I’ve been trying to get some spiritual work done lately. It’s not going great.
I’m not talking about meditating, levitating, studying scripture or attending religious meetings five nights a week.
And no, I won’t be ascending any staircases on my knees next month in Italy either.
I just want to murder my ego. I want it dead as a door nail.
I want it to stop following me around all day making me expect special treatment–like pretty birthday cards from my old man, foot massages and good customer service from Tracfone.
Leave me alone you nasty ego.
You make me say assanine things on Facebook.
You make me angry when I don’t get the reaction from people that I want.
You make me feel embarrassed over things that happened decades ago.
You make me whine like a baby when I’m hot and tired and dirty and just want a bath but it’s only 2:30 in the afternoon and I’m no where near done working in the yard yet.
You make me act like people I don’t like.
You make me have a meltdown in a smokey I-84 rest area because I have to sleep there in 100 degree heat and I’m hot and tired and dirty and just want a bath, like every other poor soul stuck there, and there are plenty, because they can’t find a room or a campsite, or because they are homeless and sleep there every damned night but I have to act like some privileged old white lady with her first world problems and have a bitch fit…because of you.
Damn you ego, you did that to me.
I dislike you immensely.
Like I said, it’s not going so well.
But I’m working on it.
I’ll get that bitch yet.
And I’m open to suggestions.
I used to enjoy travelling around the interior western United States. But I never wanted to live there. In spite of it’s towering mountain ranges, mighty river systems, geological wonders and preponderance of National Parks, Forests and Monuments.
I was always glad to get back to the west side of the Cascades, where the air was softer, cooler and saturated with oxygen, not smoke, all summer. And of course it’s beautiful right here at home.
But the last decade or so things have definitely changed.
We spend more time indoors now in the summer…with the air conditioning on.
Actually, it’s recommended this week due to the smoke and haze that is blanketing the Northwest with thick cottony air that stings our eyes and throats. We are surrounded by fires that are pumping out a steady supply of carbon rich smoke. California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia. Some of it is coming from as far away as Russia!
We have had under an inch of rain in the last 120 days here. The woods around our home are an abundant and overflowing tinder box. It makes me wary. It makes me crazy. I know I’m not imagining that things are getting worse.
It’s been far too many summers that I have felt this way.
Being stuck indoors on these long summer days is so irritating to me. It’s why I have never felt the desire to move to a warmer climate, even if the winters are more tolerable. When the days are long I want to spend them outside, like I used to, not inside hiding from the heat until after the sun goes down. What a waste!
There isn’t a pool in the world, lighted, beautifully landscaped, and just a step or two from the back door, that could make that lifestyle attractive to me.
Today I feel like a prisoner. Today, I think maybe we all are:
Prisoners on an earth ship that is precariously out of balance.
In a prison of our own making.
None of us knowing the length of our sentence, or if we will outlive it.
Perhaps it’s a death sentence. Some people think so.
We don’t know absolutely, but we know enough to make educated guesses, and the educated among us have been pretty accurate in their projections. More drought, more prolonged heat, more vicious storms. Less temperate and more harsh conditions. More crop failure, less food security. More wildfires and floods and famines. More political unrest. More refugees. Less diversity. Less life.
Less life. Yes, that is what I’m feeling. The life-less-ness.
I’m living it, and I recognize the irony.
But I have no basis to complain. I’m part of the problem. I’ve lived sixty years on this earth, in a fairly conventional western manner. I am an American, which by birth makes me a master consumer in comparison to people in many other parts of the world.
My attempts at reducing my ecological footprint have been paltry.
I undoubtedly deserve to be punished for the part I have played in the climate crisis we are facing. I feel the weight of it following me around these days the way a guilty man carries his sentence with him, with a sense of the inevitable.
Certainly the Orcas and the salmon and the dolphins and manatees don’t deserve to suffer for my dereliction of care for this planet. Or yours.
