Buy The Battle for the Black Fen!

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS?

After the gatherings and feasting and general jollity of Christmastime, it is traditional to prepare for the stark winter months by making resolutions. We usually do this on an individual basis, with a list of things we want to change in our lives. Everyone knows how dispiriting this can turn out to be three or four months later, when we have “broken” them all.

 A “resolution” is something you resolve to do, with a flavor of fixity of purpose, a tight-lipped determination.   When we make a New Year’s resolution we are resolute about something.   There are negative items on our lists – to interrupt people less for example ; and positive wishes as well -such as to listen more closely to what other people are saying.

Would you believe that the idea goes back 4000 years to a New Year celebration in ancient Babylonia called Akitu, when promises were made to various gods and debts were paid off? 

The Jewish New Year at Rosh Hashanah and the High Holidays leading up to Yom Kippur may derive from that ancient Middle Eastern celebration; in Judaism, people list the wrongs they have done, and not only repent for them in their hearts but make atonement with anyone they have harmed.

We can learn from these traditional practices because a problem with the kind of New Year’s resolutions we list is that we make them as individuals rather than in groups.   Though this has the advantage of making us solely responsible for carrying them out, it is much easier to break them with impunity.

Would making resolutions with other people work out better?  I am not thinking so much about getting together with a friend to carry out a diet or exercise regime as finding a group that is resolute about the same thing that I am and strengthening our resolve (and effectiveness) by joining in their actions. 

Yes, evil stalks the world, fire and flood are upon us, the media tells us that we are failing to solve our problems, plague and pestilence assail us in relentless urges – it is no wonder many of my friends feel hopeless about the future and helpless about being able to change it.

A couple of years ago I had a wonderful long winter’s read in Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.  No mere shallow bromide about positive thinking, the book is full of data and charts proving that things are going exponentially better for the human race than they ever have before.   Nevertheless, the media – including liberal print news and progressive tv news analysis – keeps right on bombarding us with the misguided idea that nothing we can do will change things and that we are all going to hell in a handbasket.  So I am delighted that Steven Pinker has come out with a new book,  Englightenment Now: the Case for Reason, Science, and Human Progress.

Here’s Pinker’s TED talk on the topic: https://www.ted.com/talks/the_ted_interview_steven_pinker_on_the_case_for_optimism

Pinker notes that we are “more galvanized by negative thoughts than those of optimism and hopefulness,” (which is why the media favors bad news) and that the crucial thing about making resolutions lies in “our assessment of how our actions can affect the world. That is, if you are optimistic in the sense that good things will happen no matter what you do, then there’s no need to do anything. But if you have an attitude of what Hans Rosling called ‘possibilism’ and what Paul Romer, the winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, called ‘constructive optimism,’ that attitude can lead to action. Again, with that variety of optimism, it’s not that good things will happen; it’s an if-then statement—namely, if we perform the following actions, then positive results could ensue.”  (See Steven Pinker on the Past, Present, and Future of Optimism | by Darryn King | OneZero (medium.com).

My proposal for our New Year’s resolutions this year is that, with a problem-solving adjustment in our attitudes and a spirit of constructive optimism in our hearts, we find groups that share our goals and then join them in their actions. Your resolution doesn’t have to swallow up any more of your time than you want: one call, one email a week in concert with the tactically brilliant folks in the groups suggested below can be very effectively lead to concrete results:

  • I resolve to do something about the attacks on our democracy.  Robert Hubbell suggests you join Sister District, “which is actively recruiting volunteers to help with all phases of the 2022 election.” A reader (of Hubbell’s daily newsletter sent the following note:

Our flagship electoral program works to get Democrats elected to strategic state legislative seats by supporting campaigns with grassroots action. We “sister” volunteers from deep blue districts with carefully targeted races in swing districts, where flipping control of the state legislature will advance progressive policy. Our volunteers canvass, phonebank, write postcards, text bank, and fundraise for candidates. We welcome volunteers and candidates of all genders! Defend Democracy is another effective group that lists specific actions.

Another group with lists of possible actions is Defend Democracy

  • I resolve to help get out the 2022 vote.    Jessica Craven has a practical, action-focused newsletter called Chop Wood, Carry Water, keeping you up to date on all sorts of ways to keep democracy going – see, especially, her link to Voters Not Politicians.   
  • I resolve to do something to mitigate global warming.  There are all sorts of groups bringing useful information and effective action to the aid of our Beloved Planet.   My two favorites are www.citizensclimatelobby.org  and www.sierraclub.org.  Or, to combine your interest in Democracy and the Environment, you can work with the Environmental Voter Project www.environmentalvoter.org  or the League of Conservation Voters www.lcv.org.

