Clare and Resiliency

“…The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” — Genesis 2:15.

You don’t have to be religious to understand why this passage appears in the scriptures that define three world religions.

We learned to work with fire. We shaped stone and smelted metals. We came to manage water and to cultivate the lands. We domesticated animals for the nutrition and the labor they provided

Two centuries ago we made an exponential leap. Machines used stream, not muscle power, to mass-produce and transport goods great distances. To feed a ravenous family, we’ve placed more demands our earth’s resources than during all the millennia before.

“…And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination.” From the book of Jeremiah 2:7.

Clare Tallon Ruen is not a scientist but stewardship of the earth is central to her work as a dancer and a teacher.”

Clare diagrams and executes movements, creating what she refers to as ‘movement models’ which she combines with music.

She introduces school children to the interplay of the earth’s ecosystems. Recently she engaged students in a group pantomime to dramatize how sand and wind work to allow common marram grass to dominate the dunes of the Great Lakes.

She can explain that by creating a “rain garden” you can disperse storm water from your downspouts and filter the currents flowing across your lawn so that contaminants are diluted instead of concentrating in rivers and oceans.

Clare is involved with the concept of ‘resilience.’ It implies that if we’ve pushed our planet beyond a ‘tipping point’ as some scientists fear, we’ll need to find ways to help it recuperate — in the same way farmers rotate crops to let a field rest fallow and fleets retire from overharvested fishing banks to allow species to recover.

Discovering the natural world as a child has fueled the curiosity of great scientific minds. Einstein held that imagination is more important than knowledge and Maria Mitchell wrote that “science is not all mathematics and all logic, but is somewhat beauty and poetry.”

They would have understood and applauded what the dancer and teacher who visits our corner coffee shop is up to.

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Marion doesn’t type

The woman in our riddle started her career on Madison Avenue during the ‘Mad Men’ years.

Here’s a riddle:

Why didn’t the woman know how to type?

There were no signs of injuries around the digits of her fingers. There was no swelling at the knuckles or wrists, not a wrap or a brace to suggest carpel tunnel.

She kept her nails at a practical length and she used a grip strengthener during conference calls. To this day she spends time in front of the Steinway in her living room.

Here are some clues.

The woman in our riddle started her career on Madison Avenue during the ‘Mad Men’ years. She drove herself to escape the gravity that held stenographers, secretaries, receptionists and ‘gal-Fridays’ in low-level jobs.

Women newly promoted out of the clerical ranks faced a slippery slope. They risked being enlisted to “take a letter” and type it “just this once.” If that happened often they could dragged back into the steno pool.

The subject of our riddle worked her way into senior management positions and came to be recognized as a ‘Women of the Year’ in her profession.

I met Marion when she was recruited as a rainmaker at an international advertising agency. She was exceptionally savvy and we lined up to share assignments with her.

When Marion and I launched our own boutique marketing-services firm a few years later, we outfitted our small team with state-of-the-art IBM Selectric Typewriters.

Although it’s almost certain she had been able to knock out fifty words a minute during college and in her entry-level positions, Marion’s index fingers never once settled on the home keys of our typewriters.

Like many females who broke into the executive ranks in those years, Marion had learned something more important than how to type. She had learned how not to type.

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List of Accomplishments

I can’t do that.

Why not?

My parents wouldn’t approve.

So we call them and ask.

They’ve been dead for years.

Aunts? Uncles?

Nobody in our family goes in for that kind of thing.

You want me to give you permission?

Tell me again, exactly what I’m supposed to do.

Make a list of things you’ve learned how to do. Add the favors, even small stuff, you’ve done for people — your years with the volunteer fire department for example. How you honored your father and your mother. How you got on top of your drinking after you guys got pregnant — gold stars there. How you’re not holier than thou. Add points for every time you’ve didn’t offer advice nobody asked for. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Write everything down, memorize it backward and forward.

And I’m doing all this…why?

So that when it’s dark and too early to get out of bed and you’re beating the bejesus out of yourself, you’ll have some ammunition on your side. Maybe you’ll sleep.

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Hush Money for porn stars

Donald Trump allegedly paid porn star Stormy Daniels the sum of $130,000 before the presidential election to keep her mouth shut. The Wall Street Journal broke the story.

Paying hush money is nothing new. It’s alleged that Trump wives, students screwed over by Trump University and plaintiffs in various lawsuits have been paid handsomely to shut up.

Who else is on the mute list? If Stormy is worth a king’s ransom in hush money, how much more in unmarked bills are his Russian connections demanding?

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Donald J. Shithole

Donald Trump has given us Lyin’ Ted, Crooked Hillary, Crazy Bernie, Little Marco and Low-Energy Jeb.

This week he may have stumbled upon a word appropriate for himself.

You may think that tacking “Shithole” unto his name doesn’t show the respect appropriate to the Office of the Presidency. It’s a year too late to worry about that.

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Tax Cuts Billboard

The tax cuts just passed for middle-income wage earners are temporary. They’ll be phased out in a matter of years. It’s the old teaser-rate come-on.

Meanwhile cuts for multinational corporations, financial entities and real estate developers like Donald Trump will be permanent.

A couple can now inherit a fortune of almost $22 million without paying a penny in taxes. But a kid working to save for college is nailed on the first dollar earned.

More money in fewer plans. They planned it that way.

