad Dourif’s Doc Cochran is my next favorite character. Like Swearengen, Cochran is self aware, but he has limits on how far he’ll go. He’s a conscience of sorts to Swearengen. And while he isn’t particularly kind, he is the most humane character on the show.

Humanity seems to be in short supply these days. Self awareness has evaporated into the ether.  Our leaders would rather cling to some modern form of Manifest Destiny rather than admit that they don’t have a clue as to what they’re doing. That they’ve steered into a dead end. And that it’s time to admit that we’ve made a grave electoral error.

I’m not particularly hopeful that this ship will right itself any time soon, if ever. No one seems to be willing to take any real risk in the effort.

Meanwhile I’m content to watch McShane and Dourif ply their trade. Nobody in Deadwood ever kids themselves.

Ice Breaker

Meeting new family can be challenging. What do you talk about? There is no shared history. And current events being what they are, no one is really in a hurry to start in on the news. The first black president has moved on to greener pastures and his successor is continually mired in a scandal a week while simultaneously inspiring America’s most racist impulses.

So you’re left with brief periods of small talk – the weather, traffic, the few friends you may have in common (which you really don’t) and then silences punctuated by sighing and staring off into the middle distance.

And then the meal starts. Tongues loosen, shirt sleeves roll up, collars unbutton and the stories flow. By the time the pots and pans are done, everyone is laughing and backslapping and trading phone numbers. Good food has that effect. Raises blood sugar and communal spirit. Puts people at ease. Sets everyone on a common path.

My great aunt had such a meal today with a branch of her family I know little to nothing about. And I’m still not certain of the connection. But who cares? We have now shared food and have hopefully started our own history.

Wallowing In The Quagmire of Ignorance

“Personal attacks have no place in civil discourse” or so I was taught in high school by Mr. McCollister. He labeled it “Wallowing in the quagmire of ignorance.”

According to my grandfather, somewhere in scripture it says “… if you fall, don’t wallow.” His rejoinder was, “but sometimes wallowing just feels good.” I’ve found the highest expression of this philosophy in the blues.

I have yet to find the scripture he quoted but I did find this:

Simpletons! How long will you wallow in ignorance? Cynics! How long will you feed your cynicism? Idiots! How long will you refuse to learn?” – Proverbs 1:22 (Message translation)

A less than ringing endorsement of our current level of public discourse. But there it is. Our most striking example being the very public twitter feud between our current sitting president and Senator Bob Corker. President Trump consistently degrades Corker with the appellation “liddle” and Corker famously compared Trumps Whitehouse to “an adult daycare center.”

If we’re honest about it, most of us don’t mind when someone we don’t like is personally attacked. We enjoy seeing our “enemies” brought low. TV talkshow hosts Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers (to name only a couple) do it regularly and they do it well. They make fun of Trump’s tan, Kelly Ann Conway’s hair, Sebastian Gorka’s beard. The humor is  pointed and it’s usually quite clever and it seeks to bring low those who would set themselves over us. It makes powerful people look ridiculous.

But I’m beginning to wonder if we’ve wallowed long enough. Mr. Mac used to caution that slinging barbs at one another makes us “feel good” but does little to enlighten or illuminate discussion and it closes off dialogue.

Not that people like Trump, Conway, or Gorka would be likely to listen. And talk shows are not the proscribed venues for “civic discourse”.

But the rest of us need start listening to each other if we’re going to get anywhere.

Because even though I hate to admit it, as much as I love Colbert’s monologue and as much as I agree with Corker’s assessment, I have neighbors that believe that Donald Trump is telling the God’s truth.