22
Apr 07

Once and Again

What follows is partially prompted by a discussion over at the Hermits’ place and partly simply my own muddled musings.

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.

I was told not too long ago that this hymn was removed from The Hymnal 1982 not because it refers to “man” (not humans, or souls, or men and women, or what have you) but because of a theological issue: there is no one time in our lives that we must choose between good and evil–we are called to do so constantly.

Of course, I think Lowell’s lyrics acknowledge that: the choice goes by forever, after all. I am not a theologian or an expert on hymns, or much of anything else.

The hymn comes to me at the moment partly because it is a great favorite of mine–we sang it at my camp long ago, and it shows up in The House with a Clock in its Walls, and Martin Luther King Jr. quotes it several times in his speeches and sermons. It comes to me also, though, I think, because I’ve been thinking lately about moments that occur once and moments that occur again and again.

The incidents at Virginia Tech remind most people of the shootings at Columbine High School, which took place eight years ago today. They remind many also, I suspect, of the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which took place twelve years ago this week. For those of us with a connection to Iowa City and the University of Iowa, the thing that comes most to mind is, I suspect, the physics department shootings in 1991, which, bucking the April trend, took place in November, on All Saints Day. Some may recall the many other school shootings in this country–Red Lake, Minnesota; West Paducah, Kentucky; and on, and on–killings that get less ongoing attention but that were no less devastating for their communities. And any act of sudden violence cannot help but bring to mind the attacks of 9/11. One doesn’t equate these things–one can’t–but they come to mind, and one realizes that evil does not happen simply once.

One also realizes–or some, at least, also realize–that we tend to pay more attention to the tragedies that are sudden as opposed to those that are ongoing. We lose sight of the ongoing killings abroad in favor of the one-off sensations. We barely even register the things that kill more slowly: poverty, homelessness, hunger, addiction, oppression.

It is remarkably easy to write off other people’s suffering. It is equally easy to judge the mourning of others, to believe that the woman who does not cry at her mother’s funeral or the man who does not seem affected by the school shooting that happened in his town are in some way not fully human or humane.

I do not believe that the choice between truth and falsehood is one we make only once, but I do believe that there is for each person one great tragedy–one thing that happens that defines your understanding of sadness. That thing may have already happened to you, or it may yet be coming to you (but make no mistake: it will come). It is one of the great comforts of my life, actually: as a friend once said, the great wheel of tragedy leaves no one untouched. Eventually it swings around to everyone. I try to remember that in a charitable way when someone says something appalling to me, but mostly, I must admit, I remember it in a more gleeful fashion. Oh, just you wait, I think. It’ll happen to you, too.

———–

I started this post a day or two ago but didn’t finish it, and now I’ve forgotten where it was meant to go–if, in fact, it was meant to go anywhere–I call this ramblings for a reason. Suffice it to say that I am always struck, at moments of great national or international tragedy, by how randomly tragedy strikes us, and how peculiar and personal our reactions to it, or our lack of reaction, must always be.


19
Jan 07

incidentally,

I still have no water.

More on that after later.

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13
Jan 07

it is exactly 0 degrees outside (a sad story that is actually happy)

Fahrenheit degrees, that is.  Last night it got down to -17.

This morning I woke up to discover that, despite having a) left two faucets dripping, b) double-checked to make sure the heat tape switch was on, and c) having left a heat lamp plugged in underneath the trailer, my pipes were frozen.  Apparently, according to my landlady, I need to leave the faucets not dripping but running.  Thank God I don't pay for water by the gallon.  It strikes me as greatly ironic that here in the high desert, where we're going into the eighth straight year of drought, where the total rainfall last year was under 7", that I can have all the undrinkable water (much too alkaline for human consumption) I want for $35/month. 

Luckily, I am not a morning showerer.  Actually, I am not even a daily showerer, which is good, because despite the balmy high today of 9 degrees or so, and despite my landlady's daughter coming over to plug in a space heater under the trailer, my pipes are still frozen.  But I'm getting ahead of myself here. . . .

After deciding that it wasn't worth making breakfast (and thus creating more dishes I might not be able to do), I thought I'd head over to the coffee shop and get a muffin and a latte.  So I loaded up my stuff and headed out to the car, which–you guessed it–didn't start.  So I thought, well, I'll go see if someone can give me a jump-start.  I called my coworker to say I might be getting to the library a bit late.  Then I remembered that, due to the lever falling off and then disappearing, it's extremely difficult to open the hood of my car.  Usually it requires vice-grips, or other tools I don't own.  (I keep meaning to buy some vice-grips–it's so embarrassing to have to ask someone else to open your hood so you can check your oil.)  I grabbed some needlenose pliers (I do have some tools) and gave the little rod a yank.  No luck.  I tried again.  No luck.  The one happy part of this story, though, is that on the third try, I got it, and the hood popped open.

