There was a peace march in downtown Missoula Sunday afternoon. I could see it through the front windows from where I was working. I felt lame for not being a part of it, that for all my bluster about “doing my part” I was just on the sidelines. Same thing today — there is a rally for public lands in Helena two hours away that I’ll miss. I won’t be there and it is the thing I am most concerned about in how it affects my actual day-to-day life and I feel like shit about it. I suppose my “I have to work” excuse is valid, but I still feel like a sellout because, once again, I’m more concerned about a steady paycheck than pursuing something important. But I digress.
During the parade of people passing by the windows I saw several signs that were of an American flag, and in the spaces where the stars and stripes would be, words like “Peace” and “Freedom” and “No Hate” were spelled out. It made me think back to some musclehead I saw in a shop earlier wearing jeans with back pockets covered in bling, sunglasses perched on the back of his head, and a tight t-shirt also sporting a design of an American flag, only his stars and stripes were in the shape of bullets. Contrasting the two scenes made me realize, for the nth time, the gulf between people that I really don’t see any hope of overcoming. There is no idea of America in my mind that begins with bullets. And the people who do see that way don’t understand the values of those of us who put a higher value on life beyond the made-up idea of borders and religion and all that bullshit.
Yet today I am grateful there are people out fighting the good fight in spite of the worthlessness of the rest of us. I’m particularly grateful for the workers in the government agencies who have “gone rogue” to post their truths in the face of this abomination of an administration we find ourselves chained to. I’m happy they are out there in spite of the despair they must feel. I’m happy not everyone has bought into the idea of “do what the boss tells you to and keep your mouth shut.” There was never a man who deserved more sticking it to than this fucking one.
I remarked I wanted some plants in my office, so I was presented a slip off a larger plant from the living room. It came in this little metal bucket. I nurtured it along as best I could, and it didn’t seem to do much for a long time. I was mildly teased for my black thumb, and my steadfast efforts to keep it alive. It started to grow a bit. Last summer a little shoot appeared in the dirt. It grew quickly. Then another, and another. Now I think I should put this in a bigger pot. The original slip is the branch drooping off to the left.
What does this have to do with gratitude? I’m grateful to this little plant for sticking it out with me, that’s all. We are at my desk together this morning, soaking up what sunlight is coming in through the window on a gray, frosty day. And yes, a number of little Little Brown Jobs are at the feeders, as are a couple norther flickers and a magpie.
I have since received a big sword plant in a pot as well, which I also love. It appears to be doing fine so far too.
If you think he hasn’t influenced your life, you aren’t paying attention.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument, Brown Chapel AME Church, Selma, AL, from my visit in March of 2015
Three straight weeks away from home, and for the next seven days I get to remain on my home turf before leaving again.
I have to admit I am often an unfaithful traveler. Always there is so much more bed than I need for myself, how could I not be? So nights on the road, as my eyes start to droop over whatever book I’m reading, I usually don’t bother to place it on the bedside table; it spends the night at arm’s length beside me. Sometimes when I wake in the semi-dark — I never sleep all through the night, which is why I keep a companion close in the first place — I find my hand resting on its cover. It’s then, in a moment of confusion, air conditioner blasting and rattling, the hair at my neck damp with sweat, I have to pause until I can remember the name it came to me as, and what the last thing was we’d experienced together.
Such a moment has never rivaled waking in the night, having returned home, to find my hand come to rest against Julia’s flank, or, even better, against the warm curve of her hip. No book has ever incited me to a further caress or two, or evoked such an overwhelming sense of gratitude to be there in that moment.
Nor has any book ever responded.
I’m grateful to have passed through another winter, even though it’s a season I don’t mind so much. It was our first in a new home, and there were some new twists to navigate (like running out of gas on Christmas day; no heat, no cooking), but we pulled it off. It may seem late in the year to some to be breathing this sigh of relief, but April can still be a big snow month here in Montana, and now it’s behind us and I probably won’t hear the sound of my furnace again for five or six months. I was gone all last week (in Los Angeles, where it was in the mid to upper nineties all week) and when I returned all the trees and bushes and plants that looked dead are suddenly bursting into bloom. The fields and hills surrounding the valley are crescendoing to green as well. Not to peak color, not yet, but we’re getting there. I missed the first most beautiful days apparently while I was traveling, but I hope to catch the next round.
I was equally pleased, after the harsh summer-like weather in Southern California, to hear steady rain at times this past weekend. Sadly, it is the folks in California who really need the moisture. Driving up Venice Boulevard last week, all the trees and bushes look dried out as if it were late summer, not early spring. I hope that landscape gets some relief before long.
I know it was a hard winter for many folks. Hopefully spring is starting to break up some of that ice out your way, both literal and figurative, as well.
As this posts I’ll be headed to Omaha, Nebraska. I’d been to that state once several years ago, and suddenly this is the second time this year. Happy to have longer days to explore a little bit. Last time I was there was during one of those frigid cold snaps. My flight from Minneapolis to Omaha was cancelled, so I drove through the frozen tundra on a bright sunny day that never showed me a temperature above zero. It’s trending 70-80 degrees above that this time around.