Making New Year’s Resolutions like these isn’t naively optimistic.   Nobody I know has any doubts about the vast reach and power of the evil (which I understand as the product of bad human choices) rampaging through our times; rather, we are determined (as Emily Dickinson puts it) to “dwell in possibility” while resolutely face up to the reality of evil and refusing to be cowed by it.



A Startling Joy

Have you ever been knocked off your feet by joy?  I don’t mean the moment when you spot your long-absent sweet heart rushing toward you in the airport with arms open to give you a bear hug, or the kind when your boss emails you that you’ve got the promotion you’ve spent years longing for.  This kind of joy that knocks you off of your feet is never anticipated, totally unexpected -a sudden surge of happiness that jolts you from the top of your head to your curled up toes.

For that moment, you know that the universe is existentially good, and that, for you, all manner of things are inexplicably well.

These days we are accosted by cascades of bad news.  Bad news is stronger “click bait,” more emotionally galvanizing, than good news; it is thrown at us to get our attention.  In the journalistic bromide, “if it bleeds, it leads.”  Even news channels whose basic political bent is as progressive as I am do this: “there is much bad news to report,” Robert Hubbell explains, “but it is overwhelmed by orders of magnitude by good news that goes unreported. Good news is not reported precisely because it is ubiquitous. It is all around us.”

Plenty of philosophers consider “the good” to be the ground of reality.  Plato and Socrates assumed that a moral good underlay all social arrangements, as did Adam Smith and America’s founders.   Like them (“We hold these truths to be self-evident”) Immanuel Kant insists that reason dictates a moral imperative. Christianity assumes that the universe rests in God’s hands, and that God is good.  Human error can always be corrected by attention to divine justice.  When the Reverend Martin Luther King said that “the arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” he meant (as did the Unitarian Minister Theodore Parker whom he was paraphrasing) that that the presence of God behind all things calls us to seek justice.

Here is how Parker put it in his 1853 sermon: “We cannot understand the moral Universe. The arc is a long one, and our eyes reach but a little way; we cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; but we can divine it by conscience, and we surely know that it bends toward justice.”  To this 19th century Unitarian, the universe contains moral directives which we must first discern and then enact.   Universalism, a denomination which merged with Unitarianism in 1961, goes even further in its assertion that the universe is intrinsically good and that every one of us is endowed from birth with goodness, dignity, and worth.

One of Hubbell’s respondents worries that when we are bombarded by bad news we experience “moral injury”:

          “It is a moral injury to see wrong being done, legally, in an ongoing way. And to not see enough being done to stop it. Moral injuries unbalance our sense that the world we live in is basically good. They bruise our trust that we will continue as a ‘good enough; nation.”

          “The the reader has put her finger on the answer,” responds Hubbell: “We do live in a world that is basically good—a truth that is difficult to see at times. Our perception of reality is skewed to the extent that it is informed by the relative proportion of good news versus bad reported by the news media.”

These days, everything we read and hear suggests an ever-increasing power of a profoundly malignant evil.  So where to these sudden moments of joy, of inexplicable happiness pouring all through our beings like warm butter, come from?

As I am waking up I like to listen to the radio.  A few mornings ago,  I lay there being accosted by news of a  gigantic tornado tearing whole towns apart and burying everyone in the rubble, the world-wide proliferation of the omicron covid variation, cascading Antarctic icebergs raising sea levels by ten feet, school shootings and species depletion – all of that – when my dread and my terror suddenly melted away and the world became inexplicably lovely, inexplicably good.  It was one of those warm-butter-all-through-me breakthroughs when all manner of things were well in every direction and I found myself reveling in a world of total joy, of total goodness.

Where did that come from?  If it was a breakthrough, where did it breakthrough from? Do we live in more than one world, all at the same time?  Is there a space we within us, buried beneath all the bad stuff, that we inhabit unwittingly?  Is it as real as the real world?  Is it the real world?

Wishing you all happiness and joy, as often and as jolting as possible.

A Time of Darkness, a Time of Waiting

It grows darker and darker now, for longer and longer.  The sun sets as early as 5 in the afternoon, and the dawn often brings only a narrow golden band that is all too soon absorbed by the grey overhang.   When we have sunshine, it is so fleeting that we rush to put our coats on and go for a walk before it vanishes. More often, the sun is a mere pewter disc, briefly glimpsed and, apparently, ephemeral.

