March 02, 2015
Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
The beginning of March, 2015
Snow and cold.
THEN . . . AND NOW . . .
The first week in March, 2015 brings back memories of the
first week of March, 1965.
Fifty years ago.
A man I know well was there. . . .
He has not ever said or written much about that experience.
Because he has always felt embarrassed – even somewhat ashamed – of how little he actually contributed to the advancement of the Civil Rights Movement or to the confrontation in Selma.
He was just there . . . for a few days because Martin Luther King asked white clergymen to come and be there, for support, as witnesses.
He has never been back or returned for the symbolic marches organized on the anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery.
He feels the history of that time belongs to those who were there from the beginning to the end – who had the courage to risk everything, even their lives, for their civil rights – and not to those who only showed up in Selma for a few days and went home.
Recently, the man I know came across notes that he wrote when he went to Selma in March of 1965 – fragments of thoughts that take on new meaning for him 50 years later.
If these notes seem disjointed, it’s because the man himself is conflicted – then – and now – about his part in making a civil society – the part about deeds, not words, being what counts.
Time recasts and reshapes memory – facts fade – yearning polishes the hopeful images that remain.
Here are some of the notes:
“How should I dress? What to wear? Look like a respectable white man in suit and tie or like the majority of the community?”
“Can I get to Selma safely? Fly Birmingham, rent a car, drive the back roads? What if that only calls attention to me?”
“Never been as scared in my life before – soldiers, police, guns, dogs, mounted sheriff deputies, and white people with clubs and taunts –
Confederate flags flying defiantly – American flags flown upside down.
KKK signs are everywhere. One sign said, ‘Outside Agitators Go Home . . . or ELSE!’
That would apply to me.”
“Now I’m here – what am I supposed to do?”
“First time I was ever a racial minority – not many whites standing at the protest line. Awkward. Don’t know the songs or how to act.”
“Aware I’m being filmed and photographed by serious-looking men on the other side of the line.”
“A bus-load of Roman Catholic Nuns just arrived from Chicago –
in black and grey medieval outfits – some with what looks like white swans on their heads. Even a Negro nun. Never met or talked with nuns before. Strong women – a couple of real babes – at least by what little I can see of them – beautiful faces. They say they will walk in the front line of the next attempt at marching – let the police beat them first. Gutsy ladies.”
“Tired. Scared. Hungry. But nothing compared to the people who’ve been here all their lives. I can go home. They will stay and bear it.”
“Not really an outsider – mother grew up in Alabama – father’s family from Virginia, Tennessee, Texas – me in Texas – I’m one of THEM.
Can even still talk like them. But not anymore.”
The confrontation went on day and night without letup.
Finally, the man I know lay down on a patch of grass and fell asleep.
He had been up 36 hours and was numb with exhaustion.
When he woke the next morning, he was wrapped in an old army blanket on a cot in an unheated two-room shack.
In the pale light of morning he saw the wrinkled black face of a very old Negro man – his clothes were worn and patched – he had no shoes.
He said his name was Ozzie Davis – that he’d found the man passed out on the ground and brought him home to protect him from any overnight violence that might come from the police, soldiers, dogs, and the white madmen surrounding the neighborhood.
Safety had depended on the kindness of a stranger.
Mr. Davis smiled and said, “Here’s a cup of hot water. I don’t have anything else to give you.”
The man I know had never slept in the house of a Black person before.
And he had never had only hot water for breakfast.
It was like a holy sacrament of the brotherhood of men.
But he was still scared.
Ozzie Davis was scared, too.
“This is going to get real ugly before long,” he said.
Yet, in parting, Mr. Davis hugged him and said,
“Someday, someday, this will all work out. We will overcome.”
Years later, when the man cast his first vote for Barak Obama for President, it was also a vote on behalf of Ozzie Davis, who did not live long enough to see Someday.
But he believed. He hoped. He prayed. He protected strangers.
He did what he could do.
And, in many ways, Someday has almost come.
The man I know stayed a few days and went home to Seattle.
Great forces of social and legal change had been set in motion by Selma.
But he always felt guilty for not staying longer – for not marching all the way to Montgomery, the state capitol.
But Ozzie Davis was right – things were going to get ugly.
James Reeb, a young, white Unitarian clergyman was beaten in Selma on March 9th, by three members of the KKK.
He died on March 11th.
The attackers were acquitted.
At the memorial service for James Reeb, Martin Luther King made remarks that still apply to the ongoing quest for universal civil rights.
(I have edited this summary from a much longer text.)
“We are compelled to ask the question:
Who killed James Reeb?
The answer is simple and rather limited.
He was murdered by a few sick, demented, and misguided men who have the strange notion that you express dissent through murder.
“There is another haunting, poignant, desperate question we are forced to ask this afternoon.
It is the question,
What killed James Reeb?
