more concrete abstractions

These are a few photos of some abstract compositions that caught my eye.

cracks

crack

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cracks

cracks

I was surprised to see that all 5 of these photos were taken in 2013, but on several different days, over 4 different months. And probably at different locations. Was my world more full of cracks in 2013? Or was it just a time when I had heightened awareness of things crumbling around me? (Because now feels like such a time.)

hitting the snooze button (a letter back to myself from 10 months ago)

IMG_2704 - Version 4Dear Me of January 2017,

Thanks for your letter. I did get it as planned on July 26th,  and the alarm went off, as planned. I couldn’t motivate myself to write right away, though. I didn’t exactly go back to sleep. But I did hit the snooze button, so to speak. For four months.

Anyhow, I’m doing okay, thanks. At least, me personally and my family. We’re all in good health, and not in any immediate danger.

As for the country as a whole, and the whole world? Well, things aren’t looking so great.

It’s not exactly that my worst fears were realized, because, let’s face it, my worst fears are a touch dramatic. I can safely say that, at the very least, we haven’t yet devolved into a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and I haven’t been jailed as a political dissident. Other than that, though, the outlook isn’t great.

You’d hoped that impeachment processes would be underway,  but in spite of some petitions and the occasional vocal politician, we haven’t had much progress. There have, though, been ongoing investigations into collusion with Russia from the Trump campaign. So maybe there’s still hope there.

One recent bright ray of hope came in the form of state and local election results earlier this month. Around the country, we saw that progressives are ready to fight back. If we can keep up the momentum, the 2018 and 2020 elections look promising as well. But there’s a lot of work ahead.

You wondered if I’d still be resisting, and I generally am. I did attend the March for Science in Boston, but I haven’t managed to attend any other marches. I know it sounds like excuse-making, but I have had reasons. Schedule conflicts or insufficient time to plan. I haven’t yet found a Black Lives Matter event to attend. I guess I need to try a little harder.

I did finish reading the New Jim Crow, but the online discussion group that prompted me to read it largely fizzled out. I did attend the talk in February on dialect discrimination. I also helped to organize a workshop addressing systems of oppression through the social justice group at a friend’s UU church. I am also happy to say that I did start volunteering with immigrant populations, and have started working as a volunteer ESL tutor through the public library of a neighboring town. It feels productive and personally enriching in ways that many of my other efforts don’t.

IMG_2704 - Version 3 As for my work with my Democratic Town Committee, there I can honestly say that I have not let that ball drop. I have invested many hours on outreach projects, including design and a mailing, contributing to our social media presence, publicizing and attending events, and even spearheading the design and construction of a float in our small town’s arade. I have been following state and local races, and supporting progressive candidates. I’ve attended meetings and trainings and fundraisers.

I have channeled much of my angst and worry and anger about the national scene into my efforts on the local scene. More than ever, we need to keep progressive voices in the House and Senate, because they are fighting the fight every day. We need to have progressives in our state legislatures, because this is our best chance to preserve what progressive  policies we have, at least close to home.
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Yes, I am tired, as you imagined. As you and I both know, I tend burn the candle from both ends preparing for an event. Then my health tends to suffer afterwards. But then I recover, rally, and dig back in. I am still very aware that what is going on in our government and our society is not okay, and not normal. I have been horrified by the numbers of people who feel able now to openly embrace and display their views of white supremacy, and disgusted that this administration fuels that display of hate. All the institutions and groups of people we were worried about in January are still just as threatened. There are good people who are fighting back, though, and this gives me some hope. The press is still free, and and far as I know, people can still protest and freely assemble. But it does give me a nagging sense of worry that the frequency and visibility of protests has decreased. I am not the only one who is tired.

Your big question for me, which I really can’t ignore was: Are you paying enough attention?

I’m afraid that the answer is probably “no.” The constant alarm bells, such as about attacks on healthcare, net neutrality, horrifying judicial appointments, threats of war, and so much more, are causing so much noise, that I am surely missing a lot.

While I am worn out and deeply worried, I am also bolstered every day by my friendship and connection with friends and family members who share my values and worldview. I know that there are many of us, and we are not going to back down.