Another blogger mentioned reading an article about how studies confirm that the IQ of human beings has gone down in the last few generations. I believe it without question.
Think about it.
WE ARE POISONING OUR ENVIRONMENT.
There is nothing intelligent about that.
And we can’t feign ignorance, not anymore. We know what we are doing.
We are a lung cancer patient continuing to smoke.
We are a dialysis patient continuing to drink.
We are an advanced species with the ability to reason acting in a completely unreasonable manner.
In other words:
Forgive me, but I needed to get that off my chest. Must be the smoke.
I spent the first twenty years of my life in a post-war cape cod style home with four finished rooms and two unfinished attic bedrooms where my four brothers slept. Those boys froze up there in the winter–it was New England after all–and in the summer, it was steamy.
My sister and I shared a room across the hall from our parents. The boys hated that we got to enjoy both a heat register and the cooling effect of the old silver maples, sleeping on the first floor, and thought we were spoiled. But we were just girls. And besides, they got away with all kinds of shit up there that we couldn’t get away with downstairs. Our parents weren’t dummies.
Across the street from our house, behind the neighbors homes, was a Pond.
When I was growing up it was known as Niggs Pond, but it has since been renamed Walker Pond, in Milford, Connecticut. I did not know the origins of the name and scoffed at the legends–a black man drowned there, or another was lynched. I found those stories unlikely and offensive.
Try as I might I never could find any real historical explanation for the name and for a time thought it might be referenced to an old village and parish in Scotland, which just might be so as Milford is also a village in Surrey, England and those roots run deep in this colonial town in Connecticut which was settled in 1639.
In the good cold winters of my youth, we engaged in some fun snow play at the pond– sliding down the hills on our flying saucers and flexible flyers, gathering around bonfires under freezing cold night skies, and jamming as many humans as possible on a single toboggan before flying down the hill and onto the ice. God save the last person to squeeze on. They were usually the first to fly off into space when the going got rough. I’m a witness.
My favorite activity by far was ice skating. This was the era of twelve foot long scarfs, and I still remember the whips we would form. A line of warm bodies all clutching the scarf and skating in unison until the line turned sharply at some point sending those at the ends into centrifugal motion, whipping them across the ice at high velocity. Such fun!
In the summer the pond was chock full of sunnies and catfish, painted turtles, bull frogs and black snakes, and some pretty formidable snapping turtles too. My brother Dana brought home at least one of each for a pet at one time or another, and even came home with a chicken he named Harvey and who was a fun family pet, until he froze to death.
Nigg’s Pond wasn’t a swimming pond. It was too murky overall and got slimy in the heat. But it was water and trees and birds and squirrels and once, only once that I can recall, a great blue heron. And while it pales in comparison to the lakes and ponds I’ve been privileged to observe in my adult life in the west, it was shangri-la enough for me as a kid.
When I was a teenager, Nigg’s Pond was party central, a speak easy and infamous gathering place for Milford teens. Kids from other neighborhoods would visit from time to time, but the regular crew was just local kids. For the most part, we all went to the same school, with the exception of a few poor souls who were enrolled in Catholic or Prep schools.
And while we were not a gang, just a loose bunch of friends, we had monikers– the “pond boys” and the “pond girls”. We still refer to ourselves in that manner at times, and stories about those days often dominate the conversation when we see one another.
The Pond. We owned that place.
Except when the neighbors called the cops to complain about our noise.
The cops weren’t particularly stealthy though. We could see them coming with their flash lights blasting through the darkness of the woods and we would douse our cigarettes and ditch our beer cans in the brush, and beat feet out of there. Once, when we decided to hold still and be defiant, we all ended up at the police station. My friend Kim and I were fifteen, our birthdays only two weeks apart, but she lied and told them she was sixteen and then so did I.
When we got to the station and fessed up that we were really fifteen, the police were exasperated. They couldn’t detain minors, and, had they known we were underage earlier, would have probably just driven us home and had a little chat with our parents. But now here we were at the station and what to do??
