Sixty years out, I think, they will remember the carrots:
Sixty years out, I think, they will remember the carrots:
The flood was an enough of a problem for the mail carriers. The rain swollen and swift river carried rocks and boulders as though they were rubber duckies afloat in a pond. The river left its banks carrying its load of rounded basalt rocks,poured waist high through woods, and carved a new bed from the old roadway, making it impassable for mailmen. Uprooted trees fell, and one of them bashed a lone-standing mailbox with a glancing blow. By the time the waterline and roadcrews had replaced the broken watershed piping and repaired the road, this mailbox was left stranded across a gully with its door left ajar waiting for mail. Its flag missing. It swoopy new shape making it look like a sculpture in a a garden of a modern art museum.
But even before the newly appointed United States Postmaster began having mail-sorting machines dismantled in August and cut postman's hours to disrupt our upcoming election results, (I can't believe I just wrote that sentence.) another disruption was under way with that lone mailbox standing over the gully. The hazard arrived quietly and at first was small. It's silver gray tones blended well with the metal of the mailbox. It grew larger, filling most of the box.
Paper wasps construct nests by scraping and chewing wood fiber into a pulp and then layering it to make internal hexagonal cubicles enclosed in an exterior that looks similar to the flakey crust of a croissant. The nests are beautifully engineered.
These particular type of wasps are wonderful to have near gardens, where they catch small pesky insects that cause damage to plants. The wasps are not aggressive unless they are having to defend the queen in the nest, like those queens whose nests are located in mailboxes. All summer the wasps created one last hazard for any mailman intent on doing his duty to that lone mailbox.
But fall is here. We have had our first freeze. All of the paper wasps have died now. Except the queen. She will winter over in a snug place. The nest remains, intact and nonthreatening. Quite beautiful, really.
And the threat to the postal service of our democratic nation?
The aggressive dismantling of what we have assumed was non-political. Well, go vote. It is too late to mail your ballot in many places (due often to more poltical shennigans), so GO VOTE—in person or drop your ballot in a drop box. VOTE.
Some losses are so sudden there is no anticipation attached. The death of Ruth Baden Ginsburg was of the worrisome slow and inevitable kind. I began worrying back when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009. My husband's death of the same type of cancer left me no choice but to worry. Her recent abrupt passing was attributed to complications of pancreatic cancer.
Her death coincided with a recent trip of mine to Wallowa County, where the barn in this photo reminded me of slow deaths. I always forget about this barn until I round a corner and see it butted up against the road and am caught by surprise that it still stands. The roof has been disintegrating for a few years, and more panes are broken each time I pass. It is inevitable that it will fall.
What strikes me is that this is not a private ruin. It might be privately owned, but its demise is a public one. Its eventual fall will be mourned by those living in the farm house sitting next to it, but many individuals, who will be unknown to the owners, will also mourn its loss. Like Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, this will be a community loss.
Building have degrees of integrity, of usefulness, and beauty. When I pass this barn, I think about all the horses who were sheltered by its walls. The hay fork (you can still see it hanging below the apex of the ruined roof) reminds me of the farm hands, who were surely pleased with the ease at which their work could be done. Inside their labor was lit with the generous light from the south-facing windows. A pleasing place.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg also emboded high levels of integrity, usefulness, and inner beauty. Qualities which led her to be the first woman to lie in state at our nation's capitol. As a woman, her work as a Supreme Court Justice had an impact on my rights to own a home or get a charge card both without a male co-signer. I often use a charge card now. I charge for books, replacement windows, hot spicy cocoa, and airline tickets. I swipe and accept charges as effortlessly as I put on my shoes in the morning. But without Ruth Bader Ginsburg's work, these simple actions would not be possible under my name. Her work has made my everyday life and those of all American women much easier.
No one cosigned for Ruth Bader Ginsberg's legal understandings. She studied and made her own decisions with her sharp mind in a professional field dominated by men. She made her way up the ladder, looking out those calm and thoughtful eyes. In the last few years, many of us held our breath with the news of her each new illness or fall. Her passing is a public loss. A loss grieved even by those who were often in opposition to her ideas on the Supreme Court. Like the old barn (once it collapses at last) I will hold both of them – a beautiful old agricultural structure and an intelligent woman – in my memory.
Rest in peace, the woman who made it possible for me to sit in my cabin in the woods.
Years ago, I remember being admonished to put the heaviest part of a load over a truck’s back wheels, so I was careful a few weeks ago to put the Ponderosa pine in the proper weightbearing location on the Umatilla County’s flatbed vehicle. I don’t work on the Umatilla County road crew, but I do walk up into Oregon from Kooskooskie and notice what they are about. When I took the photo of the flatbed and the pine, it reminded me of photos from the 1950s. Back when it seemed possible to do any sort of feat, even load a Ponderosa upright in the back of a vehicle and show it off by hauling it down say Walla Walla’s Main Street for a Labor Day Parade. I changed the photo’s color to black and white adding to the illusion. And yes, this truck parked in front of a Ponderosa pine is an illusion.
Illusions sometimes are frivolous, fostered for humor or delight: the slight-of-hand of a magician’s tricks, the peek-a-boo game with a baby, or the tongue-and-cheek banter about who is better at golf – when everyone knows who it is that always wins.
Illusions can inspire. In the children’s book by Jabari Asim, Preaching to the Chickens: How Civil Rights Legend John Lewis’s Humble Childhood Incubated His Heroic Life, the recently deceased Congressman John Lewis created an illusion for himself by preaching to chickens on the sharecroppers farm where he grew up. Along with nine siblings Lewis grew up poor. He loved the word of God, the verses from the Bible, and hoped to one day be a preacher. The illusion of his flock (literally) listening to him as he joyfully prayed for their wellbeing, inspired his life-long optimism and activism. In his early forays for political justice, in a time when a Black man rising to political positions in the South was unheard of, he created another illusion for himself and eventually he made it a reality.
Here in my hometown of Walla Walla, we have our own form of illusion at work. At a recent Black Lives Matter event, Walla Walla City Councilman Riley Clubb noted that in the last many years, construction of houses have mainly been “large single-family homes.” They are attractive and give the illusion that our community has a healthy stock of housing, but in reality we lack diversity in housing options. This lack of choices impacts families of color to a greater extent, partly because many experience discrimination in the housing market. Clubb encouraged those at the event to support the construction of a variety of housing stock and be willing to create diverse neighborhoods where single-family housing is interspersed with multifamily structures. He asked us to imagine planning more Walla Walla neighborhoods, like our Catherine Street, beautiful in its mixture of homes, apartments for seniors, and condos.
John Lewis asked us to make “good trouble.” Walla Walla and many other cities in America could do so by taking the illusion of good housing and make it into a reality.
|Angel, Mt. View Cemetery, Walla Walla, WA. Photo by K. McConnell|