Saturday, December 31, 2011

Not in anger but in sorrow

What can you say?

As years go, 2011 had its usual share of blessings and curses.For me and mine, well, I'm a father, so perforce my year was consumed by my children, and in that respect it was more blessed than not.

My Big Guy turned eight and started third grade, while Little Miss made five and started public school altogether, going to kindergarten with Peep's K-teacher from three years ago. They seem to be growing and thriving.

The Boy is smart and funny, and he even impressed me on Christmas Morning when, confronted by a ridiculously juvenile present from one of his aunties, he simply smiled and nodded graciously instead of rejecting the gift with a snarl. He has taken on a half-portion of preteen snippiness and attitude but seems to have mixed some maturity in there as well.He still seems to me to be myself at eight; determined to go at life the hard way. That's not an easy road to walk, and as a father it pains me to watch him insist on taking it. But all I can do is show him where he's going and love him as he goes there. And hope he chooses happiness instead of troubles.

As the girl gets bigger she's taking an interest in her condition as Chinese and American. She talks of her parents in China, is enthused about everything Chinese, and takes pride in the marvel that she can be Chinese AND American which, as she has told us whenever possible, is way cooler than being plain old vanilla caucasian-American.She is sweet and loving, the very avatar of the peacemaking little sister. So far she has yet to run up against anything she can't overwhelm with kindness and I dread the day she does. Until then I try and keep her in hugs, kisses, and lap chang (臘腸)

And I'm a husband. My bride Mojo continues to be the marvel that is Herself; she has continued her running program, including competing in several 5K fun-runs and getting her distances up to as far as seven miles. She looks wonderful, and from my selfish vantage feels even better - there's something about strong muscles under smooth skin that seems designed to provide delight to the male senses.Her sewing has improved to the point where she is actually making clothes (from "upgrading" existing clothing with appliques and frills). And perhaps the most exciting surprise she has brought to our lives was to learn - just this past week - that her contract with Northwest Natural has been extended six months.

I don't know how I managed to be so gifted with such a woman, but, trust me, I never forget how lucky I have been. I lost a good woman by selfish ignorance and learned from that loss; I hope I will never forget that my beloved is worth more than rubies.

And me?

Well, sadly, all I take with me from this year is the newly-won knowledge that I should have treated my body with more respect. I didn't, and it is finally punishing me for my carelessness with cruelty.In all other respects I hope I have earned another year's wisdom and another year's kindness in return for another year's journey away from the strength and fury of youth. If there is any justice in the world vieillesse should gain in savait what jeunesse can no longer pouvait.

I have my work, which I enjoy and have learned to do well; I have my beloved and my children, who with me weave the strong cloth of "family" from the warp of love and the weft of obligation. Those of you who wear that fabric know whereof I speak; it's not always a comfortable garment, not always stylish or fashionable, but it's durable and a comfort in the cold and the storm. We don't always enjoy the weaving of it. But we often do, and the crafting is both an honor and a joy when it's done well.I have my Portland home and my Cascadian homeplace.

And I AM at home here. I have been a Portlander, an Oregonian, and a Northwesterner longer than I have been anyone anywhere else. Twenty-one years this winter.

I may not have been born here but in all other senses I am a native Oregonian with all the strengths and failings that entails.

In many ways I feel more strongly rooted here, in the dark and wet soil of the Northwest, than I do in the larger nation that calls me its own. I may have spent twenty years wearing the uniform of the United States, but in many ways the flag I fight for now is the green, white, and blue of Cascadia; if 2011 has brought me any revelations it is that while I'm resigned to watching my nation foolishly struggle to return to the Gilded Age at home and fritter away its substance in feckless adventures abroad I am unwilling to let that foolish fecklessness degrade the Pacific Northwest I love. Let the United States take its own road to hell, provided that the Republic of Cascadia prospers.Does that sound callous?

I think it does, and, yet, I cannot retract it. The end of 2011 finds me less enamored of my nation, and many of its people, than ever before. Don't mistake me; I understand that the United States has never been what has pretended to be, that the American people have never been as wise, as just, or as peaceful as we like to say we are. And I also believe that in both its promise and its practice the United States has been on the whole a good place to live and a force for human benifice both to its own and to many other peoples.

But this year, as it has for decades preceding it, my country seems to have grown a little meaner, a little poorer, a little more selfish and self-absorbed, a little less gentle abroad and a little more greedy at home. Sorry, America, you could have been a truly great nation. Shame you didn't really try to live up to your promises.


Goodbye, 2011. You weren't much of a year; just another journey around the sun.Let's do better next time, eh?

Year's End

Now winter downs the dying of the year,
And night is all a settlement of snow;
From the soft street the rooms of houses show
A gathered light, a shapen atmosphere,
Like frozen-over lakes whose ice is thin
And still allows some stirring down within.

I’ve known the wind by water banks to shake
The late leaves down, which frozen where they fell
And held in ice as dancers in a spell
Fluttered all winter long into a lake;
Graved on the dark in gestures of descent,
They seemed their own most perfect monument.

There was perfection in the death of ferns
Which laid their fragile cheeks against the stone
A million years. Great mammoths overthrown
Composedly have made their long sojourns,
Like palaces of patience, in the gray
And changeless lands of ice. And at Pompeii

The little dog lay curled and did not rise
But slept the deeper as the ashes rose
And found the people incomplete, and froze
The random hands, the loose unready eyes
Of men expecting yet another sun
To do the shapely thing they had not done.

These sudden ends of time must give us pause.
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
More time, more time. Barrages of applause
Come muffled from a buried radio.
The New-year bells are wrangling with the snow.

~ Richard Wilbur


Lisa said...

I like the drawing, and you look smashing in your sunny yellow robe ;)

2011 wasn't a very good orbit for the world, was it? We will hope for some small improvement in 2012; a chastening isn't pleasant, but it can be effective.

Ael said...

Alas, I agree.

2011 was the year that the current generation of politicos kicked climate change down the road to year 2020 (as a minimum).

Every year, when we head to the mountains, I see the glaciers getting smaller and farther from the road.