Even if we don’t observe the liturgical season of Advent, we experience advent as a sense of something coming into being, an undisclosed incipience. This time of year, we sink into a sense of waiting and of longing, an ancient yearning for the end of so much darkness.  Catholic Priest Henri Nouwen sees it as a “time for deepening” when an odd mixture of joy and despair shapes our moods and feelings – joy if we are nurtured by a loving community and despair if we find ourselves alone.

Happiness, we are told, springs from attachment – to community, to family, to friends we are fond of or to someone deeply loved.  When people nurture children or fall in love,” writes Maia Szalavitz in an article about why people take opioids, “hormones like oxytocin are released, infusing memories of being together with endorphin-mediated feelings of calm, contentment and satisfaction. This is one way that social contact relieves stress, making bonding a fundamental protector of both mental and physical health.”  Conversely, “when we are far from our loved ones or sense that our relationships are threatened, we feel an anxiety that is not unlike withdrawal from drug.”

In countries like Finland and Denmark, where there are as little as six hours of daylight, Scandinavians seek to ward off winter gloom by producing an atmosphere of “hygge” (pronounced hoo-gah), a mood of cozy, warm comfort.  This can be a cup of coffee or tea or cocoa and a good book in your most comfortable chair, or it can be a gathering of friends or family for long winter talks and hilarious games.

To set the mood you need something baking in your oven, fire your fireplace and candles on the mantle, as well as evergreens and glittering ornaments fetched out from (dark) attics and basements.

“He seems very nice,” my mother would say when I brought a suitor home for her inspection, “but is he good for forty years of long winter evenings?” (Reader, he was)

The principal holiday of the season antedates Christian Christmas as the Winter Solstice, when our primitive fears that it will get darker and darker forever are alleviated by the observation that – very gradually and at first barely discernably -the year has turned and our days will get lighter and lighter from now on.  And that is why candles are lit everywhere to welcome the returning light and urge it on its way; and why, in Celtic traditions, we “open wide the guesting door” to family and friends and to all those in need of the solace of company.

When I was growing up, we attended midnight service on Christmas eve.  Full of every kind of expectation, we sat silently in the pitch dark sanctuary until an old chorister named Chauncey appeared at the door to sing, in a deep a capella voice,” Oh come, oh come Emmanuel” as he made his way up the aisle, swinging a dimly lit kerosene lantern.  When he reached the chancel, candles sprang into light all over the church.

I used that memory in my novel Fly Out of the Darkness, so here is that take on Advent, with my wishes for your joyous advent, profound hygge, merry Christmas, and strength for the new year.

Father Robin’s Solstice Sermon – The Worlds We Long For (annispratt.com)

New Worlds, Web Update

“We may not have wings or leaves” like our fellow created beings, writes Botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer in Braided Sweetgrass, ” but we humans do have words. Language is our gift and our responsibility. I’ve come to think of writing as an act of reciprocity with the living land.”

This is a great motto for me when I wonder about my purpose in life since I morphed from a writer of Eco Fiction to a political/environmental columnist for a world-wide publication and a contributor to a newspaper out of Frankfort. Michigan.

So, here we go! For those of you interested in a collection of my columns on the Trump Horrors, the Rise of Republican Fascism, the Nitty-Gritty of Political Organizing, How to Handle Climate Grief, and some of the alternative ways to redeem our good green world that we yearn for in these troubled times, check out my updates to The Worlds We Long For . Then, to cheer yourself up, you can see what my zany family and I have been up to at our Betsie River cabin now that, after long pandemic absence, we are together again!

Scientific Animism

I have long been a foe of either/or thinking, a logic that takes binaries as inevitably oppositional, with no compromise possible. I much prefer both/and solutions whereby opposites merge to form brand new syntheses.

We have begun to hear talk about the inherent rights of other-than-human beings in nature, including the lands’ right to sue humans for our abuses and depletions. While this is sometimes taken as a new concept it is actually a very old one, basic not only in the animism of all of our ancient ancestors who saw nature as ensouled or animated in-and-of-itself, but in present-day Native Americans’ traditional principles setting forth the duty of human beings to the natural beings that sustain us.

