Tredecim

Who suffers from the
Words in a wonderful talking book written at the top of its reverse page
Let that one beware
The two-faced month matching the betrayer’s number on the hangman’s day
Surely no good omen for those who believe

Dear friends, we have a winner!
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Even those who give less heed
To portents put up in the past and handed down
Dowries and remembrances of days gone by
Tend to nerves

For me, it’s just another day
My fears all run another way
And I have not the time to play
The credulous

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On the Winter Solstice, 2022

As this post emerges into the world, it is the moment of the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, or close enough as matters to very few. Concomitantly, today is the shortest daylight of the year here; it’s uphill for a while, until the summer solstice comes, and then the downhill slide resumes. It is Sisyphean, really, although I am not aware of the myth-makers connecting things in such a way. Perhaps they did. Perhaps I do because I have far more time to think about such things–about things, generally–than is good for me to have.

Cool.
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Living when I do and where I do, the seasonal cycle matters less to me than might be thought. Central Texas does not have the “typical” progression. Our plants put on their prettiest in the spring rather than in the fall; the colors that come out for autumn are of football teams and marching bands, and brilliant though they may be, they are as nothing against the wildflower fields that stretch to the sky. No, for the most part, the colors of the fall now gone are brown from where the summer drought remains and green from the touches of rain that have fallen. And the colors of the winter now begun are not as often white as, well, brown and green. We freeze sometimes–the Hill Country, I am told, is in for a sharp snap of it this week, Jack cracking a bullwhip to announce his coming and assert his dominion where Aestas more commonly holds sway–and sometimes see the snow, but more often, it is a chilly rain that marks out winter weather than a soft snowfall.

Perhaps that is why so many decry “snowflakes” here, that they have such limited experience of them as they do. But as someone who has had more of snow than many in the Hill Country, I think I like it less. Shoveling it tends to remove the romance.

Still, the night will roll back, little by little, now, and the light increase its hold. I am sure there is some symbolic statement I could make about it, but I am also sure it would be badly clichéd. I get to deal with that kind of thing enough without having to add to it, and there is still more than enough work for me to do, whatever the season, however the weather may be.

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In Honor of National Llama Day (#llamaday #nationalllamaday)

Offer up praise to the llama!
Punctuate holiday drama
By hanging up wreaths
And crawling beneath
And playing the viol da gamba!

I should have used this as a writing prompt when I had students…
Photo by Magnus Martinsen on Pexels.com

Strike up a llama-themed tune
And dance in the light of the moon
Hoping thereby
To bid it pass by
That beast that else besets us soon

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A Rumination on Pearl Harbor Day

As I was talking with coworkers, I was reminded of today’s observance, something that had otherwise slipped my mind amid the other things I do day to day to day. Normally, I’m reasonably good at marking such events, having grown up in the family and part of the world that I did, so to have had the Day that Shall Live in Infamy escape me in such a way is…surprising and unsettling. For a moment, I wondered–had to wonder–if I was losing something else, the progress of my years slowing recall. (The old joke applies, I think, about not remembering what goes away as you get older.)

Here it is.
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by NASA Goddard Photo and Video is licensed under CC-BY 2.0

In the event, though, as I talked with my coworkers more, we hit on the idea that it is simply a matter of the passage of time. The attack on Pearl Harbor remains in living memory, yes, but less firmly so than before; eighty-one years is longer than many live, and many of those who were alive then cannot remember it–either because the memory is lost or because they were so young that the memory never formed. For me, it is a thing of my grandparents’ days–and I’ve only one of them remaining. For my daughter, it is even more remote, and I know that many of my contemporaries have children old enough to have children of their own, for whom the event is yet more distant.

Admittedly, I remember and mark many things that are older yet than the Second World War. I do not seek to excuse the lapse in attention. Thus I write this, recalling the perfidy perpetrated then and what it has led to, for good and for ill. And I note to others that they might well do the same.

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The War Resumes More Quietly

Year after year
The call came
Claiming with increasing dudgeon that
Our way of life is under attack
Although never saying whose it is
Making sure we all already knew

Shots fired…
Photo by Nick Collins on Pexels.com

This time
Though
The thunder of the guns is muted
And the banners not unfurled so often
Propagandists not hawking the tawdry wares
They have been paid to sell

Is it that there are no buyers for them anymore
Those who would purchase already owning
“We’ve got it at home already; we don’t need another”
Those who would not being unconvinced
They will ever need to lift up arms in the war
Some have claimed has been on since
They got ideas about what they deserve?

Or is it the case
Instead
That the front has crossed me too far now
And I am so far back that
Struggle is but rumor?

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Another Rumination on Veterans Day

Once again, I find a past year repeating itself, with my comments coinciding with observances of one sort or another. Today, I look back a couple of years to an earlier rumination, finding it somewhat pompous. (No surprise, I suppose.) It is the case that I am not a veteran, although I did consider going into service at several points. I wouldn’t’ve done well, I know; I was a smartass little twerp who’d never been able to do a pull-up or a chin-up (still can’t, as it happens), and I’d’ve mouthed off before I could’ve stopped myself. (Also no surprise.) At forty, I still do it; at eighteen, I was far, far worse.

For the record, I never did this.
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So what right have I to make any kind of extensive comment on this, save to note again the failed promise the earlier iteration of this observance betokened? As with much else, it is not for me, and it should not be for me. Although it might be nice if others who are similarly outside might note that they, too, are, in fact, outside it.

Far too many of us say far too much about things we probably ought to listen more about.

