Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Fires, The Virus & The Day of At-One-Ment

                                  

    

        Sunday night. The eve of the Day of At-One-ment. For our online evening services Bill & I are asked to light the candles. “Shekinah, divine feminine, bless our children and the children of our children that they may be sustained and that they sustain the earth and each other”.              

     After services we receive news of new fires in Napa and Sonoma and evacuations. Plague upon plague! We are supposed to shelter in place if possible, but people are being driven from their homes. Dazed, they arrive in parking lots, unsure of where to go, what to do. I feel such of empathy for them.  

    It’s grape harvest time. A vintner described “Beautiful bunches…the best ever” - but there has been concern for the workers - how to keep them safe from the virus? Now the vineyards are ablaze. Beautiful old wineries have been destroyed.

                                    


     We have a Red Flag Fire warning for the  Berkeley Hills, and we are prepared to evacuate: the Go Bag with survival items and all our important documents and the cat’s supply bag are next to the door. Bill's art is too large to take with us, but how can we leave it? What irreplaceable books should I pack? The warning will end at 8AM in the morning. But when I  wake at 8 there is a message extending the warning till evening. The air is smoky, but a fire in the Oakland Hills has been put out. We are safe - for now.

    It's Yom Kippur. The Day of At-One-ment. The doors and windows of our house are closed against the smoke. I am in the living room facing the sky, the redwoods, the smoky clouds hiding Mt. Tamalpais. As I click on Zoom for the morning service, squirrels are cavorting on the deck. The singing begins. “My home is a home of prayer for all people and all nations” and I silently welcome all to my living room, making certain that I include those who we call our adversaries - those on the other side. 

       Naomi Newman, singer, actress, director, playwright, reads prayers for those who died from Covid, died from Neglect, and prayers for those who survived, because life is a wilderness. Laura Goldman, therapist & spiritual teacher, reminds us that endangered places, high wire spaces, the unknown, are places of transformation. What trapeze of possibility is swinging toward you? Is there any safety net? Must we let go of all that has brought us to this place? Will voters choose the ones who can bring us to the other side?

    Yom Kippur and the state of California and our state of being is on fire. Why can’t we summon this fervor, this grief, this fear and deep love on all other days?  I look at myself in the small square on the screen and acknowledge my vanity and my self-consciousness, such old patterns, and I laugh, forgive myself, let it go, and scroll to the faces of strangers and silently give my heart to them. 

                                    


      And then Joanna Macy, Root teacher, Buddhist scholar, environmental activist, has us look at our hands. Our hands that were once fins and flippers and all they have accomplished over millions of years. “Fear and courage are at each other’s throats” she says, summarizing our national divide, but with these hands, what we can still accomplish to save this world! Even if we fail, even if we can’t sustain - let us make the attempt in joy and with wonder”- this fearless holy activist!

     And then she reads us these lines from a poem of Rilke’s, from the Book of Hours, which she and Anita Barrows translated, and it is exactly what we needed to hear:
 

Dear darkening ground,                                                         You've endured so patiently the walls we've built                    Perhaps you'll give the cities one more hour                                 

and  grant the churches and cloisters two.                                and those that labor - let their work                                        grip them another five hours, or seven, 

before you become forest again, and water, and widening wilderness                                                                                   in that hour of inconceivable terror                                         when you take back your name                                                     from all things.      

Just give me a little more time!    

I want to love the things                                                             as no one has thought to love them,                                         until they're worthy of you and real.                                                                      

                                                                                         

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                          

                                                            

                                                              

 

 

 


 
 
 

 

 












 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Making a Poem


    I want to talk about writing poetry, which along with intimacy, is my most joyous activity. When the muse is with me, words and images flow and I happily surrender to her. When she is gone, on vacation, having an affair, I become bereft after a couple months, and feel somewhat empty. Years have taught me that I shouldn’t even try to write without her, it will come to nothing, and I don’t. Fortunately, my life has many riches.

