Archive for October, 2013

Florsheim shoes

October 30, 2013

My paternal great grandmother (my father’s father’s mother) was a Flörsheim, and when my father’s immediate family came to the United States, my father’s father apparently asked some extended family members who were already established here for employment help.  That help was not forthcoming.

I thought of this family story of rebuff when I read the NYTimes story this morning about candidate Marty Walsh, who is running for mayor of Boston.

The stories reported about how an individual actually helps others makes me feel better about humanity more generally.  Learning that such people exist helps me to compartmentalize what happened to my Opa and what has also happened to me.

It’s not all people, it’s just some, who don’t help.



My Opa with his mother (seated) and a sister.


Feathers in wings

October 29, 2013

The line in the Leslie Smith song “Words of a Kind” is actually about “tattered wings,” not directly about tattered feathers.  It goes, “Our wings are older now and tattered.”  Just wanted to correct what I wrote in my last post.

I thought to do that earlier, but I forgot about it.  Until I was walking home again through the woods this afternoon.

I was studying the area where there are steps down to the ball field for the middle school.  Used to be a large tree there, then it fell, then it was cut into pieces and they lay across from where it had stood.  Now it’s all gone and the area is much more open.  I was also looking at the stonework near those stairs and wondering, yet again, if the stones ever were the foundation for something beyond what can be seen now — they look like what you see in an archaeological dig, foundations to a structure long gone.

Anyway, I was contemplating all this and saw a motion in the sky at the edge of my field of vision, which I assumed would turn out to be an airplane, but no, it was a hawk.  It was gliding in circles, they looked as if they were overlapping, like you’d make with a spirograph.  Maybe that’s how hawks scan sectors for prey.  Don’t know, but it struck me that the feathers are much better on a live bird sailing through the sky than scattered on the ground.

I guess I also liked the idea of the feathers sailing up high because this was Willy’s birthday, and there’s that section at the end of “Reunion Hill,” by Richard Shindell, about the hawk “spiral[ing] higher still / As if from such an altitude / He might just keep our love in view.”

I’m sure there’s a story out there somewhere about how the husband sails off as the hawk himself, up to the higher reaches, after he dies.  That’s actually how I hear the Richard Shindell song, but I suspect that’s my overlay.

Pristine feathers, tattered feathers

October 29, 2013

Yesterday I ended my walk by going through the small patch of woods behind the middle school and near my house.

I had run into a woman I know, while I was walking.  She was out on her regular route, I was improvising mine.  We had an enjoyable conversation about the This Old House renovation that’s been going on in our neighborhood.  It turned out we both had the same questions about it and the same reaction to it.  We talked a little about Willy, because she knew him, and knew the kids, through seeing them out walking the dog.  I told her today (it was “tomorrow” then) would have been his birthday.

At Eastern Avenue we went our separate ways, she to go up to the Water Tower and Park Ave., me to go down to Robbins Farm and sit and look at the Boston skyline.

When I finished and set off to return home, I went down a road that would lead me to one of the entrances to the patch of woods I mentioned.  Within the woods, I went up the hill, and on my way up, I came across two feathers, the first recognizable as a hawk feather, despite its being a little the worse for wear, the second, probably one as well, given its length and width and proximity to the first, but too tattered for me to be able to really tell for sure.

I am reminded of the quite pristine hawk feathers I encountered near Willy’s grave a day before his yahrzeit this past summer.

Call it what you will, I am drawn to compare and contrast and derive an interpretation.  What I come to is that Willy achieved what he needed to in order to return those tattered feathers to their pristine state.  That’s what I perceive from the inside looking out from my perspective, it probably looks quite different to someone, or everybody, else.  So be it.

I would link to Leslie Smith’s song “Words of a Kind” if I could find it on YouTube.  (Here’s a different one of her songs instead.  “Words of a Kind” talks about our tattered feathers, albeit from a different perspective, the more usual one, I think, but I love the song.  And it’s part of where I go when I start thinking about tattered feathers.  Only I can see how we may “redeem” them and return them to their pristine state.

Forgiving those who disagree or don’t want to

October 29, 2013

Organized religion, including Christianity, may do this already, but I think forgiveness must be accepted as including forgiveness of the person’s not wanting to become enlightened or even believing it’s possible or a good idea.  I think it includes acceptance of people as a group, and individuals we know in particular, as they are.  And most of them aren’t interested in becoming enlightened or undertaking the process of becoming enlightened.  They won’t give it a try.  I think we need to accept that, and accept the apparent fact that they won’t, and maybe never will, no matter how often they are given the opportunity, and no matter how hard or well we try to teach them — or even no matter how much we encourage them, to do so, including with a foretaste of what it would be like.

We forgive them and we forgive the universe that the way things may play out may include that the potential we see in the world may never be realized, that the solution we see may not be implemented, that the way things could work out well won’t happen.  And that that is as “correct” a playing out of the human condition as anything else — if that’s the best we can do, humanity is still beloved of God, to use traditional language.  God is not angry or resentful about that, but neither can God change the consequences of all that, I don’t think.

I read Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation this morning and I wondered about all the preachers who forgive their audiences for not wanting to follow what they teach.  When they forgive that, do they go on teaching, or does that acceptance reveal to them it would serve the greater good if they did something else?

Keeping up with the seasons

October 28, 2013

I was so proud of myself for figuring out the autumn hat thing — as I wrote some time around the turn of summer into fall, I had to figure out what to replace my straw hat with, when the seasons changed, since my skin continues to remain sensitive to the sun.