When we move from the who to the what, the blame is wide and the responsibility grows.
“He was murdered by the indifference of every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained glass windows.
“He was murdered by the irrelevancy of a church that will stand amid social evil and serve as a taillight rather than a headlight, an echo rather than a voice.
“He was murdered by the irresponsibility of every politician who has moved down the path of demagoguery, who has fed his constituents the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism.
“He was murdered by the brutality of every sheriff and law enforcement agent who practices lawlessness in the name of law.
“He was murdered by the timidity of a federal government that can spend millions of dollars a day to keep troops in South Vietnam, yet cannot protect the lives of its own citizens seeking constitutional rights.
“Yes, he was even murdered by the cowardice of every Negro who tacitly accepts the evil system of segregation, who stands on the
sidelines in the midst of a mighty struggle for justice.”
That was then - this is now.
King’s elegant words ring as true in 2015 as they did in 1965.
The Civil Rights news of the past year declares that the fight for liberty and justice for all is not finished.
(For example, the legislature of the State of Alabama is still trying to limit voting rights in subtle ways.)
But it must be said that change and progress have come about.
If you consult the web and look at the official website of the City of Selma, Alabama, you can see a video of a city that prides itself on its history, it’s progressive values, and its attractions – it has been named by the State of Alabama as the “Butterfly Capitol of Alabama.”
Selma remains a small town of about 20,000 people on the banks of the Alabama River.
The mayor is Black, as are six members of the City Council – two of them women.
The Chief of Police is Black.
Selma is in the 7th Congressional District of Alabama – the elected representative is the Honorable Terri Sewell, the first Black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Selma is a quiet, peaceful town – except once a year.
The main community celebration this year is the Bridge Crossing Jubilee next Sunday, March 8th – marking the 50th anniversary one of the major events of the struggle for Civil Rights in the United States.
Those who were teenage participants in 1965 – and there were many – are now approaching retirement age. Many of those who were in their 20’s and 30’s are quite old or dead. The elderly lionesses of Selma in 1965 – the old ladies who stayed on the line night and day – planted in place like trees by the river – they are gone.
Ozzie Davis, too.
But their unflagging sprits live on.
As do the songs they sang: “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me round . . .”
“We shall not be moved . . .” and “We shall overcome . . .”
The man I know still knows the words by heart.
On the other hand, many of the supporters and survivors of Selma will come for the Jubilee crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge – it will be a major event - a crowd of thousands – of many colors – covered by the world press.
Among them will be John Lewis, one of the original Freedom Riders and a heroic figure in the events of Selma in 1965, who still bears the scars of the beatings he received.
He has been elected to Congress of the United States 13 times.
President Barak Obama will be there, with his family.
And the whole world will take note.
Who would have thought that all this could or would ever come to pass?
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And one wonders – what hopeful dreams for the future will yet become reality?
One must have dreams.
Martin Luther King did.
February 21, 2015
Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
Third week in February, 2015
Mars, Venus, and the crescent Moon in conjunction in the eastern sky,
just after sunset –lovely.
Storm coming – chance of snow and rain showers – below freezing at night.
For an introduction to this essay, first take a look at my Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum
and check out this link:
THE WAY OF THE COOKIE
The Urge-to-Purge is what I call a mood that strikes me unexpectedly in spring.
Usually it leads me to a disorderly closet or to the mess in the basement.
But this week I decided to look through a wooden box labeled “Small Keepsakes.”
Lots of little things had been tossed into that box over the years, and I wondered what was in it.
Half-way through the assortment of odds and ends I found a little strip of paper.
I’ve kept it since the summer of 1972 – forty-two years – when I lived in Japan – in the city of Kyoto.
At most Japanese Shinto Temples or Buddhist shrines one is offered a chance to learn one’s fortune. The process varies, but at the temple where I got mine,
you made a small donation in yen, pulled a stick out of a bundle, checked the number on the stick, and then pulled open a small drawer with your number on it.
Inside were small rolls of paper the size of a jelly bean.
You then unrolled the paper to learn your fortune.
It’s called an o-mikuji. link: http://goo.gl/d82BW1
Mine said: han-kichi,半吉
My Japanese companion translated for me:
“It means you will get a half-blessing – not a big one – just half.”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s hard to explain, but it’s good – keep it.”
And I did.
A week later, at the same temple, I thought I’d try again.
Maybe I would get the other half of the blessing.
I went through the same ritual and got another little roll of paper.
This one said: han-kyō, 半凶
“It means you will get a half-curse – not a big one – just half.”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s hard to explain, but it’s not good – but there’s a way to deal with the prediction of misfortune. You take the strip of paper over to the strings tied around that big tree, and tie it to the strings – like all the ones already there.
By doing that, you leave the negative in the hands of the gods to deal with.”
So I did that.