For many years my poems were mostly mythological.  I wrote in the voice of many mythic women, from Mary and Mary Magdalene to baudy Baubo and the Japanese crane wife. I wrote about art and music and the experience of visiting sanctuaries in many countries. And then the plight of the earth and migrants and the work of nature took me over, and those are now my themes. And underlying it all, is connection. Among images, among ideas, among trees in the forest, and our common grounding. And beneath that is love.  
  
Connection  Photo by Allie Smith
    I worry that my poems are sometimes esoteric. I doubt that I reflect much of the collective, but I join many who have taken on similar themes in response to our times. I have choices in imagery and metaphor and structure, but I have no choice but to choose what has chosen me.

    Psycholinguist Dan Slobin has written about thinking for speaking and thinking for writing, and I have been talking to him about thinking for poetry. When I’m writing a poem the sounds of words are as important as meaning. Alliteration, my love of the repetition of vowel or consonants, takes precedence, and then there is rhythm, and meter and flow. Words come to me as sounds, which doesn’t happen writing prose or speaking. It’s rather magical. My desire is to create rivers in my poems, they flow far and fast, and through and past my meanings. Then they flow out into a sea, which is the spaciousness I hope to create with the poem’s ending. 


Place seems to have little effect on my poems. There I was in Costa Rica recently, in the midst of a tropical forest, writing about the Great Red Cedar Forest on Vancouver Island, because no place in nature has ever created such awe. The subject of the poem was the fungal connection between all the trees in the forest. I had heard of it, was enchanted, and read everything I could find. The muse insisted it become a poem.

The Great Fungal Network

    I never know how a poem is going to begin. Though 
I intended to open with the connection among trees in that first poem,  what came to me was “How she was the leader and told us kids to take one giant step  but we had to say mother may I or lose our turn and when I come years later to the Giant Red Cedar Forest I whisper mother may I.” Did I actually whisper that years ago when I went to the forest? No. But this time, when I revisited the forest in my imagination, that’s what I said immediately. The truth in the poem was not literal truth, but the intensity of what I imagined saying. I feel now what I didn’t feel when I hiked through the forest - my deep gratitude to mother earth.

                       
Beginnings and endings. I don’t write in circles, the ending often has nothing to do with the beginning. There is a movement from image to image. One new poem begins with one million ibis buried in an Egyptian tomb, and ends with a melting glacier. That was my stream of thought. And the challenge is to create a link between ideas, so they appear to be a natural sequence. One strategy is to repeat certain phrases, or a single word like star, throughout the poem, or end with the phrases that begin the poem.

    It may take days of playing with what initially appeared, shifting stanzas, hunting through a thesaurus for synonyms, adding a new creature, finding out where they land. Other poems have a symmetrical connection. A new one, Homing, talks about the homing in of animals and people and missiles. Easier! Poetry is about intuitive problem solving without having to worry about the consequences, because choice yields choice, till finally there are no more choices that have to be made.


    When the poem feels done, I experience the deep pleasure of completion, but it’s the process that I love. What writing a poem gives me is total immersion and involvement, where the world melts away and I am in the absolute presence of my poem, inward, migrating between imagination and feeling and soul without any separation between them. And this is the gift that life has provided, and I call it life’s blessing.




   

                                      
 





                                              













Monday, November 5, 2018

A Cornucopia: Abundance & Forgetfulness

Abundance, Boboli Gardens, Florence
     I have realized that to be truly generous you must feel that you have abundance - and that does not mean financial wealth. No, this is an  inner sense of abundance; of sufficiency. It’s the feeling that who you are and what you have is Good. I  feel a certain sadness when I encounter wealthy people whose inner world is poverty-stricken.  

     We are 'strivers' and explorers, continually searching the world of self-care to make ourselves feel better. We say it is to find balance, or reduce stress, or improve memory, but underneath it all, for so many, is the insufficiency.
  