I also do not doubt for a moment that we are on the right side of history.

In solidarity,

The Current Present Day Me, Who is now 10 Months Older than the Me who wrote that Last Letter

p.s. I realize that you can’t write back this time, because you are in the past, and I don’t believe we have access to time travel. But perhaps another Future Me will write back to us both.

p.p.s. Not sure I can blame it on the crumbling democracy, but I’m still not finished with my work for the NSF grant. I’m still giving at least part of my time and attention to my work as a researcher, though.

p.p.p.s. I totally forgot about that puzzle. Did not even try to finish it, and probably never will.

This post is a follow-up to one I wrote 10 months ago, setting an alarm (a letter to myself 6 months from now),  the motivations for which I described thusly¹:

This post was inspired by a quote shared by a friend on Facebook, excerpted from a column in the New Yorker:

At a writers’ protest organized by the PEN America Center, on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum last Sunday, Andrew Solomon, the organization’s president, decrying Trump’s apparent disregard for free speech, quoted a South African friend who had lived through apartheid: “ ‘What is most shocking is not how shocked you are right now, what is most shocking is how unshocked you will be in six months time.’ ” Solomon went on, “When I heard him, I took it as an occasion to declare that I will remain shocked. That we will remain shocked.” –Emily Eakin, The New Yorker, January 20, 2017

I commented that the quote made me feel like I should set an alarm. I have effectively just done so. I put an event on my calendar for 6 months from today: RESIST. I wrote in my new paper planner, and put it in my computer with it set to alert me a day before. I very much hope that I remember what this means.

This post ended up being super long, in spite of my efforts to trim it down. If you’ve made it this far, thank you. I’d love to hear more ideas about how to keep the resistance going. What have you been up to? What do you hope to do next?²

¹ I also wrote that post as my third entry in #52essays2017, a project to write and post an essay each week this year. Clearly, I have not kept up that weekly challenge.  If I had, this would only be my 4th essay. (To read more about the 52 essays project, visit Vanessa Martir’s Blog.)

² In case you wondered about the images in the post, they are some buttons I made. I couldn’t wrangle up swag for an event, so I decided to design and make some of my own.

concrete composition

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In spite of the many hours I spent working on it over the last couple of days, the abstract I was working on last night failed to completely materialize. I did make substantial progress in bringing about the substance of the study, but my co-author was not available for the final push before the submission window closed.

The good news is that the project is much more substantive, and I was able to scare up some concrete data that will move us forward.

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And on the theme of concrete, since that’s the way my mind works, I figured I would share these photos of some concrete art. The installation pictured was one I saw at Heritage Gardens and Museum in Sandwich, Massachusetts back in June. I really wish I could remember and/or find the name of the artist and the piece (or pieces?) because I found the installation quite enjoyable. What looks from afar like a field of gray rocks, upon closer examination turns out to be varied little concrete forms, created by pouring wet concrete into little cloth bags. The resulting abstract figures have a lot of character.

 

abstract composition

Tonight I am working on composing an abstract to submit to a conference, so I don’t have time for a lot of words here. Instead, I submit to you these abstract compositions selected from my photo library.

benches, found abstract compositionabstract compositionfound abstractionfound abstract composition

Full of thanks (and full of food)

Today we celebrated Thanksgiving, which is a holiday bound in tradition for me. And much of that tradition involves food. Not just the eating of it, but the preparing of it, the serving of it, and the discussing of it. I love that we have this holiday which centers around spending time with family and friends, and about sharing a meal with them.

Thanksgiving always leaves me full of thanks and of food, but also of nostalgia. More than anything, I think of Thanksgivings past at my grandmother’s house. I remember setting the table with the special china, fancy glasses and candlesticks. I remember being shooed out of the kitchen so my grandmother could manage the entire feat of feast-making in her own way. (Also because her kitchen was tiny, and she didn’t want us in the way.) I remember enjoying so much of the feast when it came time to eat, pretty much loving all of it, except for the dreaded liver lumps in the gravy. (My grandmother would cook up and dice up the giblets, and toss them into the otherwise smooth and tasty gravy.) And I remember the extended time in the kitchen after the meal, typically with one or two other family members, hand-washing and hand-drying all of the dishes from the meal. (Because my grandmother’s house did not have a dishwasher. Also, my grandmother was happy to get out of the kitchen at the end of the day.) I usually got the job of drying. I can still remember the feel of the dishtowels in my hand, typically linen and worn rather thin from years of use, and getting more and more damp until finally you had to get out a fresh dry towel.