I suppose one so-so good fortune was balanced out by a so-so curse –
a kind of net-zero outcome.
But, then, I kept the good news and left the negative in care of the gods residing in an ancient tree.
So I’m ahead – which is why I have kept the o-mikuji, expecting a half-blessing.
Or, perhaps, I have already received the blessing and didn’t notice?
I should take a retroactive view of blessings?
I thought back on half-blessings – maybe one of those was the payoff?
As my Japanese friend said, it’s hard to explain these things.
I tell you this because it’s my first-hand encounter with the root source of fortune cookies, which are not Chinese at all.
Though the exact history is controversial, it’s accurate to say that the cookie with the fortune inside was introduced by a Japanese restaurant in California around the beginning of the 20th century.
How the cookie shifted to be associated with Chinese food is also controversial.
Even more interesting is the question of how fortune cookies came to be such a pervasive American phenomenon.
It is estimated that more than 3 billion fortune cookies are produced each year in the United States.
As is often the case in our country, the original cookie is marketed well beyond its connection with Chinese food.
You can get Valentine’s versions – dipped in chocolate – with love messages inside. You can get dirty fortune cookies containing raunchy thoughts.
There are fortune cookies for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, corporate events,
personal parties and even for funerals.
You can write your own fortunes to be included in your special order.
There are Mexican fortune cookies made from masa – (corn flower) in small or taco size.
And there are Giant Fortune Cookies – 5 x 7 inches - weighing one pound – and stuffed with candy, small toys, or souvenirs.
Or, if you’re really in a down mood and want to spread it onto your friends after dinner, you can get misfortune cookies that predict the worst.
So . . . what?
For one thing, it’s a tribute to human imagination that something so small and trivial can be turned into a thriving industry.
The on-going-ness of the cookie is connected to the word fortune, and the everlasting desire to know one’s fate and future
“What will happen to me?” We want to know the answer.
Even if it comes on a small piece of paper inside a cookie.
What’s this about?
(Sometimes it’s useful to stand outside of one’s self and take an objective view. Now is one of those times.)
A man I know is intelligent, well-educated, thoughtful, and rational.
By category he is an agnostic humanist.
Here is his public stance:
He does not believe in the paranormal or the supernatural.
He does not believe that any kind of gods take an interest in his personal affairs.
He does not believe in luck, chance, fortune, fate, devils, or good fairies.
Yet, in the privacy of his inner self, contradiction reigns:
He has had experiences with psychic mediums, horoscopes, tea leaf reading, palmistry, tarot cards, black magic, the lottery, the Ouija board, the Magic 8-ball device, and he consults the divination technique of I-Ching from time to time.
And he takes fortune cookies seriously – keeping the good ones, just in case.
What’s going on here?
Is it that he holds contradictory views about being human and alive?
Despite his rational clarity, does he secretly wish to find a crack in the great wall of certainty where he can get just a peek into what’s beyond?
Is it that there is conflict between what he knows and what he wishes were so?
Would he like to have a dance with Lady Luck?
Would he like to be able to hack into the algorithms of the Great Existential Computer and move some assets into his personal account?
Is it that he has a congenital trust in hopefulness?
Is he a sucker for any sign of good news?
Is he a simple-minded optimist?
Can he live with both sense and nonsense?
But what about the realities of the dark side of his life – misfortune?
He buys fortune cookies by the bag – and when a cookie lets him down, he picks another cookie – and waits for the good news.
He believes you get the luck you look for.
Is he an idiot?
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Sometimes – but it works for him
February 16, 2015
Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
Exceptionally mild weather – clear skies.
LOVE IS A BITCH AND IT HAS PUPPIES –
a post-Valentine’s Day reflection . . . .
(Before you read on, go to my Facebook page for an illustration
and a forward to this journal posting – it won’t make sense if you don’t. https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum)
So that’s over and done with.
The Valentine Express Train of Love has rumbled through once more.
Some got a fine ride, albeit brief.
Some were left at the station - and some were run over by the train.
For those who did have a fine ride – who got the flowers and chocolates and wine and cards and kisses and hugs - and all the rest – I say good on you!
I , too, was one of the lucky ones – so, good on me, as well.
(Mine was a win-win deal - lingerie pleases the recipient and the giver – oh sure, that’s a touch of self-interested wickedness, but if it works out . . .)
But - the hard truth about love is that at least half the time it doesn’t work out.
Romance, courtship, co-habitation, going-steady, being engaged, marriage –
no matter the label for the stage a relationship is in – love goes bad as often love goes well.
So this journal entry is for those who came up empty handed on Valentine’s Day.
For those who went out to a movie alone - or ate dinner at home alone in their pajamas sitting on the couch - or went for a long walk – alone.
Or bought a box of chocolate and ate most of it themselves – alone.
Or maybe just had a good cry.
