Saturday, November 28, 2009
I know that that is not possible but there is a new sound and a new sight here on the Point this morning. The wind is gusting from the Southwest and the waves are running out of the harbor as a result. The gusts passing across the chimneys are making a whole new kind of whistle. These are the subtle storms that alter the beach - you can almost see the sand moving in the water. The splash is on the harbor side of the small jetty and a current is pushing birds out of the mouth of the harbor on a line straight east. It is very cool to see. The whistles will take some getting used to though.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I know that this may be hard to believe but some of my students tell me that they find history boring.
They object to the names and the dates, the causes and effects, the dead white men and the occasional woman. They find their textbook flavorless, merely an anchor in the shape of a book, holding them back, dulling their senses.
What they are missing is the way that history fires the imagination. Today is Thanksgiving Day; historically a day hidden in myth and misunderstanding. When I think of it I first consider the facts. A group displaced from Europe to a place where feeding themselves was a constant challenge, where hostile tribes emerged from the woods with questions about why so many of their own had recently died, where the truce that eventually held them together would dissolve into a sadistic violence called King Phillip's War. It is an act of imagination to complement the facts with interpretation - to choose what qualities should be highlighted and which could be relegated to a lesser position.
Today we recall the courage and the determination it took for the Pilgrims to stay here. We watch in awe at the recreations of their crossing and landing and that agonizing first winter. It is a matter of perspective though, as, if a group went to the moon today, and had half of its members die within a year, and eventually created a permanent enemy in the natives it found there, no amount of interpretation would find any virtue in it.
The facts only take you so far. The textbook can deliver the student to a point, and it is a useful place to be, but it is not the whole picture. Imagination fills in the blanks. It puts tastes on the tongue, butterflies in the pit of your stomach, the waves under the ships, and the angers and the passions that moved those dead white men and occasional woman to act, to write, to move, to stay, to lie, and to pledge. If you want to know history you have to take that leap, to give yourself over to the much more challenging prospect of imagining. My advice is to go for it.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Its quiet here now.
Even with an amazing November underway - Weatherbug had the temp at 70 yesterday - it is still very peaceful here now. Even when there are folks around the Tower or on the beach there is a hush. October was noisy. Waves and stone, and the crowds here to watch both. In my memory November is the gray month and with the gray, reflection.
There is still a great deal to do. I am trying to take advantage of the weather to prepare the gardens for next year. I cleaned out a pretty good pile of bamboo along the fence just yesterday. I have burlap to wrap up some of the newer shrubs and Julie's rose bush. I have plugged a number of holes in the past few weeks and covered up the windows in shrink wrap. Perhaps that is making the house soundproof as well as weather proof. Summer clothes and towels, bikes and kayaks are all tucked away waiting for the spring training games to begin. I have found the old sweaters and found the new moth holes in those sweaters. We have the newest school picture of Haley (and she's got a full bore smile in it.) One term of grades is entered and my courses now turn to the First Amendment, to Theodore Roosevelt and then to World War 1.
The flag flies at half staff for the soldiers lost at Fort Hood several days ago. As I write I remember that tomorrow is the Marine Corps birthday. Each year until they passed, my father or my uncle Tom (both Marines) would call and ask me if I knew what the day was. It was a test I had to pass or there would be consequences. I will think of them and of John Dow tomorrow. John was a fifteen year old Marine in the Pacific like Uncle Tom. He lost some fingers out there. His son was wounded in Viet Nam and his grandson in Iraq. These are November thoughts, of gratitude and awe. I argue in class that the First World War was the most important event of the twentieth century; that those lost were the hope of the millenium, inspired to tinker with the world, to right wrongs, to offer imagination as antidote to misunderstanding. Small wonder we still mourn them on Veterans Day; Armistice Day for my grandfather who was there when it ended.
The quiet is a good thing. It gives us time to set the restless energy down and to think before the rush of the winter holidays are on us. It gives us time to recognize the daring and the sacrifices of those we still lean on for lessons. The United States has a great number of men and women under fire and in danger right now as it has had before. The quiet has in it the chance to calmly hope they make it home safely and to hope their families know just how much the generosity of their service is appreciated.