The young policeman called my father and told him he had me at the police station.
“I’m not coming to pick her up. You can keep her there.”
“But sir, we have no detention facilities for minors”–especially girls is what I’m thinking.
“Well I am not coming to get her so you can lock her up as far as I’m concerned.”
End of conversation.
Oh great. Now I’m crying. I hate my hard-assed old man and I know I am gonna be in huge trouble if and when I finally do get home.
So the rattled officer calls Kim’s father, Joe, who is a roofer and a musician and like the coolest daddio on the planet as far as I’m concerned.
“Yes, I’ll come pick up my daughter.”
“Yes, I’ll take Ilona also and see that she gets home to her parent’s.”
Easy Peasy. Told you he was the coolest daddio on the planet.
I believe another phone call was made to my father to explain that I would be coming home and not staying in the joint that night and I guess Dad agreed as long as he didn’t have to come get me.
I remember the ride home with Kim and her father. I remember being depressed and feeling un-loved and concerned about my future.
I remember Joe Capello being incredibly kind and possibly being concerned about my future too. I think he might have been wondering what kind of hard assed old man would leave his daughter in the klinker overnight for a minor offense.
My hard assed old man, that’s who.
Funny thing is, I don’t remember what happened when I got home. The old man was probably pissed off. He might have given me that look. He might have grounded me. Maybe he yelled. If so, he probably swore a lot. I don’t think he laid a hand on me.
He also might have shook his head and chuckled, his “that will teach you” chuckle. He might have uttered those words that left me cold and clammy and seething with teenage resentment:
You wanna dance, you gotta pay the fiddler.
In other words, your actions have consequences.
God I hated those words, and shortly I would learn that lesson in the hardest way.
But for the time being, I was home again, sleeping in my own bed, feeling a little wounded, and wondering if my father loved me at all.
He did. And he would prove it over and over again as time went by.
Maybe he wasn’t the coolest daddio on the planet, but I was his daughter and he was my father and it was his job to take care of me and try to lead me down the narrow path, which wasn’t an easy task. But it was his, and he did it the best way he knew how. And now I can say without any reservation that I love him for it.
The old hard ass.
©2018 by Ilona Elliott
What does the nut in doughnut refer to?
Why is there not a national chain of organic doughnut shops?
Do healthy people not eat doughnuts?
What is wrong with them?
Why would anyone drink coffee black when you can drink it with cream or half n half?
Why does imported cherry syrup from Italy not taste like Robitussin?
Why does cherry syrup, (or cherry anything) made in the USA taste like Robitussin?
Why aren’t cannoli as widely available as cheese cake?
Does anybody really like low fat ice cream?
If not, why even make it?
Is there any correlation between the statement that “life is short” and our propensity for fast food?
Is the latter somehow responsible for the former?
What does: “In physics, spacetime is any mathematical model that fuses the three dimensions of space and the one dimension of time into a single four-dimensional continuum” mean? Wikipedia
Is it possible to speed up time and project the world into the year 2020?
If so, how?
Can the POTUS also be an astronaut?
If so, can he be the first man sent to Mars? Please…
How can a grown man watch Perry Mason three times a day and Svengoolie every Saturday?
©2018 by Ilona Elliott
I spend a fair amount of time reading other people’s blogs. I have a nice little collection of blogs that I follow that interest me or make me laugh or encourage me to think. I enjoy reading and commenting on the posts. I feel a certain kinship with the writers.
Plus, it’s a lot easier than writing posts of my own.
Before I started blogging five or six years ago, I took a free on-line course through my library on creating a website. Then I took five additional writing courses which I thoroughly enjoyed and learned from and that complimented my short but illustrious career as a writing student at Blue Mountain Community College.