    But the whole strategy of American business is to ensure that no one ever feels they have enough. The hidden manifesto of advertising? Create Constant New Needs and make them Irresistible! 
Acquiring, repairing and maintaining ourselves and our things becomes  a pre-occupation, a cluttering, so there is no inner availability, no spaciousness, no capacity for generosity. And what is generosity? Writing a check or being willing to share what you have - compassion, time, skills?         

     And what of those who have the same cravings, the same desires and needs, but not the means to satisfy them? And what if they feel their government is helping everyone but them, and not addressing their worst fears? What if they feel they are becoming outnumbered?

     Needy folks who are completely dissatisfied ultimately want a Strong Man to Make it Better. They no longer believe their government works for them, and they may be willing to lose some of the openness and freedoms the society has afforded, like an uncensored free press. 
This dissatisfaction is a strong component in the rise of fascism - which is exactly what happened in Nazi Germany, as we all know. 


     But Americans tend to have no sense of any history but their own, and we have a genius, as  post-industrial humans, for not learning from the past. Memory, collectively and individually, and the desire and ability to probe and understand history and our own past, is such an important factor in democracies. Germany’s children must study the horrors of the holocaust so it won’t be repeated, and individually there is an inner freedom and relief when we face and acknowledge our demons. We hear this over and over, and we know it on some level, even if it is forgotten during our 24 hour news cycles.                                                                                        
Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dali   1954
     Each generation, each election cycle, we try, unsuccessfully, to re-invent ourselves, without any agreement on what a new America would look like. It’s a dialectic without conclusion - thesis, antithesis, and no true synthesis - which would be a sustainable, mutually shared vision.  And for this improbable vision to be successful, we would have to ensure that what we have inflicted on our own people, and on other nations, must never be repeated. 
The violent displacement of Native Americans


It is so easy to lose sight of what is most dear to us, what truly
matters and move us. But the memory and continual awareness of what is most meaningful is what sustains us.
      

“Forgetfulness leads to exile, while remembrance is the secret of redemption.”     
                                      Israel ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov


      



                           

 
                                                       

 





 







Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Art of Protest

Gee Vaucher Liberty
     In dark times when people have suffered, when ugly wars have ravaged people and place, when there has been economic depression, attempts at suppression, racism and other injustice, movements have risen that  attempt to change the direction of history.
 

    I’ve been thinking about this for a while: Right now there is a Resistance involved in a daily struggle with the regime in Washington - a cabal that threatens democracy itself.  There are movements fighting against all forms of intolerance, and others struggling with the forces that are destroying the planet.  But we need the artists, the poets, playwrights the authors who highlight these issues in a form that speaks more creatively than editorial and polemic.
 

    From the Greek comic playwright Aristophanes' Lysistrata to Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, theater has been a force for protest and change. Picasso’s great painting Guernica depicted the destruction of that town by Nazi bombers. The American artist Ben Shahn  painted the political outrages of his time. He also used his art as a way to bring people together. Where are the artists of our time who provide the images we need?


    Sometimes satire and caricature perform that function. A mental scan of of history brings us back to Greece, to the fifth century B.C.E., and the comic playwright Aristophanes, whose masterpiece Lysistrata uses the comic stratagem of women refusing sex to their soldier husbands to create a peaceful truce between the Athenians and Spartans. (That this play could be produced during the Pelopennesian war is some tribute to a culture that gave neither power nor place to women, and whose empirium was as dear to Athens as empire is to any modern colonial power.)
We now have the satire of the late night shows, with their nightly piercing of all the hot air balloons floating from the White House. 
But we need something beyond monologues - something to hold onto. I think of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, satirizing the  worship of nuclear power in 1964.  And I remember reading Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, a brilliant anti-war novel.

    I think of John Steinback’s  The Grapes of Wrath which drama-tized the plight of the people who were forced to leave family farms during the depression, where drought had turned productive land into a dust bowl. Steinbeck wrote the story of how they became migrant workers living in tents and desperate for work. 

