Each year, here in New England, Fall creeps down the mountains to the lakes and the ocean. A couple of weeks ago the weather was cool and damp, and our autumn color change was progressing rapidly. Then summer-like warmth and dryness returned and the change stopped abruptly, replaced by browning leaves and sudden leaf drop.
Something similar happened last year when, after a soggy first half of summer, drought set in. By mid-September we were pretty certain there would be no autumn color. Then, at the last moment, cool, rainy weather arrived saving the season. We’re hoping for another miraculous turnaround this year.
I have not posted in a while. I’ve found myself silenced as I fret about the state of the world and deal with post-polio fatigue. Jennie hurt her back and is now mending, thankfully, but I have needed to take over many of her usual chores. This has, predictably, caused my fatigue to flare and meant that unnecessary tasks, such as writing, have been put on hold.
As an energy conservation strategy I’ve tried to distance myself from the news; predictably, I’ve been only somewhat successful. My thinking goes something like this: given that I have no control over the behaviors, opinions, and misdeeds of others, especially the world’s leaders, I am best served by taking care of what I can, mainly tasks close to home. Of course, this strategy is doomed from the start, and alarming information inevitably manages to penetrate my defenses!
We are in the midst of the High Holy Days, a time for taking stock and making atonement for the harm we cause. This year, the background to this most holy time in the Jewish calendar arrives amidst growing fires of antisemitism, racism, and the threat of thermonuclear war.
Thursday we attended Rosh Hashanah services, during which the Rabbi insisted that no matter how bad things seem, they are ultimately part of the Mystery of Creation. I was reminded of the paradox of vision: we are to do what we can to create a just and sustainable world while knowing that all humans are fallible; we are to have compassion for one another, knowing that everyone is doing their best, even when their best harms many. What a conundrum!
With this in mind, today I am mulling over the hugely divisive, racist remarks of our president, the profoundly inflammatory behavior of the St. Louis police, and the idea that the world would somehow benefit from a thermonuclear exchange. If that were not enough, there are renewed congressional attacks on persons with disabilities, healthcare, and the environment. Perhaps most ominous is the rapidly increasing disregulation of our local and world climate.
I am at a loss to understand the apparent belief of those who claim to be leaders, that they can instigate and survive civil strife (perhaps even civil war), runaway climate change, and the impoverishment of many. Nor can I comprehend the actions of those who support the racism and greed of the president and his allies, surely knowing that such actions do immense harm to the very fabric of the world.
This year, the Holocaust, the genocide of Native people, the lasting legacy of slavery, and the fate of those in peril are at the center of the growing divisions in our country, even as their very reality is denied by many. We are standing on a precipice. Surely this is indeed a time for soul-searching, compassion, and, just possibly, atonement.