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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Dream #1: Choir of Wind-Blown Voices

It seemed to be a kind of music festival, but with band members milling about aimlessly, some in blue and gold uniforms, others in street clothes, some holding brass or woodwind instruments or drums, others empty-handed. In the background voices were singing. But was a choir performing or practicing? 

Either the piece was experimental — I found the music jarring and irritating and wanted only to get away from it or have it stop or at the very least cover my ears — or the conductor and various sections had completely lost track of each other. Musical phrases that sounded as if they should be sung in interlocking beats and measures were ahead of or behind each other, so that instead of harmonies the sounds came in unexpected, overlapping discords.

In a moment, then, my hearing of the choir changed, and the music came to me like ocean waves in a storm, each wave crashing over another before that other had reached the shore, although these waves of sound, being airborne, while still commanded by the winds as are ocean waves, were being blown about yet more haphazardly, and I realized that this was the intention of the music. And now I wanted the voices never to stop and never to sort themselves out and come together, because for now they were an entire universe of breezes and zephyrs, trying out what worlds they might make, and for now all was possibility, all was freedom, all was whirl, and no beauties had been foreclosed by the actualization of any others.


Saturday, November 16, 2019

Looking Back Can Be Fruitful

Recently on my Books in Northport blog, I added a new layout item, that of the "Featured Post." It's a way of not only looking back but inviting others to look back with me. Perhaps they missed something along the way that I believe deserves attention.

I am added a "Featured Post" to this blog as well. If you're viewing on a phone rather than a larger screen, though, you won't see the right-hand column in my layout, and I don't know how to adjust for that. Maybe you do. In any event, the "Featured Post" highlighted today (in future others will take its place) is this one.

Thanks for taking the time to visit.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Nature Owes Us One

After the leaves have turned beautiful colors, and after the first hard frost, we are supposed to get a stretch of mild, shirtsleeve weather. We expect it as our due. But what to call that late grace period that didn’t come (yet?) this year? 

The term “Indian summer” gets mixed reviews these days. Not all Native Americans find it offensive, but since it falls into a general kettle of questionable phrases, what else might we substitute?

As decades go by in my life (with increasing speed), the meaning of “old woman’s summer” becomes clearer and clearer to me. Old people want to be warm! Not all old people want to be called old, though. Anyway, old woman's or old wives' summer is European terminologyIn England and also in Europe the welcome warm spell following frost is sometimes called St. Martin’s or St. Luke’s summer, but we are not in England, and those names have no familiar connotations for us.

Last chance summer” works for me. In wintry northern Michigan, it sounds a especially poignant tone. Though "halcyon days" is awfully nice, too.

Please, Mother Nature, please give us one last chance! Even if we have no intention of raking leaves until spring, it would be good to get that lawn furniture put away!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A Great President

James Earl Carter, thirty-ninth president of the United States of America, has too often been called our best former president though a bad, i.e., ineffective president while in office. I wish to differ.

War and Peace

Our country was not at war during the four years of the Carter presidency. Stop and reflect on that for a moment. As commander-in-chief, President Carter called for the sacrifice of no American’s life.

And yet, at the same time, without military action and through diplomatic efforts alone, he was able to bring about the beginnings of peace in the Middle East, a hard-won dream still to be fully realized. Carter’s intelligence, information, preparation, and patience were all at work at Camp David.

Energy and Environment

He took the long view on environmental issues and set us on a path of energy conservation and independence. President Reagan reversed that direction, and no American president since Jimmy Carter has been clear-sighted or determined enough to put us back on track.


When President Carter held a press conference, he made every attempt to answer questions clearly and directly. I will never forget my astonishment the first one I watched him give a televised press conference. Has there ever  — in your lifetime — been a president more honest with the American people?


Despite the taking and holding of hostages that guaranteed his bid for reelection would be defeated, ultimately the hostages came home alive, in large part because Jimmy Carter put a higher priority on the hostage situation than on campaigning for reelection.


That James Earl Carter has always been a decent, honorable man no one can deny. A naive visitor from another planet, looking at the burdens and responsibilities of leadership, might assume decency to be a minimum requirement for the presidency of the United States. History and experience, however, paint a very different picture, and decency is often mentioned as if it can only be, if not the opposite of greatness, yet a kind of honorable mention granted to someone who failed to achieve a place in the pantheon of greatness.  


The long partnership of Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, the work of the Carter Center in Africa, the Carters’ hands-on volunteering with Habitat for Humanity — all those would attest to lives well lived, had the couple never lived in the White House. And yet I would have Jimmy Carter admired and revered not only for his basic decency and his charitable work and the teaching of Sunday school but for the vision that, as President Carter, he brought to the nation and the world. 

I feel privileged to have lived in an era that saw both Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama elected to the nation’s highest office. The true legacy of both men rests not on mere legislation (which subsequent leaders can overturn) but on a promise realized — that it is possible for good people, with vision, to rise to positions of leadership, that it is possible for citizens in a democracy to elect leaders who will serve also as examples to the rest of us of what it means to be a great American.