A Rumination Prompted by Today’s Observance

It seems a lot of holiday posts have fallen on Mondays this year. Some, of course, will do so as a matter of course, being fixed by law where I write as on that weekday; Memorial Day and Labor Day come to mind as examples. Others, such as today’s Halloween, will do so periodically as the calendar demands. And there are many for whom the association of a “horror”-themed holiday and a Monday makes sense, as if there were some greater intent at work.

Tamer than many…
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There is not, of course; it is a coincidence that occurs at intervals, as noted. The idea of coincidence, though, is one that frightens many. That things happen together, results of the vagaries of human-made patterns, strikes some as impossible; for them, everything must be the deliberate action of some outside force, some sinister cabal that manages to conceal itself except to a select few who find themselves disregarded by the populace at large–unless that populace is, itself, somehow part of the cabal.

I have never understood the leaps of faith and hackneyed reasoning, the willingness to spin spurious structures from thin air to explain things. Perhaps it is only self-pity by others transmuted through some strange alchemy, brought about by bitter brews and dire distillations, that helps people not to feel so poorly about the state of the world in which they live, that things are as they are because they are made to be so by unseen powers whose shapes they glimpse in the shadows, and not because many, including them, are complacent about how matters unfold around them.

If someone else did it, it isn’t your fault, and if it isn’t your fault, you aren’t the one to fix it, right?

Except that it is not that way.

It is the case that the structures in which we exist predate us, shaping us as we begin to exist and in ways not necessarily evident to us at any time. And it is the case that there are those privileged by those structures in ways others are not, some of them consciously and abusively so. But I feel…compelled to try to make things better, however small my efforts may be. On a small scale, I usually do so. Not always, certainly, but more often than not? Maybe.

I hope so, anyway.

And I try.

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Yet Another Rumination on Labor Day

I have written before about Labor Day, here and here in this webspace, and as the observance comes around once again, I find myself in much less secure a position to write anything than in previous years. It’s my own fault, really; I shifted jobs without thinking things through, and I was hindered in the latter by not having joined the union. But that’s not why I’m returning to the topic now.

Solidarity!
Image is the Freelancers Union emblem, from their website, used for commentary

Recently, approval of unions reached some 71% of those polled, per Gallup. It’s not an unequivocal thing, as the report makes clear, but it is of some note–and some importance. My own experience as a union man–less presently than previously, when I was in a heavily unionized and union-integrated workplace and a member of UAW Local 2110–bears out the good of unions. Yes, it was the case that some members of the union were skating by, trusting in their collective contracts to cover their own inadequacies and stagnation. And it was the case that the specifics of the contract did not do as much to encourage innovation and development as could or should have been the case. But it was also the case that demonstrated expertise was explicitly and meaningfully rewarded; I got a 10% hourly raise upon completing my doctorate, for one thing, and guaranteed cost-of-living increases. I also had fully covered medical, dental, and vision, and I had access to retirement plans. (I did not invest in them, which worked out for the best, in the event, but that’s a different matter.) And it wasn’t just me; it was all of the working folk at the school, from department- and program-chair faculty through teaching staff and administrative support to the janitors and maintenance technicians.

I recognize that unionization is not something that everybody wants for themselves. I also recognize that there are some occupations where it ought not to happen–even some where it has. I also certainly understand why those who are driven to find profit–not earn, because “earn” does not really apply with them–oppose unionization. For me, though, it was a good and it is a good, and I delight in the increasing solidarity to be seen.

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A Rumination on Today’s Observance

Today is US Independence Day, the commemoration of the adoption by the Second Continental Congress of the Declaration of Independence of what had been colonies from Great Britain (although the dates are wrong; the vote was on 2 July, and the signing on 2 August). It is traditionally held to be a celebration of freedom from foreign tyranny, although there have long been and continue to be reservations about it.

Some will have a blast.
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Two hundred forty-six years on, arguments still rage–and move into violence at times, too often–about what freedom and tyranny are, and there continues to be opposition to the exercise of rights by populations traditionally exploited and denied those expressions, denied recognition of their humanity, even as those in power and empowered sputter on about the ways in which they are oppressed and claim that those who are oppressed even now should be thankful that they do not live elsewhere, where they would “really” be oppressed. And it may be the case that overt oppression is not as extensive in some places as others, although I note that the comparisons are rarely made to other industrialized nations than the one whose birthday is celebrated today. (I note, too, that many of those who claim so much love for the country that they willfully ignore its flaws and failings–which does not seem to me to be love, but what do I know?–had to be forced into its service, whether de jure or de facto, and they rail against being asked to put their resources to its support even as they benefit, directly and otherwise, from the expenditure of others’ resources to that end. But I digress.)

That it is relatively less–which may well not be the case; I know the positions of privilege I occupy keep me from experiences and understandings that may well nuance or overturn that assertion–does not mean it is little enough, though. The promise, of which the nation too often falls too far short, is of an increase in freedom, a lessening of oppression, and it won’t be fulfilled until it’s all done. And that seems quite far away today.

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Celebrating Events Today

For many, today commemorates the D-Day invasion of Normandy by the Allied Forces during the Second World War. I have little to add to such commemorations that has not already been said by others far more learned on the topic than I, save to note my sorrow that the same fight that was fought then is still being fought now, if with less valor and, I fear, less success.

The happy couple, in whose work on Heart’s Desire Stained Glass I am happy to participate.

For me, of more direct moment is that my parents are married forty-one years today. As might be thought, I’d not be here without them, so…Happy Anniversary, folks!

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