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Birds & Leaves

Photo: © Carol Bergman, 2018. The River-to-Ridge Trail in New Paltz, NY, funded by the Open Space Institute and the Mohonk Preserve with additional support from the Butler Conservation Fund.

Mid-October has arrived and we await a vivid autumn. Leaves are dry and falling. The migrating birds are gone. Only the hawks, kestrels, falcons and sparrows remain. And the crows and the turkey vultures. The other day, as I was getting into my car, one such turkey vulture flew low overhead, circling and circling. The wind and scent (can birds smell?) had carried it towards our garbage area, I think. Perhaps all the decaying apples in the orchard across the street had been eaten by the deer who are thin and hungry. It’s bear and deer hunting season. We all wear bright colors, dogs their neon vests. Last weekend on the new River-to- Ridge Trail, a man stopped to tell me about a local bear who had lumbered across his path. They had met before, knew each other so to speak. His dog went tense, he said, otherwise the encounter was a peaceful one.

Living so close to nature these days, I am more aware of the environment, its continuing joys and struggles. Conflicting narratives disturb me greatly as there is no argument that we are, as Al Gore says, in a global environmental emergency. My last post admonished my readers—and myself—not to despair and quoted Rebecca Solnit’s positive article. I reiterate her message, and mine: not to despair. But I have moved into a different enivronmental space and my awareness and concern has shifted. So, too, the subjects I want to write about.

Two days in the city this week, rides on the crowded subways with all its rich diversity, and my NYU class, was a different kind of stimulation, a different kind of mulching and gathering of ideas, thoughts and emotions. My students are doing well, as expected, working on interesting stories. They are all interesting people. And the drama on the subways often makes me smile, from a bit of a distance, perhaps, as I am no longer a New Yorker, or maybe I always will be in my heart and soul. Thursday morning on the way to meet my cousin for an art crawl at MOMA, I was on a #1 train when a crowd of boisterous women, one carrying a huge trophy, entered. “I’ve never won anything,” she said as she plopped next to me. “Megyn Kelly gave me a trophy.” I don’t watch the TODAY show so I couldn’t parse the context, but the woman was gloriously happy, beautifully made-up, oh so very happy. She got out of her seat and burst into a gospel song, joined by her entourage, and then blessed the whole train—everyone—rich and poor, black and white, indigenous and immigrant—and asked us to join in because Jesus is good and protecting all of us and wishing all of us the best. And though I am not a Christian, I accept all blessings from anyone who wants to bestow them on me, and thanked her.

We all have our own cathedrals, material and spiritual, secular and religious. We all await a vivid autumn.  Read More 

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Don't Despair, Vote

“They want us to believe there’s no chance of success. But whether or not there’s hope for change is not the question. If you want to be a free person, you don’t stand up for human rights because it will work, but because it is right. We must continue living as decent people.”

--Attributed to Natan Sharansky, a Soviet dissident

With thanks to Rebecca Solnit for the Sharansky quote in her article in The Guardian on 10/14/2018:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/14/climate-change-taking-action-rebecca-solnit


I don’t often begin my blog posts with an admonition or a polemic, but it’s mid-October, we’ve got a fascist regime in the White House, the mid-term elections are nearly here, and to say nothing is to be complicit. Dear reader, whether Democrat or Moderate Republican, get out there and canvas, get out there and vote. Our freedoms as citizens and writers have never been more at risk.

Even more importantly, perhaps, encourage the next generation not to despair, but to resist and remain active. I say this with a full and open heart because I am an educator, because I am a citizen, I have a responsibility to young people especially. A dear friend and former colleague, now teaching in Jakarta, who has a young daughter, sent me an email the other night full of apocalyptic thoughts. I could hardly sleep. Then the next morning, he sent me the Solnit article. Thank you, William!

He’s been watching the stateside struggle from afar, which makes it harder, of course. But what has happened here and abroad —the resurgence of the supra nationalists—is global and has global implications. We cannot rest.

This weekend I’ll be canvassing for Antonio Delgado who is running to unseat Congressman Faso in the 19th Congressional District where I now live. This is not easy and it is not even absolutely safe. We are an armed nation. But I will be with friends and we'll have a list of Independents to persuade to vote for Delgado.
He is Latino, a Harvard educated lawyer, a Rhodes scholar, tall, lean, smart and warm like President Obama. The racist venom against him that has been unleashed is unprecedented. Let us tame this monster and return to the evolution of a civilized democracy.

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Kafkaesque

The flag at half-mast in front of the Supreme Court.

As the wolf attacks the sheep, so come we.

--Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, addressing a rally in April, 1928


Let me remind you of the old maxim: people under suspicion are better moving than at rest, since at rest they may be sitting in the balance without knowing it, being weighed together with their sins.

-- Franz Kafka


I had a nightmare that Judge K was elevated to the Supreme Court. He went for a fitting of his robe and they couldn’t find one large enough for his rage, his self-pity or his ego. His head and neck were swollen with German beer. His breath was putrid. His female law clerks, all carefully chosen by his stage managers, became his special darlings. Never, he promised them, would he put his hand over their mouths if they screamed, never would he silence them if they wished to speak. He was a modern married man, a father of two daughters, he reassured them.

Years ago, when I was in high school, my lawyer stepfather handed me a book about the history of the Supreme Court. As a refugee from a despotic regime, he was enamored of the court. I cannot remember who the Justices were at the time—certainly there were no women as President Reagan did not appoint Sandra Day O’Connor until 1981—but my stepfather was enamored nonetheless. He followed all the rulings, read them, and told me to read them. These dry briefs became the triggers for interesting discussions and for a short while I thought that I, too, might become a lawyer.

Most admirable were the surprise rulings, my stepfather said. He was left-leaning, had grown up during the progressive Weimar period, and defended communists at the beginning of the Nazi regime. Virulent anti-Semitic ideology pervaded the courts when he was a young lawyer. Judges who did not comply could be imprisoned or shot. But in America, there were no such executions, not literally anyway; judges and justices are permitted evolution and change. This is known as “ideological drift.” It usually takes place after the president who has appointed him or her is out of office. Indeed, several recent studies of the courts have confirmed that ideological drift is not an exception, it’s a rule. Interestingly, it can go both ways: liberal-conservative, conservative-liberal.

I suppose this is, possibly , too-hopeful news as I write this morning, a necessary story of cheer after an emotionally grueling week. The struggle to end the nightmare continues. We cannot rest.  Read More 
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