I headed over to my neighbor's house, since it looked like he was warming his truck up, so I figured he was up and could probably give me a jump.  He was, although, I was rather surprised to see, he was not exactly clothed when he came to the door.  No matter.  Anyway, he got dressed and came over with the truck. We then had an interesting time manuevering the truck around to the front of my car.  Another happy part of this story is that that did work, and he didn't crash his truck into the fence.  That would have been bad.  So we tried jumping the car.  No go.  Tried again.  No go.  Tried giving the car some gas.  Nope.  More gas.  Nope. 

"Is that all the gas you have in there?" he said.

"Uh. . . yeah."

"You know you–"

"I know, I know, I should always keep my gas tank above half full in the winter.  My mommy always told me that."

He suggested I get some gas and some Heet and try again later.  He also very kindly gave me a ride into town.  I had him drop me off at the coffee shop, since it's only a few blocks from the library, and I still hadn't had breakfast or coffee.

So I got my coffee and my muffin and told all the coffee shop regulars about my sad tale, and my friend Shane said, "Where's that handyman boyfriend of yours when you need him?" and I said, "No kidding," and Shane said, "He could be there right now fixing stuff for you!" and I said "Yup," and we both sighed, because said handyman is also Shane's friend, and he's gone to rural Virginia for probably most of this year, and that makes both of us, and many of our other friends, sad.

I finished my coffee and headed up the hill to work (it was now up to -4 degrees), where I told my coworker my tale of woe, and called my landlady, and got back to weeding.  I withdrew half a dozen books about global warming from the mid-1980s to early 1990s and remarked that it's kind of amazing that people treat climate change as if it's a new idea.  Then I got rid of a bunch of true crime books and called a woman who said she'd be interested in them if we ever got rid of some, and that seemed to make her day.

And I got a call from the library director, who said that we are going to get some old furniture that is not nearly as old as our old furniture, and that we have a lot of money in our account at the foundation, so if we want, we could buy morne furniture.  Or books.  Or computers.  Or whatever.  So that was really happy.

Just before she was about to leave, my coworker got a call from her daughter, who was driving back to college (and was almost there, in fact), and had just been in a car accident.  No one was hurt, but the daughter was pretty freaked out.  My coworker talked to her for a little while and said "call the police" and "it's going to be okay" and "that's why you have liablity insurance" and all the other things like that that you said.  Then she said to me, "If my daughter calls again, tell her I'll be home in ten minutes." 

The daughter did call again, and I relayed her mom's message, and then I added, "You know, I have wrecked many, many cars" (well, not that many–but I did total a Volvo station wagon (mine) and put a huge dent in a BMW (someone else's). 

The daughter said, "Really?" and I said, "Yeah.  I know sometimes it helps to hear that from someone else."  And she said it did.

And then Shane picked me up from work, and we stopped at the gas station so I could buy a new gas can (because I couldn't find the lid to mine) and some Heet and some gas, and I got home and put the Heet and the gas in my car, and it started right up, and I ran it for quite awhile and then drove into town to fill up the tank and get some water in case I need to flush a toilet or something, and then I came home, and then I called my mom.  And I said, "You know what?  I had this huge catastrophic day and I handled everything just fine and I didn't call you in tears once–and I even got to console someone else who had burst into tears." 

And damn, do I ever feel like a grown-up.

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23
Nov 06

QotD: Thanksgiving

What are you thankful for?

The Milky Way, and living in a place where I can see it almost every night.

Family and friends and all the many people who fall into both categories, one way or another.

Animals, even when they're being holy terrors.

In a few weeks, I imagine that I shall be extremely thankful for the internet.  I'm always somewhat thankful for it, but I haven't been spending much time online in the past few months because I've been spending a lot of time outside with my boyfriend, who, in mid-December, is moving to rural Virginia.  Living in rural Wyoming is, for the most part, wonderful, but because I come from more populated areas where there are more people and more ideas and more art and more–well, just more–I sometimes feel a little lost here.  The internet–or more exactly, the people who make it up–are part of how I manage to feel a little less like a tiny dot on a dry, windswept hill.

A Happy Thanksgiving to all of you in the US–and a happy day to all.  Here's a picture from the trip Jim and I took to Utah just recently.  Lots more where it came from on Flickr, and more on the way. . . I went a little crazy with the camera.

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10
Aug 06

QotD: Hello, Cleveland!

If you had a band, what would you call yourselves?
Question submitted by Zoot.

The Rubber Band.  My grandmother has always objected to the name:

Her:  But it will make people think of condoms!
Me:  So?

