Tag Archives: March

A Brief Political Rant

Of the kind those who know me (and only them) will expect.

I grew up on a dividing line. It used to be one where conversations were held. The conversations were usually civil. They rarely came to shouts or blows.

That doesn’t happen much anymore.

I know it can get worse. In the U.S. we’re not killing each other in large numbers. Yet. But from where I’m standing in No Man’s Land, it’s not hard to imagine the current insanity leading to slaughter. It’s happening in other places in the world, and our history is pock-marked with brutal conflict.

And here’s the thing that terrifies me: With all the Us vs. Them jargon being tossed about in the U.S. right now, almost no one seems to realize that we’re all in this together.

People are treating “them,” as absolute enemies. If they aren’t spewing hate and making threats then they’re jeering, mocking, belittling.

But countries are a unit, like a family. All families, like all countries, are a little dysfunctional. You don’t necessarily like your family members all the time, and you will not always agree with them, but if you start viewing each other as actual enemies, the dysfunction tears the family apart. In short, you cease to have a family.

It’s a pity we don’t have a national version of family counseling.

My point is that we really have two options.

Nationally, the U.S. is headed for a cliff. Not like lemmings (because lemmings are, despite popular belief, far too smart to follow each other off cliffs), but like humans who are so engrossed in fighting each other that they won’t step away from the edge, even though everybody knows we’re in trouble.

Education, poverty, healthcare, national debt, environmental issues, the list goes on… We have serious problems that need solving. And we’re far too busy fighting each other to even converse about how to solve anything.

So, speaking to my fellow U.S. citizens. Forget, for a moment, all political affiliation. Stop trying to figure out who’s side I’m on and ask yourself this:

Do you want the United States of America to continue to exist, or do you want us to go down in history as one more failed social experiment? Do you want us to be pointed at as proof that different people cannot live peaceably together? That ordinary folks can’t be trusted with the right to vote because it all goes to hell eventually? Do you want to be the scorn of the world?

Because that is where we are headed unless we can look “across the aisle” and see fellow citizens. We don’t have to like them, we don’t have to agree with what they believe or what they say, but we do have to figure out how to converse with them again, and work with them, because the only other option is to lose our country.

Someone may read this who doesn’t care if the nation breaks apart. They may feel that “their” part of the country will be better off without the hated “them.” I have a hard time sympathizing with that kind of thought, because it’s reductive and naive. This country’s strength and health comes, and has always come, from the differences, the tension, the fact that we are forced to converse with and work with people who don’t share our views. Take that away, and homogeneity will emphasize the weaknesses in each position until we collapse. Those people you hate, also happen to be the people you need the most.

I can already hear the clamor of excuses. The “he started it!” “No I didn’t! She did!” juvenile accusations. Let me get one thing straight: I DON’T CARE. I don’t care who did what, I don’t care what horrible things will happen if “they” get their way. I’ve already heard it, and it is all beside the point.

What I want is people to put themselves in time-out until they calm down. Then I want them to get over themselves and start holding conversations in which they don’t simply talk, but also listen. I want this nation to become functional again.

…And yes, I know it’s highly unlikely that I will get what I want. But we did survive the Civil War mostly intact. I’ve touched artillery-pocked stone that proves it. Maybe, just maybe we can get through this bout of screaming insanity without so much destruction and bloodshed.

And a side-note to friends and readers in other countries. Yes, humanity is like a family, too… even more screwed up than my nation is right now. What happens to some of us, affects all of us. I’m sorry if the dysfunction in my country is affecting you right now.

 

P.S. On a lighter note (and a complete non sequitur) Tracy J. Butler of Lackadaisy created some hilariously disturbing valentines this year. Go forth and enjoy them.


Late InMon!

Stephanie, of BeKindRewrite assures me that even late InMon submissions are acceptable. I have, therefore, used last-week’s prompt: “Narrow Future.” Here is a grim, but determined submission from my only character, as of yet, who absolutely insists on a first-person perspective. If nothing else, it is good practice.