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Buttocks

Our son was born without buttocks.

The bone structure of his ilium was perfectly normal and his “gluts” were standard-issue. What he lacked was the meat most folks have on their coccyges. I’m sure I’m misusing these words but you get the picture.

The boy was unaware he was skin and bones until well into grade-school when he came to realize that certain boys commanded the playground. They got to choose the teams during recess and twist the rules however they wanted. They were invited to parties. Girls liked them.

For some reason my son got it into his head — do not laugh — that it was the fit of his pants that was holding him back from joining the alphas.

He became obsessed that the seats of his trousers were baggy. He studied himself in the 360-degree mirror in our back bedroom — something he’d never done before.

It so happens that I sew. Not to brag but I can rip a seam and take in a crotch with the best of them. I strapped on my wrist pin-cushion, grabbed my reading specs and performed miracles on the saddle of that boy’s pants.

Over time he shot up and put on a little flesh on his frame. His face cleared up nicely and he took to wearing contact lens.

During a Sunday supper just after he started a full-time job, he told our family an older woman at the office — she was twenty-two if she was a day — patted him on the bottom and told him she was “into” men with tight little tushes.

We still laugh about that from time to time. But the fact is that the memory of young woman’s come-on would come in handy when a bald spot began to show on the back of his head.

What’s a mother to do?

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Firefighter Tom

You’ll find the ladder truck from Fire Station Two double-parked outside our corner coffee shop some mornings.Tom Howard will run in to pick up a round for his crew.

You might think idling a hugely expensive firefighting vehicle for a coffee run is a waste of taxpayer dollars. It’s not.

Think of it as readiness training. Every minute on the street sharpens the team’s knowledge of traffic patterns, access points around town and behavior of equipment under weather conditions. Every emergency call sets off a mesh of calculations and responses.

Tom is part of an eight-member team that pulls a 24-hour shift. They stand ready at all hours to hit that pole and engage with sixty pounds of gear, tools and breathing packs.

Two meals are prepared each shift. You get your fussy eaters, restricted diets and meat-and-potatoes holdouts. It seems that leftovers don’t play well on Sundays.

There are occupational hazards. Firefighters seldom talk about fear but they worry about mistakes. A drop in adrenaline between shifts can feel like a loss of purpose and camaraderie, an isolating work cycle doesn’t help. Tom manages a hotline to deal with exactly those problems.

As an engineer he drives ladder trucks and fire engines and is certified in medical response and Hazmat. His thing is opening cars with kids locked inside. “Good enough to be a cat burglar.” he laughs

The 25-year-veteran firefighter earned a master’s degree in divinity after a deepening of his faith and has been asked to preach at various congregations. There’s that quality about him.

Physical realities catch up with even the fittest firefighters. Tom will be ready for the next chapter of life. “I believe the Lord has called me for something.” he says. And the good Lord willing a ‘98 Harley and a Yamaha Motocross will be part that something.

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Happy Holidays, Mr. Trump

…the ‘poster boys’ strike again.

Dear Mr. President,

No offense sir, but your campaign to get people to say ‘Merry Christmas’ is doing more harm than good.

What with your divorces, your grab-ass games with women, your scams and insults to one and all, you’re the wrong kind of guy to put Christ back in Christmas.

Neo-Nazis don’t wish people ‘Happy Chanukah’ and members of the KKK don’t say ‘Happy Kwanzaa’ at the mall.

It’s like that with you and Christmas, Mr. President. You really should stick with ‘Happy Holidays.’

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Lost In The Woods

The forest is home to animals that want to eat you.

Wolves are especially dangerous because they dress like grandmothers and say things to throw you off guard. Grizzlies are just as bad. They see you and they start polishing the silverware.

A few Octobers ago a Cub Scout troop descended on a campground just over the state line. The small wooded acreage brought in a little cash for farmers who worked at the GM plant until it closed.

Tents were pitched. A lady named Peggy grilled burgers and dogs. A bonfire was lit. The night had turned cold and various critters rustled around the tents causing some kids to climb into their parents’ sleeping bags — the older scouts wouldn’t have to know.

The air was pure oxygen the next morning. After a warm breakfast a party set out to explore the environs. Everybody wanted to strike camp early because of the NFL game that afternoon so one of the fathers stayed behind to police the grounds.

When the hikers got back, his son wasn’t with them. No one seemed concerned about the missing boy — except his father of course.

The man squared his shoulders, squinted into the sun and ventured out alone.

He followed the trail that rolled to the right. Nothing. A child shorter than the undergrowth would be difficult to spot. He came to the loop where the paths intersected. Again, nothing.

He was well-aware that a nine-year-old carried away by the Chippewa would be initiated as a brave and end up on the warpath against the Great Chief in Washington, meaning that he would never be eligible for Federal Student Financial Assistance.

He tried to think what Liam Neeson would do.

Tick, tick, tick.

Then on a rise worn bare by the wind, something yellow darted between the trees. The man ran to a clearing where he finally got a visual lock on his boy.

Hiding any trace of panic he approached and asked his son how he was doing.

“Can we get shakes on the way home?” the kid answered. Then he mentioned how much he liked being alone in the woods. He said it was awesome.

The dangers were imagined that Sunday morning, but the fears were real. This was just the latest installment on the price of being a father. The man drove home knowing his account was current, its balance was paid in full.

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