Cover by Ben Shahn

And then there is Picasso’s Guernica, which is often considered the greatest work of political art in the twentieth century. 
The painting was commissioned by a revolutionary body that understood the power of uniting a great artist with a popular cause: Picasso's Guernica  was the response to a delegation from the Spanish Republican government, who asked Picasso to paint a mural for the Spanish Republican Pavilion built for the 1937 World's Fair.  
At first Picasso was going to choose a nonpolitical theme, but the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the German Air Force occurred shortly after  the request, and that aerial terror catalyzed his imagination. The painting is neither narrative nor a blasted landscape. It is unreadable accept symbolically, but the images and the terror speak to us in the modern idiom Picasso painted. 
                          
    And there is Ben Shahn, whose paintings were both calls to action and graphic images of injustice and suffering. From the Sacco & Vanzetti case, where two men with radical political beliefs were tried and executed for a murder they didn’t commit, to the suffering of Japanese fishermen who died from radiation poisoning, Ben Shahn was our graphic conscience. 

The poetry of protest has been a powerful force - and it need not be written by « professional » poets. Visions of War, Dreams of Peace is an anthology of poems written by military nurses who served in Vietnam, a book created to raise funds for a Women’s Vietnam Memorial. « Dusty » was the pseudonym of one of the poets, who suffered from PTSD when that acronym did not yet exist.  
    

Like Emily Dickinson
tucking tight little poems
into the corners and crannies
 of her father’s home
 I tuck their names
 into the crevices
 of my crenellated heart.  


    Rupert Garcia also served in Vietnam. He came home and attended San Francisco State University, receiving the first of three degrees in art, and many awards.  He joined with other Chicano and Latino artists, bringing their experiences into the art world. They were also involved in protesting the disproportionate number of minorities who served in Vietnam.  Garcia, inspired by German Expressionist art of WW I,  created both triptychs and diptychs on the theme of war, especially Fenix , which includes the death symbol of modern wars - the « chopper ». 

       
     Dana Schutz  is a contemporary artist whose imagery has been controversial. A large painting of Emmet Till in his coffin was derided by many, who questioned this provocation from a white woman -  but in this time of police shootings and Black Lives Matter, she evokes one of the tragedies that inspired a nation's sympathy with the Civil Rights movement. 
    Schutz's large bold, brightly colored Cubist/Expressionist canvases attempt to evoke the zeitgeist of the time. The paintings display us in our narcissism and despair, and though they are not narrative, not inherently political, they speak directly to what America has become since the last election. Schutz wrote:
  “I want to make a painting about shame. Public shaming has become an element in contemporary life. You can take a picture of someone and post it online, and thousands of people see it. We’re so ashamed, about so many things, and I think for a candidate to be without shame, like Trump, is really powerful. His lack of shame becomes our shame.”

                                     
Shame
    Finally, there are the remarkable prints created by
Pipelines and Borderlines  https://www.pipelinesandborderlines.org/ It is a non-profit organization that educates the public about the consequences of consumption and production of unsustainable energy."  The group consists of artists from North and South America who create traveling exhibits of  fine art - hand pulled prints that are profound visions of what we are facing.
                                               
Heart of the Monster, Ed 2017

      More art please! More images that inspire and move us, that we can rally around. Let art, in all its many forms, be the partner of Resistance.

                          


 



 






 










                                 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Coltan, The Congo and The Bite in the Apple

In my last blog, The Tree of Life and Knowledge, I wrote about the separation of life and knowledge throughout human history -
how we have overreached since the Paleolithic. The excessive use of our technology lead to the end of one culture, one civilization, after another - and now threatens our very planet.

There is another way we separate life from knowledge, and that is the great divide between all the information we receive through our digital devices, and the lives of those who have mined the materials and manufactured those instruments.
Though all cell phones use the material I’ll be discussing, I am going to focus on Apple, given that fruit as a symbol of knowledge, going back in our history.   Full disclosure: I am neither a technophobe nor techno-refuser, and I own Apple devices, including the one I am typing on.