Though the hall was full of Death’s Clerics, it was nearly silent. My sharp hearing caught the sound of their breath, but no one shuffled or sniffed, there was neither whisper of cloth nor creak of sandal. Only staring eyes and pricked ears. They all waited to hear my answer.
     Where once I thought of my future as an open field, full of roads and possibilities, I now saw that each turn, each choice made, had narrowed it down to a single forked path. Each drop of blood, each dying breath had closed a gate, not only on those I killed, but on me. Rhos tried to tell me, she saw the walls closing in, but she was young, it was easy to dismiss her worries. At least, until Bre killed her. That was when I finally understood. It was the turn, the fork in the road that lead me here, to one final choice.
     Two paths left, and one would be very short. How I wanted that way. Execution, judgment, to be shut out of the world.
     The other path was a narrow hunter’s track; I could not see the end of it. I shuddered.
     There was work to be done and I was suited for it. I had suited myself for it, all unaware. The clerics had, in their mercy, given me a choice, but I knew I did not deserve it. I had forfeited any right to my own life, they had every reason to bind me to their purpose, yet they gave me a way out.
     But to ask for execution was the coward’s way. To choose death over work would be, as ever, to avoid responsibility.  I am a murderer and a kinslayer, but I was not then, and am not yet a coward.
     “I will hunt at your bidding until the task is done or I am killed.” I had not spoken loudly, but in that silence my words startled like shattered glass.
     The high priestess stamped to quiet the flood of whispers, then she spoke.
     “You will not hunt at our pleasure, but at Death’s. But first you must face the fire and be purified. Remember the suffering you have brought upon others, it will help you to bear your own.”
     I shivered and bowed my head.
    But I am not yet a coward.

Spring Interim

March. Despite what the calendar says, Spring usually starts where I live earlier than the “first day of Spring.” My crocus and snowdrops have already shown their faces, and the daffodils are not far behind. Still, we are just getting over an ice storm that hit two weeks ago!

Ice storms, for any who are unfamiliar with them, are what happens when the temperature plummets while it is raining. It is absolutely gorgeous, and very dangerous. On the gorgeous side of things, everything, and I do mean everything, gets coated with a thick layer of perfectly clear ice. The pictures below may give you some idea, but they are nothing to the whole. Imagine the world is coated in glass and you will have some idea.

On the dangerous side of things, traction on packed and re-frozen snow is hard enough. On a solid sheet of ice, one needs cleats on one’s shoes, and the cars, here, simply aren’t equipped to deal with this kind of thing. We need tanks with spikes on the treads. I took a tumble and was lucky, I caught myself on my elbows. Painful, but it could have been worse.

Another problem is that ice is very heavy. Not all trees can handle it, nor all branches. Snow can weigh down a tree to breaking, but it can also fall off the tree a lot easier than a thick coat of ice. Power-lines come down. It’s all very exciting and worrying.

I might get tired of the danger if this sort of thing happens more often, but so far my primary reaction was “wow, this is gorgeous!” We may be in for another one this week (though hopefully not as long-lasting as this one, the last of the ice just melted last weekend), but still, Spring is hot on its heels and won’t be held back. There will be a few more frosts, no doubt, but there’s no stopping the momentum.

And that brings me to my scarcity. Spring planning, house-work, writing, and, unfortunately, tax season, are upon me. I have a long list of upcoming blog posts, and a desire to catch up on the blogs I read, but it must wait!

I have the follow up posts for Unlikely Treasure in the wings.

I still owe you all pictures of my newest masks.

I have long overdue Hobbit movie reviews.

And Stephen Winter has nominated me for a Dragon’s Loyalty Award for Excellence!  So, look for that forthcoming.

Until then, enjoy the pictures. Some look a little odd because I had trouble with my camera and had to do some adjustment after the fact.

Closeup of a Crape Myrtle, Image by Jubilare

Closeup of a Crape Myrtle, Image by Jubilare

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My porch-dragon looks pitiful, Image by Jubilare

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So cold my dog willingly wore a coat… Image by Jubilare

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Magnolia leaves complete coated, Image by Jubilare

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Broomsedge, too, Image by Jubilare

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Cloud 9 Panicum turned into an icefountain, Image by Jubilare

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Cherokee Sedge is still green… Image by Jubilare

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More icy grass, Image by Jubilare

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My Gray Owl Juniper looked like a frosted Christmas tree and pieces broke off when they were touched, Image by Jubilare

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My poor Wax Myrtle was bowed to the ground, Image by Jubilare

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Porch Dragon sporting an ice-beard, Image by Jubilare

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Junipers weighed down, Image by Jubilare

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Prairie Coneflower casting shadows on the snow, Image by Jubilare


Akallabêth

According to Pages Unbound, today marks the anniversary of Sauron’s downfall! I will take their word for it. To celebrate the occasion, the Tolkien Society is holding a Tolkien Reading Day.

The ways of participating are:

  • Grab the event button from Pages Unbound and put it on your blog.
  • Read a book by J.R.R. Tolkien this week and post a review!  If you do, Pages UnboundTolkien Society, and I all want to know so that we can read it!  (Find reading suggestions on the Tolkien Society’s Bibliography.)
  • Spread the word on social media.
  • Link to any past posts you may have made about Tolkien, his writings, or even the movies in the comments on this post.

 

To fulfill the second option, I am going to yammer about the Akallabêth, that short history of the Númenoreans tacked onto the end of J.R.R. and Christopher Tolkiens’ Silmarillion like an afterthought.