I also took a music reading course, which ruined me for trying to learn to play the mandolin I had recently acquired. I hated it. It was like high school and college algebra all over again. AGONY! I completed the course work, open book of course, but in the end I had not learned a thing about how to actually make music that floats through the ear and stimulates memory, passion, longing, booty shaking and all the other lovely things music stimulates in your every day run of the mill savage beast. It might have worked better if I had a keyboard to translate all of that book learning onto, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it on the mandolin.
It was demoralizing. It was like learning that before I could eat a piece of cake, I had to know how to convert the recipe into metric, understand the physics of combining liquids, carbohydrates and fats under the application of heat, and figure out how to grow, harvest and mill the wheat for the flour…before taking a bite.
It was a lot like watching Alton Brown cook just about anything.
I never picked up that mandolin again.
But I did start writing my blog.
I was pretty ignorant of what a blog’s purpose was or was not, or could or should be.
I was familiar with bloggers who wrote about specific activities or pursuits such as cooking, decorating, child rearing, fashion, and how to save enough money to buy a Maserati by clipping coupons.
I wasn’t as familiar with blogs that were not trying to advise or instruct or report but were mainly interested in communicating thoughts and experiences in a meaningful or artful manner.
I did know that I wanted to write essays and poems and memoir, the things I had enjoyed writing in my course work and that lent themselves to the kind of things I wanted to communicate. So that’s what I did.
And it’s been good. I’ve done alright. I’ve written a few posts that I’m proud of. I’ve communicated some thoughts on important and sometimes delicate issues that seemed to strike a chord with folks.
And I’ve found a community of other like minded writers.
A casual friend of mine who recently started reading the blog told me that she thought I was a good writer and that I wrote with conviction and she liked that. It felt really good to hear that from someone other than a relative or a loved one. I appreciated her praise more than she knows.
I don’t know what the purpose of my blog is. I know that it is a place to write, and that my writing is an exercise in trying to understand things, and that writing things down and putting thoughts into words and organizing them into cogent form helps me to work through the issues and emotions and experiences I describe.
I guess that’s enough.
I don’t have to make money–and I don’t. I’ve always sucked at that.
I don’t have to reach a huge audience–and I don’t. I know a few people who will remain unnamed with audiences in the millions whose words and ideas are completely incoherent to me.
I don’t have to have a degree to do this. I don’t have to write to a deadline. I don’t have to be an expert. I don’t have to follow the rules.
I don’t have to please anyone but myself.
Writing this has made me realize something about the music course that derailed my hopes of learning to play that mandolin.
I don’t have to strive to learn how to read music. I just have to enjoy making it.
It’s not like I’m planning on composing a symphony. I just want to jam along to my CD’s and with my brother.
I think I’m ready to pick it up again and do just that.
©2018 by Ilona Elliott
I just finished reading My Beloved World by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
It’s a delightfully readable and inspirational book by a woman who admittedly struggled with writing cogently well into her college years.
Sotomayor grew up in the projects in the Bronx. She contracted juvenile diabetes as a child, and because her parents were too squeamish to learn how to properly give her the insulin injections that were necessary to sustain her young life, she learned to do so herself at the tender age of seven.
Sotomayor’s father died when she was nine. Her mother, a native of Puerto Rico, came to the US mainland as a young woman, herself orphaned, when she signed up for the Women’s Army Corps during WWII. She worked hard all her life, and even as a widow managed to provide her two children with a private Catholic school education. She preached to her children continuously about the importance of getting an education.
Justice Sotomayor’s Puerto Rican heritage insured that she had a rich community and family life nurtured by the love and support of her parent’s extended families. It also helped to insure that she received the best education available in the United States due to affirmative action admissions policies at the Ivy League institutions she attended–Princeton and Yale.
But when Sonia began her education at Princeton, she was at an academic and cultural disadvantage. Her knowledge of the wider world outside of her home in the Bronx was limited. She was not familiar with higher forms of literature and had never attended an advanced learning class or had a private tutor, like so many of her more privileged classmates had. She struggled with writing essays due to a lack of schooling in proper grammar and syntax and the colloquialism of her humble upbringing.