The need for constant information, constant connection and entertainment, has  been implanted in us over the years and to some degree we might equate it with happiness. So let’s begin on the knowledge side of our great divide, and describe a visit to our local « temple » of information:  
When you enter an Apple store, it is so white and brightly lit, it practically gleams.  

You look at the new iPhones, and the staff  tell you all the things the new one can do that your old one  cannot. 
New features, faster and smarter, plus an updated version of the genie named Siri, who will give you even more information, get you places faster, and play whatever song you ask for, and find your lunch…your Handmaiden? Your new sense of well-being comes in a white box, your phone and cords cradled within as though they were handing you the Holy Babe.   
                                           

Is there a cost here, beside what you just paid?  Some of you may have seen the documentary made in the factories in China where your iPhone is made: The racket, the long hours, the lack of any concern for the well-being of the workers, the exhaustion. We all know that the exploitation of a cheap labor force is responsible for most of the products and clothes we have in our homes, though we may be reluctant to acknowledge that.

But there is another misfortune, and that is the condition of the miners in the Congo who provide us with the Bright and Shiny. We’re going to  leave our gleaming white world and enter the dark world we also have created, for isn’t the Congo the stereotypical heart of darkness in the Western mind? And since that post-colonial black jungle of our imagination does not shed light, what could we possibly know of the conditions where an essential ingredient is mined?


Our technologies require minerals and metals. One is coltan, short for Columbite-tantalite, a metallic ore.When coltan is refined it  can hold a high electric charge, and that’s what capacitors need - and capacitors keep all of our devices charged.  80% of all coltan comes from the Congo, and it is the very definition of a conflict mineral - a substance that is mined in a place where the profits finance militias who enact terror.

There have been wars raging in the eastern Congo since 1994. 5.4 million have died, 3 million have been displaced, a million women raped. It is considered the worst conflict since WWII.  (Council on Foreign Relations).


I interviewed Chingwell Mutombu about the conditions in her country. She described an entire generation dislocated or dead, and thousands of children adrift without parents - 8 and 9 year olds now head of families, trying to provide for younger sisters and brothers. It is these children who can be found working for pennies in the rebel-run mines. The maximum wage is about $5 a day. No food is available, nor medical care. The miners have no machinery, no tools beyond their hands and shovels, if they can afford one.  They work 12 hours a day. Coltan is mined with sluice boxes, the same method used by gold miners in 1849. 



The UN has accused Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda of smuggling coltan over borders to be processed into an essential powder in China - or claiming that their companies own the smelters for the process. Coltan is also processed in other countries, like Brazil and Japan, who claim not to use the ore from conflict mines. But how do they know?

In June 2010, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs admitted the depth of the problem in an email sent to a reporter at Wired magazine: “Until someone invents a way to chemically trace minerals from the source mine, it’s a very difficult problem.” (http://www.newsweek.com/2015/02/13/where-apple-gets-tantalum-your-iphone-304351.html_

                   


Apple admits they use coltan mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo to make the smartphones that fuel our 24 hour lifestyle:  "Apple remains committed to driving economic development and creating opportunities to source conflict-free minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and adjoining countries,’ Apple told the United States Securities and Exchange Commission in February 2015. Apple says its suppliers must adhere to its code. » (Newsweek) Apple does attempt to check on the coltan supplied from the DRC, but the problem of determining from which mine a processed powder comes from is still very difficult.

There is much more to this story, including SEC attempts at regulation and UN involvement. There are Multilayer Ceramic Capacitors (MLCCs) that do not need coltan. They are used for MRIs and other devices, and could be modified for cell phones - but their cost would be slightly higher and their use would lower profits. No comment necessary, right?


The sleek phones cradled in their white packaging are the end product of terror and tragedy. The mining of coltan is a pernicious activity based on the exploitation of desperate people. It is a very dark example of how we literally enslave people, denying  their autonomy, their dignity, and finally, given the dangers of the work, we may deny them their very lives. It is perhaps the ultimate example of the separation of life and knowledge.

