Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Red leaves in the sunshine

I'm dizzy if I look down and notice the spinning planet I'm standing on. The leaves are turning, but a couple of warm days have brought back the gnats and no-see-ums and haunting humidity of summer. The clarity of elevation does me little good, although on this hike up Mt. Cardigan it was reassuring to scramble on the basaltic upper slopes veined with quartz and the carved monograms of ancient Eastern mountain men and women before the days of Lonely Planet and globalized virtual virtuosity. There is a change, even on a mild hike like this, that comes upon you when you climb. There is an intimation of getting closer to the source, and a fellow hiker looks you in the eyes as if he knows you from somewhere. The collective unconscious breathes the rarefied air of mountain heights.

In the garden this evening we cleared away the overgrown pumpkins that had taken over the potato rows. A skunk has crawled under the wood shed, hoping for a winter bunk. Work teaching has taken over the days and my body feels a need for strenous activity. I tried to run with the seventh and eighth grade soccer team, during a practice the coaches covering defensive positions, and popped three muscles in my legs. There is nothing gracious about this.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Health Care For All

At this point it looks grim. Health care might just be the Afghanistan of domestic policy. You can wade in, but it's going to be a fight to get back out alive. Just look at what happened to the Clintons when they set up camp here early in their administration. The Republicans hopped on the fright machine and sent them packing in defeat. You can turn on the radio and listen to the Republican "base" pick on Joe Wilson for apologizing, itching for a fight. And the truth is the morass of health care policy, the complications of our unique patchwork of a health care system, defy easy analysis and reform. A public option might just increase costs as well as save money, and the art of forecasting these outcomes is far from exact. But one thing is clear for me. Health care is a right, just as much as education and security from aggression. We count on the government to provide us with police and defense forces and public schools. Although there is a place for the private sector in all of these fields, the government cannot hesitate to step in and level the playing field in the name of the weak and less able to fend for themselves. To say that we can't afford it, while spending billions every day on the unnecessary adventures of Iraq and Afghanistan, is plainly immoral. We need to cross this Rubicon for once and get on with it.
(image: Joe Raedle/Getty Images. September 9, 2009 in Miami, Florida)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Visit to the Hay House in Newbury, New Hampshire

We drove up this morning to see the Hay house and gardens in Newbury. John Hay was a friend and secretary to President Lincoln and also served under McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt. He married into money and bought land on Lake Sunapee at a time when New Hampshire was trying to lure wealthy tourists to buy up the abandoned farms left behind by the exodus to the western states. His son Clarence studied landscaping and forestry at Yale and created an outstanding rock garden, which, along with the perennial flowerbeds in the front of the house, have been brought back to life by the trust which now runs the property. The house itself is interesting to see, and there is an informative video on the Hay family which is part of the guided tour. There are whimsical sculptures dotting the garden and a fairy garden where children can build their own rock cairns and fairy houses.
Today there was a wedding being prepared for on the grounds and cars rolling down the gravel drive with suited guests and caterers. A woman in a maid's uniform came out from the kitchen, her hair up in braids, with a cake in her arms, and ducked behind the honeysuckle.
Some of the titles in the library were the collected works of Tolstoy, the life of Thomas Howard Fourth Duke of Norfolk, an account of the sack of Paris during the Napoleonic wars, and the volumes written by Hay about Lincoln, his mentor. The woman giving the tour opened up a door on the halls and let me have a peek at an entire wing which was left in a decrepit state by the family before the state took it over. The bare lathe and ribs of the rafters were a testament to the mortality of houses. The tour guide, an older woman, had built a house herself in the 1950s in Massachusetts, she told me, using the old lathe and horse hair plaster for the walls in the days before sheet rock was mass produced. You can't find people any more who know how to build a wall this way.