The Washington Post has created a gruesome but necessary database that tracks those shot and killed by police. The database was begun in 2015 after the murder of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri, police officers led to the discovery that many police killings were never recorded in the FBI database.
The data is clear: young, black men are killed more often than others.
Unfortunately, the database focuses on shootings so this morning’s news about the cousin of a Black Lives Matter co-founder who was killed by police with a taser may not be included. The young man from Washington, D.C. was visiting family in Los Angeles for the holidays. The video, released at the request of the family, shows his fear, driven by his sense that he was probably going to die like so many others. It will stay with me, alongside George Floyd calling for his mother. I won’t post it but encourage you to watch it. I think about Emmett Till’s mother who insisted the casket stay open so people were forced to confront the truth.
I spent December binge watching media while making cards, crocheting gifts and baking. When I wasn’t making, I was reading, finishing the year with 134 books. I also completed the Kindle challenge with a perfect month in December. I traveled a bit, too, to see family and friends. All excuses for not blogging, I suppose, but being offline in general helped me consider how and where I wanted to spend my in 2023.
I have not made a resolution to post every day but figured I could at least check in to wish everyone a happy new year. I spent yesterday setting up my LibraryThing thread in the 75 books a year group, my 9th year sharing life and reading with a few people. I intend to spend more time there than on social media, developing deeper relationships in this protected environment. I created a new year’s greeting just for them as several of them are bird nerds like me.
I would like to take more photos so I signed on for Fat Mum Slim’s Photo a Day challenge. Today’s theme was hello and here was my submission.
Major is loving the nice weather and we usually get out twice each day for a ramble around the farm. We have had regular sitings of a bald eagle and a hawk along with meadowlarks and white-throated sparrows.
I’ll write more this year about the importance of nature in my life.
I also include a selfie I grabbed on the walk. This is me at 60-1/2, unfiltered. I cringe a little at posting, but I have earned those lines and wrinkles. If I have any wisdom to share, it is to be aware in the present as much as possible. Bad or good, it’s what you have. It is the essential lesson of meditation. It doesn’t mean you can’t change your life and your circumstances if need be, but acceptance of the present can help with that process as well.
For some reason, I thought of Bruce Springsteen as I wrote that advice. His album, Wrecking Ball, is filled with stories of struggle and oppression; yet, there seems to be a sense of hope as well that hard times and rocky ground have moments of contentment and joy as well, even if it is in the listening of a song. I leave you on this first day of the new year with two songs from Springsteen. The first is his live rendition of a Stephen Foster song called “Hard Times (Come Again No More)” and the second the video for “Rocky Ground” from the Wrecking Ball album, which references the Foster song. Many of the songs on Springsteen’s album have connections to old American songs and spirituals.
I don’t reread books. But, I do rewatch movies. I have about ten or so that I sink into when I need a break from the world.
Yesterday, I ended up with True Stories, David Byrne’s 1986 satire of small town life with the soundtrack mostly written by Byrne and performed by his band The Talking Heads and various cast members. Once again, I was reminded that, within his satire, Byrne mostly got the future right, from sprawling suburbs to burgeoning conspiracy theories to emptying downtowns. At its heart, the film is the story of human beings struggling to maintain some semblance of control in an increasingly chaotic world.
As with most prophecies, we don’t always understand them at the time. I remember loving the movie and the music but missing the larger message when I first saw it on the big screen all those years ago. At the time, I was living in Los Angeles and going to graduate school at UCLA, and there were plenty of examples of Byrne’s vision for Virgil, Texas, already coming true throughout California. But, in 1986, I think the sense of the power of progress outweighed the potential downsides presented by the doomsayers.
My modern literature professor at the time made a comment that has stuck with me. He observed that modern and contemporary writers often lament the loss of innocence and fundamental disconnect from natures that seem to come with progress. He went on to comment that he had trouble helping his undergraduates understand this point of view. After all, living in the concrete sprawl of Los Angeles, they saw parking lots not as eyesores but as a place to park their sports cars.
If you haven’t ever watched True Stories, it is available at various streaming outlets. Two clips, in particular, show Byrne’s prescience. One features the “perfect” family of the CEO of Varicorp, the town’s computer manufacturer. The parents do not speak directly to each other, instead using their son and daughter to communicate. In the clip, the CEO played by Spalding Gray, uses the dinner table to envision the new world order:
The second clip features John Ingle as an evangelical preacher with a brief appearance of Jo Harvey Allen, simply known as the lying woman. We wade into the world of religious prophecy and conspiracy theory, underscored by the Talking Heads’ song, “Puzzlin’ Evidence”. (I can’t embed so click the song title to access.)
These two clips give a good idea of the tone of the film and I hope they entice you to watch the whole thing. According to Wikipedia (although it needs a citation), the film was not commercially successful but has become a cult classic.
Summer is on its way out with a few last hot, humid days. Metereological fall arrived September 1, and the Equinox is tomorrow. Autumn is my favorite season. I love watching as it slides into our lives every year, chilly mornings and foggy fields reminding us, as Robert Frost once did, that nothing gold can stay.
With summer gone, I find myself nesting, decluttering and organizing my studio, making lists of fall projects, and taking some time to explore bullet journaling and planners. It seems as though everyone has a planner to sell. As I explored the options, it occurred to me that I could just make my own planner/journal, the goal being to use it for both planning and reflection. I have always been intrigued by the Daily Examen, a spiritual practice based on Ignatius Loyola. Loyola’s practice was based in Christian imagery, of course, but I think it is possible to take it as a more general approach to ending the day with intention. Actually, my Apple watch even suggests a bit of mindfulness as a way to wind down at the end of the day so the practice has certainly entered the secular world.
Even as I work on my organizer, I continue to drift along a bit. There have been endings: my retirement, the loss of Spot, the last of the vegetables from the garden. And there is the usual beginning as I head into the fall semester. But, for now, while there are a few glimmers of new opportunities, there is no clearly marked path. Astrologer Chani Nicholas mentioned the concept of liminal space in past two weekly readings, and the concept resonates with my current state. As I understand them, liminal spaces, from the Latin limen or threshold, are the spaces in between the endings and beginnings of practices and lives, its roots in anthropology and rites of passage. It is considered an uncomfortable place, and there are days when I wonder if I am living it right.
Joseph Goldstein, in the Ten Percent Happier app’s Common Questions course, commenting on what might happen at the beginning of your practice, says with a chuckle, ” The beginning can be the first twenty years.” I have only been exploring my own new beginning for a couple months so maybe I don’t need to worry too much and just allow myself to experience liminality for a little while longer. I created the image at the beginning of the post, using my own photo of the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail.
A small section of our 18-acre property is wooded and wild. My husband keeps some paths mowed for walks, but these paths wander through small woods and undergrowth. There’s an old ceramic silo in amongst briars and small saplings, its metal roof settled into the undergrowth, blown off when a tornado went through the property.