             
                                 









Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Tree of Life and Knowledge

                  
                                                                    


      It began with a print I have of a Sumerian seal - priestesses surround a tree and hold out the branches so we can see the fruit. It’s called The Tree of Life and Knowledge. One tree? But I was raised with two: one of life and one of knowledge in the Garden of Eden.  Even side by side, didn’t life and knowledge long for each other? Has it ever been the same since the two were separated? Is that the human condition, that life and knowledge separate?  
I’ve been reading Richard Wright’s A Short History of Progress, which I recommend to anyone interested in How It Has Been, and what I learned began with The People Who Painted the Caves. How fascinated I have been with paleolithic art - attending workshops, lectures, films, and actually entering one - dispensing my own and others' theories on shamanic naturalism - a realism not snatched from the mythic again until the Renaissance. 
Chauvet Cave, Ardeche, France
     
Early modern humans became proficient at hunting. Their stone weapons continually improved - sharper, stronger, lighter. Their population rose.   Have you imagined one man, or one troupe tracking a huge animal for hours? I have. But "some of their slaughter sites were almost industrial in size; a thousand mammoths at one; more than 100,000 horses at another. » (P. 38) And then there was nothing to sustain them. 
  
They had overreached. They did not know how, or weren’t willing, to change course, and they disappeared. So 40,000 years ago, we were doing the same thing - separating life and knowledge - that we do now. 

The Sumerians also overreached. Their brilliant use of irrigation changed villages into towns, and towns into great cities. But civilizations use massive resources, and when the trees were turned into timber, and the great mats of roots and mosses no longer held in the soil, the flash floods began, and later when more powerful floods broke through the dams, vast quantities of water surged - and we get the story of the Flood. Their gods saw humans as dangerous. They had sinned against the earth itself, and the gods set out to destroy them, which is what it must feel like when your dams break. 
Athens? Apparently the Athenians we're worried about deforestation in the sixth century B.C.E! A couple hundred years later Plato, in the Critias, lamented the ecological damage that had been  done: 
What now remains compared with what then existed is like the skeleton of a sick man all the fat and soft earth have washed away…… mountains..had trees not very long ago. The land was enriched by the yearly rains which were not lost to it as is now…… Springs and streams running everywhere. Now only abandon shrines remain to show where the Springs once flowed.

That last line really captured me. I wrote this poem:

                                
  Delphi, denuded

                                  Now only abandoned shrines remain to  
                                    
show where the springs once flowed                                                                 Plato  Critias 
Remnants    rubble   crumbled marble 
                           One formerly holy slab at the center  
   Imagine Pythia the Oracle  her long hair tangled 

        in everyone’s fate
           still listening for Gaea 
      No  Pythia    

           someone was blinded looking into the sun
                  and named their assailant Apollo  
               You are no longer speaking for Her
                       now you incant  enchant  intone 
                            for the light of the world   
              
The spring  

      it always says the shrines were centered at a spring  
          long dried up   after the trees were felled  
             now the site is nearly naked   a few bushes  
                  three standing columns   a bit of lintel 
         just enough to let you know this was the omphalos  the navel

Those blue-black treeless mountains  above  unembarrassed by   

      their bare breasts          
          the mountains are just like us  they have lost their memory  
                we think the mountains were always that way   
                   And I can’t even end with Pythia’s voice
                                still present in the wind 
              because the wind  my friends  is as empty as the shrine


The examples of civilizations that have peaked, overreached continues in our own day. The separation of knowledge and life is a feature of our time. It would take the rest of this page to detail the post-industrial processes feeding the smelter of progress that have leached, leaked and released sickening or deadly chemicals into our lives. 
We will not admit to any limits. Science depends on and demands the freedom to explore without boundaries. What could we do next? Assemble a robotic human? Clone a woman? Who has ever known a human who said, in advance of experimentation, this could lead to disaster, so I’ll stop?

