Wednesday, September 30, 2015

We Are Surely Doomed

For the past several weeks, I've been bombarded with news stories that have almost...ALMOST...brewed enough ire in my soul to come pouring out through my pen. Donald Trump.  Kim Davis.  Sandra Bland.  Planned Parenthood videos.  Maybe I've just...had it.  Maybe there's nothing more this god-forsaken country can churn out that shocks or horrifies me enough to comment on. 

I've been riding this political roller-coaster since 2003.  Maybe there simply is no drop death-defying enough to entice a screech--or even a startled gasp--from my throat.  We've already gone over the edge...where else is there to go?

And then, this morning, there was this.  It popped up innocently on my Facebook news feed, as the Peterson Field Guide page is among those I have "liked."

It got no notice at all from any of the liberal Facebook entities ...not Mother Jones, nor Daily Kos, nor Salon, nor Occupy Democrats.  No outcry from PETA, nor the SPCA, nor the IAPF.  In case you haven't clicked on the link and read the story, I'm quoting it in its entirety here:

"The Moustached Kingfisher is an elusive bird—the cartoonish species had not been seen in the wild for decades, and until earlier this month, it had never been photographed. But two weeks ago a group of researchers led by individuals from the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) happened upon one while surveying endemic wildlife in the mossy jungles of Guadalcanal, the biggest isle in the Solomon Island chain, and snapped some winning photos of the bright blue bird.
"AMNH biologist Chris Filardi and his team were traipsing through the dense forest when they heard what they thought was the call of a large kingfisher. Moments later, one of the surveyors spotted something moving in a nearby thicket: A blue-and-gold bird flourished its crest for a moment, before vanishing in a blur of color, Filardi wrote in his blog. "A methodical tail pumping behavior that caught my eye" helped him recognize it as a male Moustached Kingfisher—a bird he'd sought for more than 20 years. 
"There have been very few sightings of Moustached Kingfishers to date, and none of them have been male. Prior to this discovery, the only real sources of information on the species were three female specimens spotted in the 1920s and 1950s. That doesn’t mean the birds are particularly uncommon—they just prefer a very specific, and hidden, habitat. Moustached Kingfishers tend to roost in tall patches of closed-canopy forest and nest in holes in the ground. Their anonymity may also come from the fact that very few ornithologists have explored Guadalcanal over the last century. The stately birds tend to be crepuscular—only active at dusk and dawn—making them even harder to spot and giving them their ghost-like reputation.
“Initially it was a surreal, childlike sense of a mythical beast come to life, Filardi says. 
"In the days following the sighting, Filardi and his team eavesdropped on several more kingfisher calls. They were finally able to catch one in a mist net—“a gorgeous, strong, and raucous” male, Filardi says. The researchers got to work right away photographing and filming the bird’s behavior. Ultimately, with the blessing of the local community, the team decided to euthanize the bird so they could bring the specimen back with them for further study, in hopes of answering questions about lineage and evolution of this cryptic species.
"Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify that the bird was euthanized and the specimen collected. Paul Sweet, collection manager for the Department of Ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History and one of the researchers on the team, told Audubon that they assessed the state of the population and the state of the habitat, and concluded it was substantial and healthy enough that taking the specimen—the only male ever observed by science—would not affect the population’s success."
An American scientist. Obviously one with the economic and academic chops to mount a major research expedition.  Traipsing through the dense jungles, among the fantastical array of flora and fauna, enough to thrill the heart of any researcher worth his salt, he happens upon the rarest of birds, hardly seen and never photographed.  He hears its telltale calls and noises, catches a quick glimpse of it flitting away...   Ah! A story that calls to mind the adventures of Stanley and Livingston, or Jane Goodall.
But it quickly becomes obvious that this guy is no Jane Goodall.   "The team" first contrives to CAPTURE the bird... ( The red flag in my head immediately goes up.). WTF?  Why did you have to do that?  Not stealthy or patient enough to wait for it and observe it undisturbed in its natural habitat?
As if that weren't bad enough, the real shocker comes at the end of the article, where the author mentions, almost as an aside, that the scientists eventually EUTHANIZED this lovely, wild creature they could take it back to the lab and study it further.  (No more red flags in my head for this head just explodes.)