My sit-out-by-the-river-and-read-slowly book this summer was Botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. I found myself right at home with her synthesis of science and animism as complementary tools for approaching the seemingly intractable problems we are experiencing as we try to achieve sustainability on our threatened, beloved planet. Home in autumn, here is my article just published in Impakter.com:

The Tyranny of Merit and the Dilemma of the Disinherited

I wrote this article earlier this month just before the Anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre was widely publicized:   Meritocracy: The Tyranny of Merit and the Dilemma of the Disinherited  – Impakter

A reader asked me “how can Black people be disinherited if they didn’t have anything in the first place?” This denies the long record of Black achievement since Emancipation, even in the face of Jim Crow and (now) White Supremacist constraints. The “talented tenth,” as the college-educated Black professional class used to call itself, made significant progress under Reconstruction policies enacted for their advancement: “Black Wall Street,” the Tulsa neighborhood that was destroyed while hundreds of African Americans were massacred, was a well-off urban community chockablock with businesses, banks, and substantial homes – all Black owned and Black administered. That was why it was so offensive to white people.

This morning I came across a review called “Upwardly Minded” in which Lawrence Otis Graham looks at how Elizabeth Dowling Taylor describes historic Black mobility in The Original Black Elite: Daniel Murray and the Story of a Forgotten Era: “Dowling Taylor recounts the rise of African-Americans during the time of Reconstruction and their fall during the subsequent decades, when legislation was advanced in order to again segregate, impoverish and humiliate a population that many whites believed had gained too much.” (italics mine). The point is, the minute Reconstruction policies provided opportunities, Black citizens like Daniel Murray took advantage of them and advanced significantly. Then, as now, Black achievement stirred racial animus and gave rise to the laws and intimidations – especially the hundreds of hideous lynchings-of the Jim Crow era.

White Supremacists have not changed their minds in all these years. Now they are attacking CRT (Critical Race Theory) using the term as a dog whistle to rally around banning the history of the Reconstruction era, along with the slavery that preceded it, from American educational curricula. Besides their fierce need to see somebody else’s face than theirs “at the bottom of the well” (see my Impakter article, they seem to be afraid that, as a “majority minority ” Black citizens will treat whites the way we whites have treated them. This ignores African American culture’s powerfully pragmatic non-violent ethic and the paradigm shift from power/over to power/with (or, from either/or to both/ and) impacting our quest for the common good in the multi-racial America of the 21st century.

One effective way to familiarize students with Black history is to teach Black literature. After never being assigned any works by Black writers during my entire education at Smith College (B.A. English), The University of Wisconsin (M.A., English), and Columbia University (Ph.D, Comparative Literature), it was a heady experience to be introduced to excellent but marginalized poems, novels, and plays while teaching at Spelman College in Atlanta, an historically Black college for women.

How you include African American materials in standard courses must be carefully considered: first, a teacher needs thorough scholarly grounding in the material. Secondly, syllabuses must be constructed to “Mainstream” content.  You want to avoid the condescension of “wagging the tail,” by sticking your one Black example like an afterthought at the end of your syllabus; nor do you want to “mix and stir” by plopping it in without comparative analysis. You need to avoid the “just like us!” attitude of facile inclusion, privileging Euro-American aspects as normative by praising the similarities between marginalized materials and the traditional canon. In order to avoid modelling racial superiority and racial ignorance you want to intersperse the previously marginalized materials throughout and in dialogue with other course offerings – I taught Winnebago cosmological myths , for example alongside the Book of Genesis; or you could let Frederick Douglas dialogue with Henry David Thoreau by teaching the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas: and “Civil Disobedience” side by side.

I asked my students at the University of Wisconsin, who were almost entirely white, to figure out what strengths of character Vyry drew upon in Margaret Walkers’s Jubilee, how Indigo survived racial and other life obstacles in Ntozake Shange’s Sassafras, Cypress, and Indigo and why Pecola in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye was beaten down by her life circumstances.

Students come out of reading such literature with empathy for the characters and a grasp of what life has been like for African-Americans over the generations.

Birmingham Eccentrics

When I came to Birmingham for the first time in 1958, I thought the local newpaper was named The Birmingham Eccentric because I met so many eccentrics in Birmingham.

First, there was my fiancé’s family. His father was a fan of the Grand Trunk railroad and rode it to work in Detroit, but his great passion was for buying oddball cars – Volkswagens, Citroens, and Peugots – before anyone ever heard of them.

On my first visit, however, I was met at Willow run in an all-American brand, an open top, 1932 De Soto touring car. It was a huge, heavy thing – useful, as I discovered my first Birmingham Christmas, for rescuing hapless drivers of more lightweight vehicles.  When it began to snow, I thought we would settle cozily around the fire.  This was not to be: we buttoned up in layers and went out to the De Soto.  My fiancé and his brother stood on the running boards, but I was assigned to sit on the hood to provide traction while we drove up and down big Beaver in the blizzard, pulling people out of the ditch.

