Full-Moon Ramble

Blame that waxing Sturgeon Moon; it cleared the air, brightened the stars and sharpened my perspective, a cool, gentle midnight breeze through the bedside window whisking away the dust and cobwebs, a tiny drop of  grease setting the cranial wheels free for silent pillow probes. Sleep? Hell no. Not on moonlit nights.

So here I sit, the next day, reflecting a few weeks back to a salient scene, the image vivid. It’s morning, the sun low. Grandson Jordi and I are walking up the short hill to a familiar galvanized gate. It’s been a good walk, great conversation, a refreshing swim, to boot. We’re jabbering about this and that, nearing the not-yet-visible truck. Our journey has taken us two-thirds around the perimeter of Sunken Meadow to a short, splashy frolic with two rambunctious gun dogs down the Green River to a chest-deep, corner swimming hole, in fishing jargon, what I call a run. There I had demonstrated the breast stroke and frog kick, sidestroke and scissors kick, Jordi, self-conscious, trying to please, his progress my reward. I’m no teacher but can get by.

What I remember most about that short uphill trek to the hayfield is a discomforting thought that jostled me. How do you tell a bright, innocent young boy who’s experienced the loss of his dad that, because of my generation, my father’s and lingering, infectious greed, it may already be too late for him to escape the horrors of radical climate change, maybe even the stench of death from starvation or disease borne from filthy drinking water? Don’t tell anyone, but it’s already happening in the Third World. Shhhhhhh. Why alarm folks? Out of sight, out of mind … for now.

I let the unpleasant thought pass unspoken; tell him instead how nice it is to have his company on my daily walks, typically solitary. I do enjoy companionship. He provides someone to talk to, a nice change, though I can’t say I object to walking alone. Oftentimes, I explain, I’ll spot something, even a common sight, that stirs my creative juices and squirts them into a steep gorge which flows to a column. He looks at me, bemused, struggling to grasp a difficult concept for anyone just getting a faint whiff of literacy’s flowered periphery. He understands better when I explain how witnessing natural phenomena can stimulate thoughts or emotions about something from the past, maybe even the present or future, potentially unleash a roaring torrent that riles from mucky sediment poignant riffs later captured in print. Some carry a notepad to capture profound thoughts and catchy phrases. Not me. I’m usually capable of recreating the spark that burst into flames. Often the rekindled thoughts spiral even deeper into an ominous, swirling abyss of introspection I never fear.

Jordi just looks up with those sparkling, pensive amber eyes and says, “Oh,” which suggests to me that he gets my drift — well, as much as any 6-year-old could, I guess. I’m confident he’ll better understand my idiosyncrasies as the years pass. I will continue leading him to offbeat exploration till the day I depart this place for another, better or worse, wherever and whenever it may be, leaving him to cut his own path, hopefully trimming low-hanging obstructions with my old machete.

Driving out to the road, the landowner is working in his garden. I stop and slide down the window to chat. Jordi can’t resist interrupting: “Did you tell him about that crow, Grampy?” The query raps the man’s funny bone dead center. My column that day had mentioned the defiant crow perched alone atop a tomato stake, not the least bit afraid of the threatening, owl-eyed, scarecrow beach balls dangling from strings, standing sentry. I had written that Jordi was amused by that lonely crow’s open defiance, and the man had obviously read it. That’s why he laughed out loud and said, “Yeah, we saw it, too. My wife said, ‘Isn’t it funny how even some crows seem to have a mind of their own?’” I didn’t share with him my spontaneous thought about how many times I myself had chosen such a perch, sharpshooter taking aim and sending a|bullet whizzing past my left ear, me startled, jumping up, chuckling and flying off to another precarious perch down the road. Ah, yes, the story of my life. Maybe Jordi will make it easier on himself. Maybe not. Either way, I’ll be there for him, a loyal surrogate.

Just the thought of this tugs me by the hand like a sleepy lover toward another summertime ramble, this one leading to a new book by Saratoga, N.Y., environmental gloom-and-doomer James Howard Kunstler, before traipsing off to an old book written by preeminent Harvard historian Bernard Bailyn, then a little cougar talk and, well, whatever else leaps with a mischievous grin onto this wayward, moonlit path. Oh, the perilous swings these full-moon rambles can take with a two-fingered keyboard Cancer hammering away.

First, cougars, that is a late-afternoon Monday sighting on Route 112 in Ashfield, near Bug Hill Road. The witness, a southern New Hampshire Verizon lineman living temporarily with his brother in my Greenfield Meadows neighborhood, got a good look at the long-tailed beast; it crossed the road less than 100 feet in front of him and stopped. He described the sighting as unmistakable, though the cat was a bit on the small side, in the 60-to-80-pound range, half-again as big as his brother’s dog. There have been many sightings over the years in that general vicinity, say between Plainfield and West Whately, wild country indeed, perfect for catamounts. And get this: Wednesday morning in my inbox was a message with an Internet link to a news story about the 17th confirmed Michigan cougar sighting in recent years. I challenge anyone to claim a cougar couldn’t easily make its way here from Michigan through Upstate New York. Puh-leeze!

As for Kunstler’s new book, “Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of a Nation,” it was brought to my attention by a loyal reader who saw last week’s mention of Bill McKibben’s scary “Rolling Stone” piece on global warming. McKibben claims our planet is heating much quicker than the mainstream media and government want us to believe. Well, Kunstler heaps doom and destruction upon McKibben’s dire warning, proclaiming that by the time the turds hit the turbines, advanced technology will not save us. I’m not sure what I believe, have always taken Kunstler with a bittersweet teaspoon of caution but I do not dismiss his theory anymore than I accept the mainstream “objective” garbage. I do fear we’re headed for disaster, though, if not already there with extended drought, three-digit Heartland temperatures and raging Western wildfires. Nothing to lose sleep over, I guess. Ask Mitt Romney, who’s loudly stumping for the drill-baby-drill Keystone Pipeline. American voters may just elect our former governor and his voodoo Bain Capital magic. The election promises to be close, and quite scary. Anyone who believes Romney gives a hoot about you and me is delusional. He couldn’t care less about  working slobs. And, no matter how many times partisan Republicans implore that both parties are controlled by the same corporations and big money, remember this: Kunstler and McKibben both voted for Obama the last time and will do so again, while the Koch brothers and their diabolical cronies funnel major money to the GOP and random “Blue-Dog” Democrats willing to turn their backs as industry poisons the globe.

Which provides a nice segue to Bailyn, whose 1969 classic, “The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution,” is still considered the best analysis of the Colonial political landscape leading up to the Revolution. I have read much by Bailyn and can’t say I find him a pleasurable read, but he does know the socio/political Revolutionary nuances as well as anyone, perhaps better. After many times considering “Ideological Origins” but backing off at the steep online price of non-library hardcovers in acceptable condition, I finally found a pristine paperback at Montague Bookmill, bought it cheap and blew right through it. Having read many scholars’ takes on the genesis of the American Revolution, all of them seem consistent on one unstated point: America is today what England was in 1776. “Radical” British Whigs were being jailed, the stench of government corruption was eye-watering, and elections were blatantly being bought. Whigs crying for change and pointing to the fall of the Roman Empire were shouted down by cozy conservative insiders who called their critics traitors.

Well, fellas, I hate to say it but those Whigs, men like Burke and Wilkes, got the last, told-you-so chortle when American rebels expelled the British oppressors and loyalist lackeys, won independence and started anew. Hey, that reminds me: Has anyone ever figured out exactly what happened to Mayan civilization? Just wondering.

Good night, moon

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