I stare at the screen.  What?  WHAT?  Am I really reading an article on the Audubon Society website that has just reported the killing of a rare bird as if it were as commonplace and perfunctory as "collecting a specimen"?
Just like human beings.  "Ooh! pretty!  I've never seen one of those!  Gotta HAVE it!  And if I KILL it, It can be mine forever and I can show it off to all my friends!  Won't they be jealous??!?"
DO NOT try to tell me that this is standard scientific procedure.  Yes, I know Audubon himself routinely killed birds in order to study them, and is still considered one of the greatest naturalists of all time.   This has always seemed creepy and morbid to me, yet I can cut Audubon some slack, since he did not possess any of the technological advances that are at the disposal of today's scientists.  Today's researchers can get their hands on tools that John Audubon would habe thought miraculous...or devil-possessed.
But we HAVE those things now.  We HAVE digital photography, and "bird-cams", and powerful microscopes and chemical testing equipment.  We don't NEED to kill an animal in order to study it.  
So I can only conclude that this was yet another (poorly disguised) instance of trophy-taking; no less than the murder of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe this past July.
Cecil's violent and untimely death at least earned the shock and and outrage of much of the world community.  
For all the good it did, in the long run.  
Because, apparently, if you call yourself a "scientist," the world gives you a pass on trophy collecting.  So this beautiful, elusive bird, every bit as senselessly murdered as a famous, beloved lion, got a couple dozen outraged comments on the Audubon website...
And from the rest of the world...crickets.
Jon Stewart has retired.  Jimmy Carter is dying.
And American scientists comb the jungles of the world for rare kill.
Whatever spark of faith I had left in the goodness of human nature in general, and any American claim to that commodity in particular, is rapidly turning to ash.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Things To Do

Twenty pounds of fresh apples that I bought at a roadside stand.

A large bowl of tomatoes from my garden, sitting on the counter.

 “Coming to Terms…”

What do these three things have in common?

They are things I wanted, things I worked for, things I went out of my way to get my hands on.  But it’s going to take some work to turn them into something beautiful and useful.  Work that, at any given moment, I’m not altogether certain I want to invest. 

But I made the apple sauce yesterday.  And I’ll probably tackle the pasta sauce today.  Hope that determination and creative juju will then carry over to the blog.

Twelve years.

Have I run out of words?

September 25--Past and Present

2003--So, this is my first "blog."  I wonder how this will affect my writing, knowing that someone might actually read it?  I've been writing journals since I was in high school.  Always with the secret hope that someone might read them, and get to know or care about my thoughts, confusions, and yearnings.  But knowing that no one would ever read them, at least not in my lifetime.  In more recent years, I've contented myself with believing that I might be leaving a legacy...that SOMEONE might read the pages upon pages of my life's blood, and think about me when I'm gone.
This wanting to be remembered when I'm gone...this is a relatively new purpose for me.  I guess it's logical for someone my age, who has no children, to start wondering about my legacy.  Not only no children, but no social life.  No church, no job, no volunteer activities.  I sometimes wonder, if I dropped dead today, who would care besides my husband and my sisters?  And how long would THEY even care?  What would I be leaving behind?  As of this exact moment, I have to admit--not a whole lot

2004--So, anyway, one year ago today, I opened the Pandora’s Box of AOL journals. LOL! I shouldn’t really call it that…nothing bad has come out. Except maybe the guilty feeling that I’m spending too much time here that could be better spent on something else; like housework, WORK work, exercising, reading Shakespeare…all the self-improvement crap you never do anyway. The wonderful things about having this journal far outweigh the bad. As I’ve said several times, the community aspect of journal land took me completely by surprise. I didn’t even know that I was looking for a "gang" to belong to, but there you were. And you turned out to be exactly what I needed to help me make great strides in my struggle to "crawl out from under the weight of a bunch of bad years" (part of my original blurb in my "About Me" section.) That is why I chose the picture above. I felt it captured the idea that this first year of my life in journal-land was a group effort, pieced together by all the wonderful people I have come to know and care about since I started writing here one year ago today.
Thank you all for reading. Thank you for caring. Thank you for making this day a special milestone for me.

2005—I soon realized I had become part of a community of diverse people, all suffering from the common malady of wanting, or needing, to write. People who loved "journal land" to death, hyped the community to the point of burn-out and disappeared. People who bitched, moaned and grumbled about AOL and finally sailed off for brighter shores. People who found that they really couldn’t handle the strain of putting themselves out there for others to read and comment on, and flickered out like dying flames. People who wrote fiction designed to mock our general gullibility. People who immediately got hooked (raising my hand) on the experience, and just kept plugging away, no matter who read (or didn’t.)
And so I carry on, firing my political salvos interspersed with the observations of a hippie-turned yuppie-turned reluctant entrepreneur, being dragged kicking and screaming into middle age.

2006--I just realized that I have passed the three-year mark on "Coming to Terms." And what a long strange trip it’s been…
Could it possibly be only three years that I have been chained to this love/hate relationship with the world of the blog?
Surely it is longer that three years…decades, perhaps…that I have known and cherished my "friends of the ether" out in journal land.

