June 5th, 2009


Poem: "Watermarks"

I wrote this poem back in 2004, inspired by the writing of M.C.A. Hogarth in "The Flight of the Godkin Griffin." Now that the story of godkin is winding down, it seems fitting to post here.

– a poem of Glendallia

She stands in the market square,
Polished marble shining in the sun
That flashes on the fountain’s pool
Beneath her pedestal.

I carved her myself –
The Mistress Commander at war,
Her wings spread like a white clap of thunder,
Her face like a spear, and all the ivory knives
Of talons on her hands and feet.

I was there, the day she broke our army’s back,
Diving out of the sun to subdue us.
I was there, and I remember
The terrible glory of the Godkin Griffin.

Now she stands where I set her,
Unmoving and unmoved,
Amidst the market’s murmur. “Life,”
They say, “goes on.”

She came to see it once,
Her statue in my fountain with its
Soft implacable patter of water.
“Melodramatic,” she said, and wandered off
To finish her shopping.
I do not think she saw me
Watching from the shadows,
Nor saw herself through my eyes.

She should have come later in the day.

At dusk, the last rays of light
Streak across the cobblestones
And kiss with crimson the thin trickle
That flows down the blade of her sword,
Turning the water to blood.

I can recall the exact color of it,
Decades later, the claret
Of its first freshness spilling over steel
Like wine from a broken bottle.
I saw what I saw. I was there.

My finger traces a slow circuit
Inside the fountain’s rim where
White crystals form a faint crust
On the rock wall, marking
The highest level of the pool
Around the monument.
The dust on my skin
Reminds me of her making.

What solace did I seek in sculpting this?
Did I hope to place some part of her in my power,
Or relish the shatter and smack
Of my hammer against mute marble?
If only I could turn memory to stone,
Drop it down a well and be done with it.

The children of today
Don’t care about yesterday’s tears.
They see a hero
Where I sit until the setting sun
Paints truth on the canvas I have carved.
They are, after all, only children.
Let them laugh and play
And splash through the pool to climb
On her slippery shoulders.

But I remember.
I was there.

Fruit Trees

Some of the trees have green or ripening fruit on them. The following pictures vary in quality. I was also practing the use of the "shapes" and "captions" features in the software.

This is a serviceberry (aka saskatoon or juneberry) tree. It bears small fruits similar to a blueberry, very tasty. It only has a few berries; last year was the first time it fruited at all. They are whitish to pink now, and will be blackish when ripe.

This is part of the pie cherry grove, showing cherries in their yellow and pink phase. They're getting soft, too, but not fully ripe yet. The birds have already started to peck them, though. There are plenty, though I think not as many as last year.

This is the Criterion apple tree, showing tiny green apples. There are quite a lot this year.


Fixing a Mistake with Upside-Down Tomatoes

Recently I discovered that using cheap potting soil for upside-down tomatoes was a mistake. It compacted into hard lumps in the containers, allowing water to run out and making it difficult to keep the plants from wilting. It has also sunk down leaving a space below the rim. I have decided that if I try this again next year, I will use a higher grade of potting mix that is fluffier and more water-absorbent. Meanwhile, I bought a bag of good potting mix to put in the tops of these containers, hoping it will help.

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Political Tolerance

One of the things I try to create in this blog is a space where people of different political views can discuss issues safely. It's not easy. Sometimes it works better than others. But I believe it's worth the effort.

There are not many such venues. Where I live, the atmosphere is generally conservative. The local Green Party had, last summer when I visited their table at the fair, six members. In the whole county. And they were getting heckled by people walking past. In other areas with a more liberal bent, it is the conservatives who get picked on. Online, the prevailing attitude of any given blog or website tends to determine who picks on whom. I mostly avoid places like that; I'm interested in rational discussion of issues and principles and ideas, not name-calling. I am only marginally more tolerant of liberal rants than conservative rants.

Today haikujaguar tipped me to this great article about political intolerance and tolerance, exploring how this plays out at Harvard. It's a good reminder that assumptions are trouble and differences of opinion don't have to end a friendship.
This “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy ultimately benefits no one, liberal or conservative. By isolating ourselves from those with whose opinions we disagree, we lose the ability to defend our beliefs. For me, as for most of my Harvard compatriots, the long, probing, in-depth discussions I’d heard were one of the best parts of college have been limited to topics like Youtube and the weather. When it comes to politics, every discussion is just a group of people agreeing with each other. This applies to campus conservatives as well:. Those comfortable enough in their political affiliation to come out as Young Republicans interact only with other Young Republicans, in an alternate, parallel universe similarly devoid of dissenting viewpoints. Given time, this sort of environment produces things like the Men for Palin video. This is good for no one.

At about the same time, my partner Doug flagged this article for me, about Obama's speech in Egypt. I was particularly taken by this section:
Obama used similar language when speaking with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the G20 talks last April. "What I believe we began today," he said at a joint press conference afterward, "is a very constructive dialogue that allows us to work on issues of mutual interest." The two sides had differences, and Obama didn't paper over them; in fact, he raised some of them explicitly and at some length. But he said he wouldn't let them get in the way of issues—such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, regional conflict, and international trade—in which the two nations had shared and vital interests.

This matches my approach to activism. I'll team up with whomever else supports a given issue that I support, while we're rallying around that issue. If we disagree on the next one, that's okay; I'll be working with a different batch of people then. I can get together with liberal friends who believe that health care is a right, not a privilege; and I can get together with conservative friends who believe that the right to bear arms must be protected. It isn't necessary to agree about everything or to agree all the time ... in order to make progress you just need to focus on one area where you agree with the people working to solve that issue. Because when you group and split and regroup and shuffle around, eventually you get to know most of the people who are trying to make the world a better place, one way or another, and you learn that you have more in common than you thought. That makes it easier to solve just about anything.