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08
Aug 06

offline pursuits

I promised awhile ago that I'd put up pictures from the Day of the American Cowboy parade a few weeks ago.  They've been up on Flickr for awhile, but I'm finally posting one here.  Here is the clan from one local ranch with their float–and yes, they do have a keg and they're handing out beer.  They were by far the most popular entry in the parade. . . nobody even minded that they were holding up the other floats.

I spent the weekend much as planned, attending various social events (Friends of the Library barbeque Saturday night; dinner party up the Wood River last night) and hanging out with Jim, who left today on a six-week vacation.  He gets free rent in exchange for doing a lot of work on the house he lives in, but part of the deal is that he clears out when the owner shows up for her vacation.  I am trying very hard not to think about the fact that I will never get another six week vacation.  It's a point of pride with me that I made it through the first 30 years of my life without ever having a full-time job, but grim reality is setting in now.

I did slip out for a hike this afternoon/evening, though.  After a day of working at the computer at home (the library is closed for cleaning), with no patrons to interrupt me, I was going stir crazy, and one of the good things about living here is that in under an hour I can be in the Shoshone National Forest, far from the reaches of almost anything–well, except bears and wolves and so forth.  But that's different.

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05
Aug 06

QotD: Weekend Goal

What's one thing that you'd like to get done this weekend? Is there anything holding you back?

Ha!  There's absolutely nothing I plan to get done this weekend.  Tomorrow I'm going to the Friends of the Library barbeque and Sunday night I'm going to a dinner party.  Otherwise, I'm just bumming around, cooking some things (I made custard for Jim, since he's refinishing two of my tables. . . it doesn't quite seem like a fair trade), reading, and maybe going to the resevoir or going hiking.  Or both.

Some days I lead such a disgustingly nice life I can hardly stand it.

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02
Aug 06

QotD: Can you hear me now?

What's your cell phone's ringtone? What made you pick it?

Ha!  I haven't had a cell phone since February, when I moved to rural Wyoming, where, at least with Cingular, I'd have to drive 30 miles to be able to use my phone.  I relied on it when I lived in the suburbs with my grandmother, because a) I spent a lot of time in the car, and, thanks to the wonders of headsets, that was my best time for talking to people, b) I was almost never at home, and c) my grandmother has many wonderful qualities, but message taking is not one of them.

I always used normal phone rings for my cell phone.  Well, I did at one point have a few funky themes picked out, one for my then boyfriend and a couple for other close friends, but I could rarely tell them apart.

Tomorrow I think I'm going to venture into the wild world of caller ID.  I get it free with my pricey high speed internet connection (all telecommunications out here cost a fortune–it's $45/month just to have a landline), but I don't have a phone with caller ID or a caller ID box.  My old phone seems to be dying, though, so it may be time to venture forth into the brave new world of knowing who's calling before I pick up.

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26
Jul 06

QotD: Sugar, Sugar

What was your favorite candy when you were a kid? How does that compare to now?

My father kept a jar of peppermints and lemondrops in the car at all times.  It was a compact Plymoth station wagon, and in preschool, my best friend and I were allowed to ride in the way back, which is, of course, way cooler than any other location in the car (and this was before the days of childseats for children larger than infants), and we were allowed to eat as many peppermints and lemondrops as we wanted.  All these rules were of course suspended when my mother was driving, when we sat in the backseat and pretended to be watching movies on imaginary pull-down screens.  The movies were actually quite magical–you could watch a movie of anything you wanted–kittens, your last vacation, Oz, you name it.

I've never been much of a candy eater, now or then, but peppermints and lemondrops are still probably my favorites (truffles, I think, don't exactly qualify as candy).

I seem to be writing a great deal about my father here of late.  I'm not sure what's up with that.  In a couple of weeks, it will be twenty-five years since he died, so perhaps our culture's fetishization of anniversaries is having some subliminal effect on me.

On an unrelated note, is anyone else having difficulties with the drop-down menus on Vox?  I searched the help sections and sent them a note the other day.  Basically, I can't change who can see my posts because when I click on the drop-down boxes, I get no options, so they're all friends-only.  I appreciate the option of exclusivity, but I'm not trying to be exclusive all the time.

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18
Jul 06

horseback

As promised, here's a picture of me on Baby, the palomino, from my horseback riding excursion with my friends Shane and Tiffany the weekend before last.  I had not been on a horse since I was six, so we only rode for about an hour.  I was somewhat sore the next day, but not too bad.

This weekend Jim and my friend Edie and I took what turned out to be a 13 mile hike (we had been planning on a 7-8 mile loop) up the South Fork of the Wood River and Chimney Creek.  The next day I woke up and thought, "I could do that again"–or at least, "I could do that again if it weren't so freaking hot."  I must be getting stronger, though, because a couple months ago 8 miles left me totally whupped. 

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