Eccentricity ran in that family: the teetotalling great-grandfather had been an inventor of copper tubing devices, but when he learned, to his chagrin, that they were being used in whisky distillery, he sold the business and moved to Birmingham, where he founded his own religion. I inherited his notebooks with hand written chemical formulas down one side of the page and, upside down on the other, the tents of his oddball sect.

Did I mention that my mother-in-law dried her paper towels in the oven to use again and removed the yolks from hard-boiled eggs to feed to the squirrels? They dropped dead all from overdoses of choresterol, but maybe that was the point?

Then there was Fred the milkman, who stopped for long chats in the kitchen and knew everybody in the neighborhood. And the hermit who lived in the woods across the street. And the family friend, a quirky loner who never saw a doctor and smoked himself to death while his house fell down around him.

Birmingham eccentricity manifested itself in  dizzyingly idiosyncratic housing styles: stucco bungalows next to wooden Cape Cods, mid-century glass modern next to traditional brick ranches.   The houses  conformed, nevertheless, in being of the same size.  Tiny homes ran along certain streets, two and three bedrooms prevailed on others, while, one street over, they might run to four or five. You mostly found real mansions on streets of their own, mainly clustered near the Cranbrook Estate.

The town itself was nice, though the proprietors of the hardware and drugstore and corner market were (you guessed it) somewhat quirky. It was a perfectly ordinary place to shop- you could get an apron at Kresge’s, a modest outfit at Crowley’s, splurge on something fancier at Jacobson’s, and have a chat about books at the Birmingham Bookstore.

Recently, we had an interim minister at our church, and when I asked him if he had walked downtown he threw back his head and laughed  “that’s not a place for people to shop,” he explained.  Birmingham, it seems, has been turned into a high-end outdoor boutique, affordable only by the (very) rich.

I guess you can tell that I like variety and difference and that I find Birmingham’s monochrome population a serious drawback.  Historically segregated by zoning ordnances and redlining, it has been slow to attract a variety of residents.  That was why, when I read about the city’s new plan for multi-unit, affordable housing along our major boulevards, I posted in our neighborhood email about how excited I was at the diversity the new housing might foster.

This was not well received.  I learned that I belonged to the “cancel culture.” I had to ask around about what that meant: if it is monochromatic sameness in race and income I would like to see cancelled,, I plead guilty.  I was asked why I thought other (?) people might want to live among us (?). One woman was convinced that living in Birmingham constitutes the pot at the end of a meritocratic rainbow for which only the wealthy should aspire; she expected her own young relatives to live in Royal Oak until they earned the right to live here.

Fear not: though we are an endangered species, Birmingham still has its eccentrics. For example: this is me writing on a paper plate on my head:

Keep your eyes open- you might spot one coming out of the woodwork anywhere around town.  There are hoarders and hermits, quirky loners and cranks, off-the-grid artists, inventors and oddballs yet dwelling amongst us.

Consider the admirably persistent artist who rose at dawn for years and years to concoct beautiful assemblages of feathers and flowers and pine cones all along the path in Linden Park.  Just yesterday, I discovered that she inspired an apprentice, someone who had covered the top of a sawed off tree trunk with stones, little figures, and decorations with colorful baubles dangling over from an overarching branch.  And then, just a little way further down the path, I found a poem thoughtfully encased in plastic attached to a birdhouse, telling us all about the goldfinches in the park and how they warm out hearts.

Freedom in Structure

We all got up to weird pursuits during the pandemic, so I don’t think my sudden obsession with set forms in prose and poetry is all that eccentric? I lost so much that I used to delight in – long conversations with friends over coffee, dinner parties with fascinating interactions and goings on.  I find people mysterious and I like to come home and sit on my sofa to try to figure them out.  I am always puzzled why certain couples are together and love to ponder the conundrum of what attracts them to each other.

My friends developed some pretty odd lockdown hobbies. After crocheting like mad on her usual table runners and afghans, Alice took to crafting stranger and stranger beings – first a Bernie, then an elephant (orange, in Ganesha God style), and, finally, fuzzy rotund quasi-human beings squatting mysteriously on every service in her house.   Ruth developed a weird affinity for her houseplants, endowing them with names and personalities and engaging in intense inter-species discussions.  Cats and dogs suffered mental agonies in the hands of bored owners who refused to leave them to their own devices while insulting their existential felinity and doggedness by treating them (and dressing them!) like humans.