2007                        --Happy Birthday,
                                  “Coming to Terms...”

2008--People and things that have endured at least five years of me:

My family (at least, most of them…)
My husband (31 years and counting…)
Eighteen pets… 
One or two friends…  Three homes…  Two jobs… 

…and “Coming to Terms…”

oh…and by the way, ALSO in 2008

Thanks, AOL! 
I'm sorry...I just can't believe they're doing this to us...
2009--Coming To Terms is coming up on its sixth birthday. Six years. Wow.

I love this little blog. I do. It means so much more to me than anyone could ever imagine. Even sans the readers and the community out of which it sprang (or into which it sprang…) I love it too much to let it go. But I’ve come to realize, without the community, I have a lot less to say here than I used to. Truth to tell, a lot of what I wrote for five years was more playing around than real writing. There were the memes and the getting-to-know-you games (remember “100 Things About Me…?) There were the bitch and moan sessions, and the “poor me” wallowing—all of which had a place and a purpose, because part of the blogging experience consisted of…well, venting. Discovering that there were others out there like me, or who appreciated or sympathized with my trauma du jour.

Now, when I want to vent, this is not the first place I come…it doesn’t seem as satisfying anymore, somehow.

Of course, some of what has been recorded here is real, solid, creditable writing. Writing of which I am inordinately proud. Writing that would never have existed without this place. And that is the thing that keeps me here. Knowing that I have done it. Knowing that I can do it still.


Seven years is a pretty long time to do anything.

HB, "CtT..."


Since September 25, 2003.

From famine through feast and back again.

2012—Posted a jibjab video that wouldn’t copy and paste…a day late.

2013—Missed the date entirely  (??!?!)



11 (eleven Listeni/ɨˈlɛvɨn/ or /iˈlɛvɛn/) is the natural number following 10 and preceding 12.
In English, it is the smallest positive integer requiring three syllables and the largest prime number with a single-morpheme name. Its etymology originates from a Germanic compound ainlif meaning "one left").

If a number is divisible by 11, reversing its digits will result in another multiple of 11.

11 is the atomic number of the element sodium.

Apollo 11 was the first manned spacecraft to land on the Moon.
But, most important of all

Eleven is the number of years I have maintained this blog.

As of September 25, 2014, Coming to Terms is eleven years old.


Twelve years.  I hardly know what to write.  But I'll think of something.  See my next entry. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

As if We Could...

It started last night.

The memes, the photos, the tear-stained memorials.

Little pictures of New York, of a skyline missing two tall buildings, of flags waving, firemen kneeling, dust flying, smoke billowing…

I think we all remember that day.  How could we possibly forget it?  We watched those planes crash and those towers fall, over and over and over and over again.  In living color.  In the comfort of our family rooms.

So we really don’t need to be admonished to “never forget.”  There is no way we could ever forget.

That 2977 innocent, unsuspecting people lost their lives that day is an unthinkable tragedy.  That the families of those people were devastated by that loss compounded the tragedy ten-, twenty-, one hundred-, one thousand-fold.  That the city of New York suffered wounds that would have destroyed a lesser metropolis was a body blow to the entire country.  We don’t have to be told to “never forget” these things.  They will be with us always.

And though I have nothing but heartache for the loss of human life on that day, the thing that I can never forget, the thing that pierces my heart every time I allow myself to look back upon the events of that day, the thing with which I and all Americans must cope, day in and day out, is our changed and wounded nation.  The very fabric of America was so mangled by the events of that day, we live with the lingering damage 24/7/365.  Since 9/11/2001, Americans have faced—some bravely, some in craven fear, some with no thought except how they might be personally enriched by it—life among the ruins.

For me, 9/11 will always bring to mind the core group of cynical, power-hungry individuals who seized upon the opportunity to pervert the shock, fear, grief and anger of the American people into a seemingly bottomless profit-center.  An event that could have—SHOULD have—brought citizens together through acts of bravery, sacrifice and selflessness, encouraging us to reach out, rebuild and strive to heal, was instead turned into history’s greatest opportunity to manipulate a shocked and reeling populace through propaganda, fear-mongering,  finger-pointing and revenge-seeking.  Every negative emotion associated with the tragedy was sought out and exploited, by those who would profit from the bloodlust.  THIS was the most tragic and enduring cost of 9/11.
What we need to ask ourselves today is, who is it that still feels compelled to send out clarion calls to “Never Forget” to a nation of people who couldn’t forget if they dug out their own brains and stomped them into the dirt?  What possible excuse could there be to pull out a spear and poke the wounded dragon once a year on the anniversary of its crippling?

Deep inside—or maybe not so deep, given the pre-election fervor with which we are bombarded every day—I think we all know the answer.