Point of View

Point of View
and if you wanted to drown you could, but you don’t...~David Whyte

Friday, January 23, 2009

El Sol

El Sol, the sun is bright today in La Paz. When we left Anchorage on January 6th, the temperature was -15 degrees farenheit, many hours, almost a day later, we landed in San Jose, Bajio Sur, Mexico where it was 70 degrees - a gain of 85 degrees.
The sun's short path across our Homer, Alaska sky this time of year is in stark contrast to it's warmth and proximity here in La Paz. Yesterday we went to the Playa de Belandre. It was especially beautiful - the tides were extremely low and I walked around the southern point observing tide pools along the way, keeping my eyes peeled for shells - the ones I finally began to see, making infinitesimally small pathways in the sand, were surprisingly alive, so I did not gather any after all. Somehow, I had imagined the shells abandoned, not as little houses carried on the backs of living creatures and so I left them to themselves and their unimaginable journeys. Crabs moved so quickly that I could only trace their existence from the corners of my eyes. Clams slammed shut with a pop as I passed. Eventually, I saw a long black and orange snake, possibly an eel and wondered if it was "electric". Wayne ventured closer to it than I was willing to go and claimed it was dead, but I was not sure of its demise and became wary of the existence of others lurking somehow just beneath my feet. The air was hallowed and its embrace healing. Such a difference between this environ and the one in which we live in Alaska! Today, it was almost too hot. Uncaring, I sat purposefully in the direct path of the mid-day sun, soaking up its rays, conscious of how far away that small yellow globe will seem upon our return home, how I will miss its proximity and warmth. At the latitude in which we reside, the earth tips away and toward un-starred space this time of year. Even in summer, when the globe rotates toward the sun, we are still farther away from the sun's warmth than other latitudes, although it lights our lives with nearly endless day. I am amazed at the bright heat I feel today in La Paz. The brightness of the sunshine almost hurts and I wear sunglasses though I still squint from behind their protective lenses. The sun - giver of life - pours forth its warmth here in the south of Mexico and far away, in the north, I imagine our home in mid-day brightening only in cloudless skies, momentarily crimson, before the cold gray of the shortened days. There is something to be said for that cold distance, its shadowy purple indigo flame. Never before my life at that latitude have I been so aware of the sun and its defining role in my welfare, our minute place on this whirling globe, how it turns and turns in space, how much a part and parcel the sun's pull plays on our fortune. I rub tanning lotion into the loosening skin of my legs, then turn my face skyward. The chariot of the gods makes its way across the sky, pulling the sun in an ever-deepening and eternal drama above the known horizon; in La Paz it barely moves, as though suspended. Those who live here hardly notice. They nod against the imperceptible chill, wear long sleeves and pants... dream of summer.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Praise Song for the Day by Elizabeth Alexander: Brief Explication

I ran across Mark Doty's posting of the inaugural poem, "Praise Song for the Day" by Elizabeth Alexander and was inspired to comment:

In the poet's reading, I heard common sense, a down to earth presence in the words and voice, a simple (but not simplistic) note without pretension. I heard a call to love that echoed the essence of a particular place in history, a crossroads in which America stands, and I heard not religion, but a voice that reached past the noise of all our individual affiliations or leanings, the noise of difference and said, "We are here together."

Seeing her words on paper with its line breaks and stanzas gave me the opportunity to go even further into the experience of yesterday.

Below is a copy of the poem as it reads on msn.com:

Praise For The Day

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Alexander. All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. A chapbook edition of Praise Song for the Day will be published on February 6, 2009.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On Inauguration of President Barack Obama: One American Voice

The tears came during the final few minutes of his speech. Turning toward my husband, Wayne, I saw that he, too, was wiping away tears. I knew that this moment in history would have great meaning for us, but I did not anticipate the force with which it struck.

For those, like us, who were impressionable children when JFK took office (Wayne was eleven, I was seven) and then when JKF, MLK, and then RFK were assassinated, with LBJ in office, this moment is more than a hopeful one for the new generation (our children); it is also a profoundly healing one for those of us in-between.
During the inaugural speech, when Obama said these words:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

That is when the tears came and they represented relief beyond hope, as well as grief. It has been with increasing sorrow that I watched our now former president compromise that very charter in the face of terrorism, taking, along with his cronies, a reactionary, misguided and hawkish stance – resembling a drunken John Wayne running the bad guys out of town. It was reminiscent of a bad western movie - maybe Bush aspired to Reagan’s model of leadership, but the timing was off and the script just didn’t read true.

At the same time, to give Bush Jr. some credit, he had the unfortunate task of leading our country during a time in which "the sins of our fathers" would come to light and thank God for that. For that reason, I am grateful for the bad times – for I believe they have served and will continue to serve to bring about change we can trust. With that change comes a new beginning and a new light to shine on our country, as both example and inspiration to the world – with that change comes a spirit that is both old and new, its roots in our founding fathers and mothers, the spirit of service and of unity in the face of great need.

There is no room or excuse for the greed and corruption in which our leaders have taken part and that we the people have been complicit in by very virtue of that charter that tells us we have the power to say no. We did not say no, or if and when we did, we did not say it loud enough.

It is with our new President Barack Obama and his leadership that we may now find the courage and the hope, as people, to offer an enthusiastic yes to change, change that represents no less than the radical spirit of that charter in which our country was founded, and a resounding and firm no to anything less.