In this context, what I got into (besides sleeping with stuffed animals and bathing with my rubber ducky) wasn’t all that weird.

  I am a writer – in my youth of poetry, in my career of academic tomes, in retirement of novels, and presently of newspaper columns and features. Of necessity, I do a lot of reading, and as the pandemic wore on I became more and more focused on turns of phrase I stumbled across, until I decided to try some out for myself.

Antitheses, for but one example, are figures of speech based on words arranged in parallel structures that are opposite in meaning. 

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”   C.S. Lewis

“The United States Right long ago rejected evidence-based policy in favor of policy-based evidence.” Paul Krugman

“I thought 50 years ago that I could make a big difference in the world. What I know now is that I will not let the world make a big difference in me.”    Nikki Giovanni

So inspired, here is an antithesis I thought up to explain my theology to my skeptical (atheist, recovering-Catholic) friends;   “My faith is not based on my certainty of presence but on my uncertainty of absence.”

There is something liberating about putting words into set forms.  It is related to the paradoxical freedom you experience in a group that acts according to agreed-upon rules of conduct.   That is why the rule of law (January 6, evening) is so much more appealing than the law of misrule (January 6, afternoon). Another antithesis!

Yonks ago, at the beginning of the second wave of the Feminist Movement, we National Organization for Women members followed all kinds of procedures and by-laws which, we insisted, left us more liberated than Women’s Liberation.   While they mocked us as “bourgeois” in our “structural tyranny,” we thought they were hampering themselves with their “tyranny of unstructuralism.”  (it seems I have been alert to antithesis longer than I thought).

I started my writing life as a poet – dubbed, at various times, “a Georgia poet,” “a Wisconsin poet,” and “a Feminist poet.” I swiftly realized, however, that writing poetry wouldn’t feed my family, though I could get a raise if I wrote a book. Like a lot of long ago pass times my friends took up during the pandemic – knitting, board games, crosswords, jigsaw puzzles – I suddenly wanted to write poetry again.

This time, it was metaphysical poetry in set forms.  The metaphysical part has to do with the unusually complex stuff I found myself enjoying in my pandemic reading – how linear time relates to synchronous time, what quasars and quantum strings are up to, how fractals and algorithms structure the universe.  The thing is, in the past several years I have felt a familiar fizzling in my brain, the same cracking electricity running up to the ends of my hair that I experienced during a similar intellectual surge when I was 14 years old.  At 84, of all things, I feel it all again, although I am perfectly well aware that it could all fizzle out like a damp squib any day now.

There are all kinds of set forms in poetry – Haiku of just 17 syllables, Sonnets of 14 lines in patterns of Octaves and Sestets, along with Tercets and Quatrains, Rondeaus and Villanelles. I chose this last form for the poem I am about to subject you too. It has five (three-line) Tercets rhyming aba,  ends with a (four-line) Quatrain, “and with the first line of the first tercet serving as the last line of the second and fourth tercets and the third line of the initial tercet serving as the last line of the third and fifth tercet, these 2 refrain lines following each other to constitute the last two lines of the closing quatrain.” (The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics – I thought you might want to know this).

Well, I didn’t exactly conform to all that, but it was fun to get as close as I could.  Metaphysically, the pandemic lockdown left me digging and delving toward a slightly less dim grasp of the universe than before – but ask me tomorrow, when I will probably have changed my mind:

          FRACTAL VILLANELLE
I find I am a fractal of the heart
Of everything, all paradigms aligned:
Not mine nor yours nor anything apart.

Seed heads in whorls, and the intricate spread
Of mushroom rootlets do not spring from mind:
I find that they are fractals of the heart

Of all things. Ratios are where we start,
Alogorithmic in the womb, mathematically entwined
Not my geometry nor yours nor anything apart.

I find I am a fractal of the heart
In starling murmurations, patterned lines-
All swoops and dips and geometric arcs.

Did we spring from mystery? Some arcane art?
We can do the math, but never comprehend
How we became the fractals of a heart
Not yours nor mine nor anything apart.

Granular Politics: the Nitty-Gritty of Participatory Democracy

Dear Blog Subscribers,

After the riots on January 6, intended to stop our process of confirming Joe Biden’s election and assassinate our leaders, democracy prevailed. Like my previous columns on Making the Political Sausage for www.Impakter.com, This is my take on how it’s done. I am fortunate to have an excellent editor, Claude Forthomme, who has a wonderful way of coming up with videos to dig deeper into my subject!