I spent much of yesterday and most of today preparing food and preparing the space to eat that food. (Our dining room had gotten rather buried over the past 8 months or so, but I was bound and determined to unearth it.)  We had a few guests (my mother-in-law, and a friend and her 2 kids), so there were eight of us. In spite of the moderate numbers, we had an immoderate number of food items on the menu.

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Some of the dishes I prepared: roasted root vegetables, roasted butternut squash with shallots and cranberries, roasted dijon cauliflower, and vegetarian stuffing.

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My plate. The plate itself is from our good set, a pattern that John and picked out when we had our wedding. I love using the good china for special holiday meals, because that is what we always did at my grandmother’s house. As for the food, the plate holds the 4 dishes listed above, plus green beans, mashed potatoes and vegetarian gravy, and cranberry sauce. 

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Pumpkin pie. The dairy-free version that has become a tradition for me. I had delusions that I would have time to also make something like an apple crisp. Ha.

Now that the day is done, and I’ve turned in for the night, I am still feeling full from the feast (which was blissfully free of liver lumps). I am also feeling full of thanks for the bounty of our feast, for our comfort and safety, and for the people in my life who make my life so full.

funky acorns of Central Park

Yes, this post is really about acorns. In particular, some acorns that looked a bit funny to me, compared to those that my local oak trees drop. For one thing the acorns are really long. While they are probably of a similar thickness to those acorns I see locally, or maybe even a bit skinnier, they are quite a bit longer. Some of them even about twice as long as I expect an acorn to be.

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Long acorns.

Second, they have these crazy-looking hairy tops. They remind me of see anemones and rambutans. Or shaggy wigs.

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The caps from these acorns look like crazy hair. Or sea anemones. Or rambutans.

These acorns (and  presumably the trees they fell from) were near the reservoir in Central Park. I’m sure there is a way to identify them, but I’m not going to do so tonight. However, if any tree-lovers are out there who know the answer, let me know!

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I liked the way these acorns lined themselves up along the sticks or vines on the ground.

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This is just a stray leaf that caught my eye. I don’t know whether it is related to the acorns, but I believe it to be some sort of oak leaf.

Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving, and since I’m going a little nuts getting ready, I figured I’d post a bit about some nutty-looking nuts.

multilayered, multicolored

I do love the way paint looks when it’s past its prime. Well, I don’t love it that way on my own house, but out in the rest of world, I find the patterns and texture of weathered paint to be very appealing. Especially when such weathering reveals multiple layers of paint of different colors. The effect can range from map, to marbelizing, to abstract composition. Here are a few examples that have caught my eye, in my travels, and around my town.

red-turquoise-rail

This was a railing at Canobie Lake Park, an amusement park in New Hampshire. Many of the rides and attractions have been around for decades, and display a colorful history of paint color trends. I saw this on our visit to the park this August. This looked to me like a map.

pink-blue-green-red-white-rail

This was likewise a railing at Canobie Lake Park. This particular railing was at the mirror maze, and caught my eye in 2014. I was sad that the mirror maze was no longer at the park this year.

red-black-green-fence

This was a fence in or around Dublin, as seen on my 2014 trip.

red-green-white-bridge

This more subtle set of paint layers graced a pedestrian bridge in Central Park. It caught my eye this past Saturday.

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This colorful and curvy composition can be seen on the back of a turtle-shaped climbing structure at our local zoo. I took this photo in 2013. I’m sort of curious to see the turtle again, and see if it has a (boring) layer of fresh paint.

yellow-purple-wheel

This yellow wheel was in a town near Dublin. It appears to have once been purple, and possibly green before that.  

This is far from the first time I’ve posted photos of peeling paint, but I think only one of the above (the pink railing) was included in another set. (Admittedly, though, it’s become harder for me to keep track of what I’ve posted here.)