But what Sonia lacked in schooling and cultural development, she more than made up for in determination and intelligence. She may have had a slow start at Princeton, but her excellent academic performance and her civic engagement in the school earned her membership in Phi Beta Kappa and the coveted Pyne Prize for “excellent scholarship, strength of character and effective leadership”, at Princeton, and a spot on the Yale Law Review later on. She graduated Princeton summa cum laude in 1976 and went on to complete her law degree at Yale.
The trajectory of Sonia Sotomayor’s law career was not typical of a Yale graduate but was indeed indicative of her commitment to public service and the greater good. She worked primarily in small law firms before accepting a position in the DA’s office in New York. There she honed her skills at interpreting the finer points of criminal law along with her propensity for understanding how the law actually affects individual lives, a critical skill for someone who would one day be administering justice at the highest level of the U. S. judicial system.
Sonia Sotomayor dreamed about being a judge from the time she was a young girl watching Perry Mason on television. Her autobiography describes the measured, intuitive and methodical path she took to achieve her private dream. That and the personal nature of her narrative gives us a window into the steadiness of character and the agility of mind she possesses that has served her so well throughout her life and esteemed career.
In 1992 her appointment to the U.S. district court under the G.W. Bush administration was a major accomplishment for a 38 year old Latina woman from the Bronx. In 1998 she took a seat on the US Second District Court of Appeals.
In 2009, Sotomayor was nominated by President Barak Obama for a seat on the Supreme Court. Upon her acceptance, she became the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in U.S. history.
The story of Sonia Sotomayor is the story of America. It is a testament to the American ideal of equal rights and opportunities for everyone.
When I was a young woman, working as a contracts administrator in a construction firm, the owner of the business quizzed me if I would be uncomfortable if he hired a black man who had applied to fill an opening in the accounting office. I was shocked that such a question would even be raised, that a persons skin color would even be considered to be a potential disqualification for his or her employment. It was then that I realized the absolute necessity of programs that insured equal opportunity in the workplace for people of color.
I believe stories like Sotomayor’s need to remain part of any discussion or debate for programs of affirmative action or equal opportunity. We hear so much from the opponents of such programs about the unfairness of them and how they convey special benefits upon people simply because of their race.
I can’t help but wonder how many of those opponents have ever had first hand knowledge of what race discrimination feels like. Have their ancestors ever had to fight to use a public restroom, sit where they chose to on a bus, or attend the school of their choice?
I do believe that affirmative action should always be expansive enough to consider economic disadvantage under it’s umbrella of protection and should not be based solely on a persons minority status.
The last words in My Beloved World are these:
I am blessed. In this life, I am truly blessed.
That same grateful attitude prevails throughout Justice Sotomayor’s book. I perceive that it has propelled her forward each step of her way. She did not take affirmative action and the opportunity it provided to her for granted, she took it and ran with it, and through her own diligence and hard work, she multiplied it’s blessing in her life exponentially.
Americans are blessed. Truly. And yet in these times of ever widening income inequality and re-emergent racial tensions, who can deny that some of us are most assuredly more blessed than others? Are the blessings that America conveys to her children abundant enough to be shared with those among us who would aspire to things normally outside the realm of practical possibility?
I believe that they are.
©2018 by Ilona Elliott
Copyright © 2013 by Sonia Sotomayor
Often people are moved to tears by sadness, but occasionally people are moved to tears by goodness. That’s what happens to the audiences of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” the new documentary about Fred Rogers. The documentary demonstrates how Rogers’s children’s show got started and how he used it over 30 years to teach and accompany children. […]
Thanks to David at Live & Learn for this post and it’s inspiring content.
Last night I watched a re-run of Blue Planet II on BBC America.
I love that program.
