Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.
From "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost
I thought of this famous Robert Frost poem as I walked down Huguenot Street the other day and snapped black and white photos, my end of summer dolce far niente creative exercise. Of course we are never doing niente/nothing, but to allow the mind and spirit to rest for an hour, or two, or three a day, during these hard times, and very humid climate, that is important I am sure you would agree, dear reader. I continue to read and write through all weathers, political weathers included, but I also need to rest. I'm up to a half-mile in the lap lane and get out for hikes between storms. Lightening is fierce here, exposure more dangerous than in the protected environment of the city, and one must be careful getting in and out of a car, for example.
Niente. Not exactly, despite long, peaceful days of reading and writing, it's not niente, not the way the Europeans mean it. I've started work on a book, a project that should carry me through the academic year, and I'm keeping a companion journal to record my progress, research, questions and conundrums. I have been inspired, partially, by the publication and reception of my first murder mystery, "Say Nothing," and by the history of enslavement in the Mid-Hudson Valley and its lasting impact on one small town—New Paltz—where I now live. The whole town is a monument to the French Huguenot slave owners. Their descendants are still here, not so the descendants of their slaves. They fled, migrated, disappeared. It seems an appropriate subject to study and re-interpret in 2019, the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of slaves in the colonies. I recommend the New York Times' 1619 project, a formidable contribution to the discourse. Read slowly. There's a lot to digest:
As for mending walls: there's work to be done and not just on the southern border. We'll need all the fortitude we can muster to face the challenges in the months ahead and to repair what has collapsed within our beleaguered nation and within ourselves.