Not only have life and knowledge been separated, but knowledge itself has been disdained, discredited.  David A. Baker writes:

The separation of knowledge from life is one of the tragedies of our time.  Immersed in technology, we become addicted to transient knowledge which has little to do with life or the organic structure of our own lives.
 
Knowledge supports life when an elder teaches a child how to plant; when medications and medical techniques are created for our benefit, not profit; when a composer uses his skills to create a sound world for us, or our leaders stop denying reality and work to create a sustainable world that is sound. Knowledge supports life when the ripe, fragile fruit of life, and the varieties of knowledge, grow together on our family tree.


                      



 






                                


                               
                                                             



                                                

















Tuesday, November 1, 2016

On Men and Aging


                          
         
        My aging husband falls off a ladder. Bruised, sore - but ever so fortunately, nothing more.  It’s his ego that hurts - no even deeper than that. His physicality is such an important part of who he is.

        This is a man who just a few years ago scampered across scaffolding painting murals and intricate effects on walls. He skipped stone to stone across fast creeks, once carried our wounded 65 lb Samoyed half a mile on a hard trail back to camp. He has always counted on his body.
(And so have I.)


        We have a friend who led treks to the highest mountains, not that old now really, slowly shuffling around the block two strokes later. Don’t suggest books to him, crafts, or afternoons of foreign movies, unless you want the most dismissive look anyone has ever given you. He doesn’t really want to live.  « Who the hell am I now» he asks, « and why bother? »
(It really hurts to hear that. )

The artist Pierre Bonnard  Self Portrait
                                                              
       And there's our friend who is no longer supposed to drive, who promised he wouldn’t but had a set of keys hidden, his partner was gone for the day and would never know, and the car was just sitting there and why pay for Uber?  

       
  
     « Being unable to drive in our culture is a massive blow
to independence. We attach so much attention to self-reliance
and independence as defining characteristics of masculinity, of
maleness and virility that they have deep significance for the lack
of hope and feeling of insignificance in American men as they face
reduced  mobility and independence. Dependence upon charitable
programs, friends, neighbors, or relatives further erodes feelings
of self-capability, confidence and usefulness.»   David A. Baker


     At my age I’m surrounded by these men, and I feel for 
them. I've seen the depression that sets in, that lurks and lingers, and hinders appreciation let alone joy. I have heard men boasting of old exploits to their grandkids so the little ones will know that grandpa was once Really Strong.
(It doesn’t sound like macho to me - just compensation.)


      
        David A. Baker continues  « Intimate relationships between women where shared feelings are discussed and support is offered freely, is simply absent in relationships between men. «  

       How sad I find that. I have shared feelings about aging with my women friends, acquaintances, even empathic strangers in rest rooms, since the first gray hairs. We grieve that we’re no longer ‹ hot’ and complain of the cold. There are tears, but ribald crone-laughter too, lamenting droops, dryness, double chins.  There must be some guys who have such sharing!


Rembrandt van Rijn  Self Portrait
      « We lose touch, Victor Rangel-Ribeiro says, and we try to establish touch but often when we reach out our hands and find only emptiness. »  from Growing Old on Two Continents
      
      "Long legs that once carried one with some grace and some speed on the hardwood court or playing field morphed into fragile pipestems ....the body, as Richard Pryor put it, (or was it Ali?) should  sue the legs for non-support."
     "Does that shuffling codger not know his spider’s legs, purple-veined, are pathetic in walking shorts?  In the midst of one’s arrogance and intolerance, a discomforting inisght floods one’s consciousness: these pensioners are one’s peers! » 

                    Gordon Weaver, That Face in the Bathroom Mirror

      I read the draft of this blog to my husband. He hopes
that men will read it and share it with each other. I hope so too.
                                         

Sources: 
David A. Baker, private correspondence
The essays Growing Old on Two Continents and That Face in the Bathroom Mirror can be found in 
Duff Brenna & Thomas E. Kennedy, Winter Tales: Men Writing About Aging, Copenhagen and Florham Park, N.J. : Serving House Books, 2011.