Eventually I found a floppy-brimmed felt hat with a rounded crown and a band and flower in the same grey felt.  I’ve been happy with it, although I need to hold onto my hat in a high wind (especially near the reservoir).

Today my ears were cold.

A friend had already asked me what I am going to do in the winter to keep my ears warm.  I talked about maybe using a scarf to help, but really I just haven’t thought it through yet.

I’ve got warm hats, ones that cover my ears, but they won’t protect my face from the sun.

I’m still not sure what the answer is.  Two hats?  A parasol?  Ear flaps?  Earmuffs, or a headband, plus my floppy broad-brimmed hat?  I will probably engage in a little trial and error to come up with something.


October 26, 2013

I just read an interesting piece on blame.  I can’t remember who put me onto it, or I would mention them to thank them.

It also turns out that I used to know the author.

I don’t agree with all of the piece, especially the last paragraph, but I really like the way it opens up the discussion and points out the difference between a habit of thinking or reacting and a moral principle.

Reading it reminded me of a point my mother is fond of making:  whatever letters to the editor she has thought of writing, or even written, somebody else has written, too, she has found.

Public lavatories and kids

October 26, 2013

When I was walking home from the reservoir today, when I got across the playing field and near the bike path, I saw a woman disappear into the port-a-potty, which sits there, I think, as a convenience for people using the playing fields or watching the games.  (I could see later she was there for a jog on the bike path.)  She left two very young children in a stroller right outside the door.

I wasn’t sure what to do.  It wasn’t my business, but I was a little surprised at leaving infants unattended.  I decided to kind of stand nearby until she emerged, just to make sure nothing untoward happened.  It didn’t.

So tonight I’m listening to PBS NewsHour’s little feature of casual talk between Mark Shields and David Brooks (facilitated by the always watchable Hari Sreenivasan) on Fridays, and David Brooks starts talking about commuting to New Haven by train.  Which immediately brought up to my mind an incident that occurred while I was commuting between New Haven and Boston on Amtrak, when a woman asked me to hold her baby while she used the lavatory on the train — while the train was stopped at a station.  It seemed to me to be somewhat relevant (by my standards, at least) to the topic of people conversing too freely, and being overheard, on trains, which was what was being discussed.  Lowered inhibitions and all that.

I think this pretty much qualifies as an example synchronicity.

“128, a paahking lot”

October 23, 2013

I think I’m going to have to do this from memory, because I’m not sure how to find it through a search engine online.

There used to be a radio commercial, I think for car insurance, here in Massachusetts, in which “kids” did a lot of the talking, as if they were in the back seat of the family car giving some kind of cross between a traffic report and the kind of complaints parents get from kids while on a long road trip.

Anyway, the line to cap it all off was, “128, a parking lot,” but spoken in a broad Boston accent.  Route128 forms an arc through the Boston metropolitan area and is often congested and is often referred to using the same phraseology in traffic reports.

That’s what I hear as an echo when I hear “Obamacare a train wreck,” “128, a paahking lot” (in a radio commercial using “kids”).

How it feels to other people (and a little about free will)

October 23, 2013

I have wondered for a while whether some people perceive things with a different calibration system from mine.

For example, if I help them with their art project and let them take some of my supplies, are they going to feel put upon if I ask them for help on mine and the of use of some of their supplies?  Does it feel to them in that situation as it would feel to me if someone asked for my help and supplies out of the blue and without any idea of returning the favor in any way or having any on-going relationship to me?

I think some people actually feel indignant when they are asked to do unto others as the others have done unto them.  They seem to be very emotionally invested in an assumption that the system should be asymmetrical.  I don’t know why they feel a need for things to be that way.  I suspect that any change in outlook would have to come out of a change at a deeper level, such that they would no longer feel diminished by giving back.

I can find some compassion for a person who has such a hungry need, but I don’t have to try to feed it.  Eventually they usually explode or go away once I stand up for myself and insist on equality.  That wasn’t, apparently, what they had in mind, despite anything they may have said or despite social norms about relationships.  My contribution to the misunderstanding may seeing them as other than as they are (and accepting their own version of themselves for too long) and expecting them to do something they don’t do, or it may just be having been coerced by them to help them, that has happened, too.

Whether they could engage in reciprocity I don’t know, but it raises an interesting question about the existence of free will.  When I see things with compassion, I find myself folding “a will to not reciprocate” into “an inability to do better than having a will not to reciprocate” — in other words, I see them as not being able to do better than to assert their will in this way.  So from that approach I don’t see any free will.  In terms of what is actually going on when people think they are using free will, well, everything we tell ourselves is some kind of story.  We always have, in secular thought, the position of a participant on the field, we are never seeing the whole picture from the perspective of an outsider.

It must be Obamacare …

October 23, 2013

Two days in a row a doctor’s office hands us back our co-pay check and tells us there’s a credit on our account …

I actually don’t know to what to attribute this, especially two in a row.  One family member has Medicare as primary insurance, and I think there are rules about how high a percentage of the allowable cost of the visit the patient can pay.  In the other case, only private insurance is involved, same policy for many years, and this has never happened before.

For all I know there’s an accounting error in the doctor’s billing department and I’ll receive a bill later for the co-pay.

I honestly don’t know if the credit could have anything to do with Obamacare, but given how it’s blamed for all kinds of ills I don’t think it has anything to do with, I thought I’d at least raise the possibility that it is responsible for this unexpected largesse.