Reflection 30: Barack and I

November 29, 2008

(Copyright © 2008) 

Barack Obama and I make a pretty good team. He handles his end, I handle mine. I’ll start with my end since it’s fresh in my mind.


I’ve honed Saturday mornings to a fine routine. Get up, shower, put a week’s dirty clothes in the washer, make breakfast, put clothes in the dryer, read the paper, take clothes out of the dryer, sort and fold, make the bed, blog, go to the post office, make lunch, and so on.


This Saturday is different. I get up too late to beat other tenants to the washer. Do breakfast first. I still take eye drops after cataract surgery, so squirt both eyes. Made yogurt last night, so go to take the four quart jars out of the oven (warmed by the oven light), and find one jar has cracked in the night. The bottom of the oven is a pool of milky water. Reaching for paper towels, I knock six plastic water bottles off the shelf where I’d left them in plain view as a reminder to recycle them. Kicking bottles aside, I kneel and sop up the mess. Throwing wet towels toward the wastebasket, I notice flying ants crawling up the wall, a squadron of five. Squish the ants. Notice others on the floor. Squish them, too. Back to the oven. Take more eye drops. Start heating buckwheat for breakfast. Continue kneeling, kicking bottles, sopping, squishing ants. Put broken shards in the sink, rinse, put in drainer to dry so I can recycle them. Eat breakfast. Take the last of this round of drops.


Whenever I revert to the standard routine, I don’t have to think about it. I just do it by rote. This particular Saturday my consciousness is in gear the whole time. I am keenly alert, aware even of being aware. I notice that I notice myself noticing. I am blogging as I live the event, separating novel sequences from the standard routine. For the first time appreciating the routine as what it is.


Phone rings. It’s Carole. We talk about what to have for dinner, who will bring what. I have rice and broccoli, she turkey leftovers. I tell her about my morning so far. She tells me Barack Obama held three press conferences in three days. He’s really taking charge. The market has noticed and held its own. Meanwhile, Michele asks him if he’s going to take the children to school tomorrow. Sounds a lot like my day. He handles the financial mess, I clean the oven; he takes the kids to school, I kill flying ants. Between the two of us there’s hope. If we all do our part.


Such is consciousness. With eyes and ears open, and wits about us, we can plunge into novel situations. Rise above our habitual selves. Handle things our mother’s never told us about.


Consciousness is closely related to imagination and creativity. To looking ahead, not back. Thinking outside the box. Rising to the occasion. Doing what needs to be done.


Too, I think consciousness is contagious. It takes one person noticing something new, then acting appropriately. Dealing with the problem. That’s called leadership. The rest of us wake up, open our eyes, and see what now seems so obvious but was hidden only yesterday.


It’s been a great Saturday so far. Hope is in the air. The sun is shining, the stove is clean, Barack is on top of things. The day isn’t done yet, but we’ve made a good beginning.




Reflection 19: My Day

November 5, 2008

(Copyright © 2008)

Starting when she was First Lady in 1935, for 27 years (1935-1962), Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a widely syndicated daily newspaper column titled, “My Day.” She, like Henry David Thoreau, was a born blogger well ahead of her time. Both of them set high standards for years to come. I had a great day yesterday, noted on calendars in the U.S. as Election Day, and it’s my consciousness of the day I’d like to blog about.


To-Do List for November 4, 2008: 1) oyster monitoring; 2) vote; 3) dominoes.


By way of background, once a year I go out with Mike to help monitor the bay for signs that oysters from his aquaculture operation are spawning, sending spat out into the world beyond the marked boundaries of his lease site. Eastern oysters are not native to the area, so the state wants to know if-and-when any oysters escape into the wild from their watery corral. (If we find any escapees, Plan B goes into play. Except there isn’t any Plan B.) This work takes Mike and me onto the bay in his skiff for a couple of hours at low tide to check for spat settled on boulders in the intertidal zone.