There is not a lot of quality documentary style programming on Television anymore. Much of it is so dumbed down it has become most tiresome to watch.
Nobody got time for that shit.
But Blue Planet on BBC is so beautifully filmed and so full of fascinating creatures. It’s like a really good book, a walk through an incredible art gallery, and a biology class rolled into one gorgeous package.
Someone compared it to nature porn, which I guess is a thing (?), but I had never heard of it. And yes, it was a seductively beautiful production. But it was also full of new and exciting discoveries and never before seen footage of plants and animals doing astonishing things.
The episode last night featured all kinds of wonderful creatures that inhabit the oceans.
A school of bottle nose dolphins was filmed rubbing themselves on a gorgonian, which is an aquatic plant that grows on the floor of the Red Sea. Research has shown that gorgonians have certain anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties in the mucus layer that covers their branches. The adults appeared to be demonstrating to the babies in the school this important practice in proper dolphin hygiene. Amazing!
Then there was the tusk fish, an unfortunate looking fish with a wicked under bite and pointy, funky little teeth who digs up clams and uses the hard edges of the reef to crack them open before gobbling them up. Resourceful!
And there were Charlie Tuna looking trevally fish launching themselves out of the water, flying really, to catch birds in flight above the water. The filming of this particular phenomenon was spell binding and heart stopping as a little baby tern, new to flying, narrowly escapes being dined on by these macho, but resourceful, fish. Whew. He made it!
There was so much amazing footage and so many interesting creatures, like the schools of dolphins filmed surfing the big waves, apparently, just for the sheer joy of it.
I’ve seen this particular episode of Blue Planet II before, but I never get tired of watching it and sitting open mouthed at how awesome this planet we inhabit is.
Think about it, in one episode there were fish practicing and teaching intuitive medicine, fish using tools to perfect their culinary skills, flying fish fly-fishing…for birds, but still, and surfer dude fish enjoying a little recreational activity, just for the hell of it.
Which all had me wondering: Are we really the most intelligent creatures on the planet, or are we just the most well adapted?
What do you think?
If you haven’t checked out Blue Planet or Blue Planet II, I highly recommend them.
I think we could all, always, use a little more schooling in, or just a reminder of, the things that make life on earth so incredible.
I was rummaging around in my purse the other day and found a little glass pebble. My grand niece gave it to me the day I left Connecticut for home.
She was “helping” me pack for my flight. She has made three trips down to Walt Disney World with her family so she’s an expert packer.
Lyza gave me four glass pebbles that day. “Here are some gemstones for you to remember me and Emma by” she said. She also gave me several rubber gloves from the box in Steve’s garage. And a bubble stick.
She’s almost seven years old and has seen me enough times by now to finally treat me like a relative. I don’t have many opportunities to engage with children, so it’s nice to be treated like the auntie that I am. Her cousin Emma has been doing it since day one, but she is so much more outgoing than Lyza.
Lyza is shy. She takes her time getting to know you. She checks you out. I guess I finally passed muster.
Also, she is old enough now to fully understand that I am Grandma’s sister, which accounts for a lot I guess. It does for me too.
We had an interesting conversation sitting out on Judy’s deck.
She asked me if I had a husband: Yes, I have a husband.
Do you have any kids?: No, I don’t have any kids.
But if you have a husband, then you have to have kids:. No, you don’t.
Yes, you do: No, you don’t.
Yes you do. First you get a husband and then you get a kid.
Okay, I’ll talk to my husband about it.
I didn’t know if the TSA would wonder what a sixty year old lady was doing boarding a plane with glass pebbles, a bubble stick and a handful of rubber gloves and since she stole the gloves from Grandpa Steve’s garage anyways, I sneaked around and put everything back that she had given me.
Except for one little glass pebble. Which I found the other day. Which made me sad and lonely because she’s so far away.
But I have this little gemstone to remember her and Emma by.
Kid’s are so awesome.
©2018 by Ilona Elliott