Thursday, December 22, 2011

No Goodbye to Occupy

I visited Occupy Boston twice. The first time, a few weeks after it began, the weather was warm and there had been heavy rains. But there were sturdy paths of cardboard and wood between the tents. I wandered around, and the guy manning the Medic Tent invited me to sit down while we chatted. As we talked, someone came by to ask, "Do you know where the Spirittual Tent is?" and was directed there. Everyone I met was friendly and welcoming, glad I was there, but casual too. The atmosphere both times was open, amiable, comfortable. There was no question of bad smells or litter. I counted about 120 tents.

My second visit was in December, just days before the group was evicted (none of us knew that at the time). I went to the Library Tent to donate my novels. It was very large, lined with books on every side, shelves all labeled. The guy in charge suggested I inscribe the books to Occupy Boston, "so that later people will see that and you'll make history." He told me about a troublemaker who'd been bothering people, and complained that the police refused to stop him . At this point the City had prevented the delivery of a sink and a winterized tent, clearly pressuring the protesters to leave. The City wouldn't even allow them to bring in a port-a-potty (which they paid for); so for bathrooms the group had to cross two busy streets to South Station.

But the same friendly, welcoming atmosphere prevailed. I was so proud of those people, proud they are Americans. In the end, I was proud of Mayor Menino too. Although I can't forgive him forbidding the port-a-potty, in general I think he handled the situation with respect and constraint.

To all those courageous protesters, wherever you are: I salute you and urge you on. You inspired us and changed the dialog in this country. You are pioneers in bold and refreshing directions. I am grateful to believe you represent my America.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

More About Snow

In Boston this winter we've had huge, amazing quantities of snow. Lots of people are continuously complaining about it. I myself, though sometimes inconvenienced, have been enjoying it. I loved the first blast, observed from inside my cozy home. The wind was so fierce, it drove the snow sideways. We had a nice fire going, and drank mulled wine.

Ignoring my car the next day, I let it repose under its white blanket while I made my way in warm boots to the busstop. On the bus I observe the streets with new eyes, and enjoy the many types getting on and off. In subsequent weeks, as the snow descended again and again, I did my grocery shopping in the neighborhood. I made do at times by raiding my own pantry and coming up with inventive recipes. I fed the birds and squirrels who visit my back deck, and bought fresh flowers for my living room.

Now mid-February brings longer days and stronger sunlight. My city is still piled everywhere with snow, dirtier by the day as it slowly melts. There's a touch of spring in the air. Aren't you glad you don't live in boring Florida?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

mini book review: WATER

Water, A Natural History by Alice Outwater
Basic Books 1996 186 pages

This is a story of the relationship between water and land. "Water is the blood of land."
Outwater's tone is at once affectionate and reverent. From prairie dog lifestyle to scientific stats, the book is readable and enlightening.
In many ways, it's a tragic story. The author takes us back to the 17th century fur trade, the beginning of the end for the plentiful beaver. Lost too are the ecological benefits from the beaver's lifestyle, which forms dams, ponds, and wetlands. "A land with hundreds of millions of beavers is a truly rich land, and the wetlands associated with beaver dams made the New World's water plentiful and clear as the dew."
After decimation of the beavers, that of buffalo, prairie dogs, and alligators followed, as did the way in which each species benefitted the land. Forests were cleared; by 1870 over 60% of the original forests were gone. (Those that have grown back are "shadows of what they once were.") So too the vast prairies. "The natural system was being dismantled piece by piece." As a result, "water is no longer able to clean itself naturally, and despite our best legislative efforts our waterways are still impaired."
In the 1930s came the dams, (there are 50,000 dams in this country), altering and simplifying river systems. Then in the 1940s came thousands of new chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers.
Outwater makes a passionate and convincing case for bringing back beavers and prairie dogs to public lands.
This thesis is original enough, but what makes her book really wonderful is the way her mind works. It spans four centuries with ease and constant interconnection, weaving the mesmerizing story much like an ecosystem. She thinks systemically, illuminating for us a whole new take on the disaster that's called progress.


I love snow.

After November winds have finally stripped the trees, we can admire the intricate elegance of every twig, not to mention the impressive nests of squirrels and birds that have been hidden all summer. Then, just when the uniformity of landscape begins to pall, rain becomes white crystals that blanket and brighten the dark winter world.

Can't dig out your car? Good! Put on your best boots and tramp through the fresh air. Be a child again, wonder at the transformation , the beauty.Take to your heart the natural systems of our precious planet, of which you are a part.