By e-mail, we agree to meet at Sullivan Town Hall at 9:00 a.m., which would get us onto the bay about the time of low water. I get there first, so wait by my car in the parking lot, watching voters come and go, trying to figure out which ovals they had blacked-in on their ballots. A young man walks by and wakes me from my reverie. He puts out his hand—it’s Andy, who I knew years before as a kid, a wild kid having trouble adjusting to a family that had split apart under him. He now has a company that builds post-and-beam structures all over the state, is married with two kids, and looks great—like a lumberjack. I shake hands, and we talk briefly about life and such. We shake again. He goes in to vote, leaving me musing about the absurdity of three-strikes-and-you’re-out as applied to young men struggling to get their legs beneath them.


Mike drives up and tells me to follow him to where his boat is moored. I note his McCain-Palin sticker. He and I both love being on the bay for any reason. We go out on rare, windless days in the fall, visiting each of the eight boulders we selected as monitoring sites in 2005, covering a two-mile stretch of the upper bay, checking the boulders for miniature oysters—which so far we haven’t found. Today we see small flocks of red-breasted mergansers scooting low over the water, ring-billed gulls diving and dunking for sea worms, eelgrass, sponges, periwinkles, barnacles, blue mussels, limpets, an assortment of seaweed clinging to the rocks—but no oysters. Many exposed boulders and ledges are draped with harbor seals enjoying the warmth cast by a low sun. By the last boulder, we sight the underpinnings of the old wharf in Franklin where the last locally-built schooner was launched in 1898. We talk about how they got that great ship—The Caroline Foss—down the bay past minefields of submerged boulders laid by the last glacier. We shake our heads in awe and wonderment.


Driving away from the shore on the gravel access road, my bladder asks me to stop so I can release the flood I have been holding back for two-and-a-half hours on the water. Turning onto a gravelly stretch of South Bay Road, I slow, turn onto the shoulder—and drive into the ditch, hanging my car up on the edge with no traction forward or back, two wheels up, two down. What I took to be firm ground was … a dense patch of roadside vegetation. How many times must I relearn that looks can be deceiving? Especially road edges in rural Maine. My mind is still out in Mike’s boat, so I am not dismayed. A setback, that’s all.


A couple in a van stops to ask if I am all right. Do they know a tow service in the area? Well, there’s Bill’s down to Waukeag. I call Frank on the cellphone I keep in my camera case for emergencies. There’s Bill’s, he says, . . . and Merchant’s. Rick Merchant is my second cousin. What’s his number? I call Rick, and he sends a truck that’s there in ten minutes. The driver exudes calm and confidence. Have you out in a jiffy. He does his thing, then checks under the car for scrapes and leaks. None. I stop by Rick’s to pay for the service. Seeing him working on two vehicles on jacks out in front, I tell him he needs a bigger garage. Nope, a smaller one. He tells me a man from the state has found high bacteria levels in the nearby Carrying Place. Same old story. The drainage that runs in front of his garage is polluted—again. I’ve been through that with him before. A neighbor’s septic system was replaced three years ago. Now it’s another one. It never ends. I like Rick. He’s a straight shooter. He really lives his life.


I drive to Bar Harbor, eat lunch, vote. I am surprised how easy it is. After two years of arduous primaries and final campaigns, it ends today. (Now the real work begins.) I black in the ovals for nine local and three state referendums, senators, representatives, county clerks, and, oh, yes, president and VP. I do it, but feel nothing. I’d waited two long years—eight long years—for this moment. It’s here, and I feel nothing. I don’t know how it will turn out. Anticipation and dread cancel one another. I’m left with nothing. I walk out of the old school into the sun.


A day in the life. My life. I run through it again. There’s Andy. Open, direct, capable. A fine young man. Mike. Always quiet, waiting to be tapped. He loves what he does. The man who stopped. Overweight, but truly concerned. Helpful. The tow-truck driver, doing his job. A needed friend. Rick, best mechanic in these parts. Fairest. Able diagnostician. Good neighbor. Speaks curtly, in code—from his heart. Me? I love them all. Here they are, in my life on a day I get out on the water to pay attention to the real world. Days like this, I like my life.


Later, I listen to election returns while playing dominoes with my partner and her daughter’s family in Blue Hill. McCain-Palin didn’t make it. Obama-Biden did. Hallelujah! I am born again. Eight years of disdain from the highest levels of government—leading to ineffectiveness, frustration, powerlessness, not to mention world chaos—are at an end. Meaning that has been stolen and trashed will be recovered. Oh blessed awareness. I love this life.