There is a great deal to be found in this story; far more than I am capable of finding as I am poorly read in comparison with J.R.R. I suggest you go digging for yourself.  The tale offers a deeper understanding of Aragorn, from The Lord of the Rings, as well as of his people. Echoes from the third age are given context and a deeper poignancy.

“Tall ships and tall kings
Three times three.
What brought they from the foundered land
Over the flowing sea?
Seven stars and seven stones
And one white tree. “

This verse pulled at me before, but now it nigh brings me to tears. I know what Aragorn’s ancestors built, and what they lost, and why that white tree, just a seedling, was on board. The emblem of Aragorn’s family, a white tree crowned with seven stars, has a long history behind it.

Isildur, who used to be, to me, a mythic figure who cut the Ring from Sauron’s hand, but then fell victim to its snare, is now a man who made sacrifices, suffered immense loss, and persevered. I have learned that his was not the original line of the kings of Númenor, but only an offshoot. Knowing more of them, again, increased my appreciation of who Aragorn is, and what he must mean to his people.

There are other revelations, too, most of which I will leave alone. Part of the joy of reading the Akallabêth is the discovery of connections and new information. I will mention one more thing, however. Umbar, later to fight for Sauron in his final confrontation with the Free Peoples, was founded by the Númenóreans, and the Harad were among their conquests during a time of brutal expansionism. This story can be found elsewhere, but the Akallabêth tells us more of why they settled in Middle Earth at all, and adds yet more depth to all of Tolkien’s stories of Arda.

There is more to the Akallabêth than a deepening appreciation for the mythic tapestry of The Lord of the Rings, however. It is its own complex myth, woven together from threads of many other human stories.

Avalon hidden in the mists, echoes of Old Testament kings, the search for eternal youth and life encompassing an obsession with death, and most of all, a retelling of the legend of Atlantis.

After all, the name “Downfallen,” which is “Akallabêth” in Adûnaic, is said to be “Atalantë” in Quenya.

This story is relatively short, and, as one might expect, it is beautifully told. If you have already read it, it deserves revisiting, and if you haven’t, I suggest you wander off and find a copy. If you like audio books, Martin Shaw’s rendition of the Silmarillion contains the Akallabêth.

Hope rather that in the end even the least of your desires shall have fruit. The love of Arda was set in your hearts by Ilúvatar, and he does not plant to no purpose.
Akallabêth, by J. R. R. Tolkien


The Great Iconoclast

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Images of the Holy easily become holy images- sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are ‘offended’ by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not. But the same thing happens in our private prayers.
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All reality is iconoclastic.
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-C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
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Happy are Those Who Struggle

A thoughtful and beautiful post on spiritual struggle couched in an examination of The Lord of the Rings. Stephencwinter’s blog has many great posts like this. You should go check them out!

Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings

If Sauron were leader of the Fellowship, setting out from Rivendell in possession of the Ring, what would he do? Gandalf knows that it is a question that Sauron has asked himself. Sauron knows that the Fellowship left Rivendell and that they possessed the Ring. He knows something of each member of the Fellowship and that there are hobbits among them. And Gandalf knows that he fears that the Fellowship will go to Minas Tirith and there one of them will wield the Ring, assail Mordor with war, cast him down and take his place. Boromir counselled  that they should go to Minas Tirith but not that one of them should wield the Ring. He hid this desire even from himself.  And Gandalf and Galadriel were tempted to wield the Ring as well. Remember the occasions when Frodo offered the Ring to them, first to Gandalf at Bag End in…

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Language and Perception

One moment last night can be described in similes; otherwise it won’t go into language at all. Imagine a man in total darkness. He thinks he is in a cellar, or dungeon. Then there comes a sound. He thinks it might be a sound from far off-waves or wind-blown trees or cattle half a mile away. And if so, it proves he’s not in a cellar, but free, in the open air. Or it may be a much smaller sound, close at hand-a chuckle of laughter. And if so, there is a friend just beside him in the dark. Either way, a good, good sound. I’m not mad enough to take such an experience as evidence of anything. It is simply the leaping into imaginative activity of an idea which I would always have theoretically admitted- the idea that I, or any mortal at any time, may be utterly mistaken as to the situation he is really in.
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Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than a minority of them- never become even conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through?
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-C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
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This could pass without comment, and for the most part, I will allow it to do so. I read this passage, this morning, for the first time. I am sure subsequent readings will reveal other facets, but for now, two things strike me.
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One moment last night can be described in similes; otherwise it won’t go into language at all.
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Someone whose writing I greatly value and respect feels the same restrictiveness of language that I do.
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Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than a minority of them- never become even conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through?
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Yes. Just… yes. If I could remind myself of this constantly, I would, and if I could teach others one fundamental rule for interacting with each other and the world, it would be this.

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