A caveat before I continue:
When I carried out my love story project, I learned and remembered these notions:
1. Anything and everything anybody thinks, feels, or says about love is true.
For them, for the time being.
2. Love has no defined dimensions – no top, no bottom, no edges.
3. There are as many love stories as there are human beings on the planet.
4. In a lifetime, most people experience love in many forms.
5. Winners lose and losers win
6. Love never holds still – it’s always in motion.
Finally, I say that all generalities about love are the useless babblings of fools.
Nevertheless . . .
Being a charter member of the Fools-About-Love Club there are my conclusions.
For several years I asked friends and strangers to “Tell me a love story – not one you’ve read or heard. One you’ve lived.”
I asked in my book UH OH and in my nationally syndicated newspaper column.
The mail poured in – from teenagers in the ecstatic pain of first love – from the elderly in retirement homes scrawling out sacred memories – from those who treasure a small forever based on a ten-second encounter – from those whose love is measured in a lifetime of heartbeats.
Mail came from thirty-six states and seven foreign countries – from writers age eight to age ninety-eight – from male and female – from gay and straight – from the wise and the foolish – from the confused and the sane.
Handwritten on expensive stationery, printed on yellow legal-pad paper, and impeccably turned out by computer.
Hundreds and hundreds of letters.
I expected gooey-sweet greeting-card sentiments, but got salty surprises.
Nasty and kinky and twisted and crazy love.
There was bluebird-and-rainbow love, but also stormy love with thunder
and lightning and hail and landslides.
I expected mushy oatmeal love, but got as much steak-and-potatoes love.
I expected meek-and-mild love, but got just as many love stories made out of muscle and blood and bone.
These sentences, taken from real letters and conversations, stand out:
“Love is what you’ve been through with someone.”
“The reasons you fall in love are often the same reasons for falling out.”
“There’s a big difference between the first time you fall in love and the first time falling in love really matters.”
“You can’t get the exact love you want – only the love someone is capable of giving you.”
“Sex without love is a meaningless experience, but as meaningless experiences go, it’s pretty high on the list.”
“The love we really live is all the love we really have.”
I could go on – if you want more, read the book: TRUE LOVE.
I remain eternally optimistic about love and its infinite shape and endless possibilities.
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I lift my glass to salute all those who have been knocked down and run over by love – take heart - may you rise up to look for the next opportunity.
I write out of empathy for those who were not passengers on the Valentine Train Express excursion this year.
Hang on to your ticket – it’s a local train – it stops for passengers frequently.
February 06, 2015
Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
Early February, 2015
Moon so bright I can take a walk at night without a flashlight.
Warm and mild days.
It’s about a week before St. Valentine’s Day.
An abundance of red-and-chocolate-and-heart-shaped goods fill the “seasonal specialties” aisles of City Market.
A mass of tulips and roses are on offer in the floral section of the store.
Look out - Here comes love!
Some years I have dodged the holiday – the years when love was not going so well.
But some years, like this one, I find myself in a sentimental state of mind - glad that the culture celebrates love at least once a year.
Bring it on, say I.
Alas, my wife will be away in Seattle on February 14, and I’ll be alone at Pack Creek – and that puts a damper on my personal celebration.
Nevertheless, love is on my mind - provoked by a spoon.
Love can be connected to an object.
Think of the keepsakes we all have tucked away somewhere.
Treasure to you, trash to anybody else.
But sometimes the sacred stuff is right out in the open - in daily use.
Like the spoons I’ve used for eating morning cereal for 58 years.
The spoons are stainless steel with a teak handle – Dansk Design – part of a set of tableware that was the first wedding gift my first wife and I picked out long ago.
The set is incomplete because my children used some of the pieces for backyard sand pile excavations – a couple of serving spoons and forks disappeared into
the earth, never to be seen again.
Other pieces are unusable because Findley, our children’s Beagle puppy, found the wooden handles a pleasure to chew on.
His legacy is teeth-marks on the tableware.
When I left the house of that first marriage, one of the few things I took with me was that set of table hardware. It connected me to the daily life shared with my children, and it made me smile when I remembered Findley.
Over the years, as I have moved from house to house, the knives and forks and spoons have moved with me and continued in daily use – silent reminders of good
parts of my past – increasing in value as participants in ongoing life.
I admire these wood-handled, stainless steel utensils.
They’re useful, well-crafted, and have remained elegant to look at and hold.
I wonder how many times I have used them, washed and dried them, and put them back in their place in the drawer – hundreds? thousands, maybe?
While I was eating my Cheerios this morning, I considered just one spoon.
When I am living alone, I keep this spoon out on the table instead of putting it back in the drawer after I wash it.
I know I’m going to use it again tomorrow morning, so why put it away . . .
It sits in a wooden bowl, ready for another round of cereal.
Thus it has an all-day presence.
It becomes a kind of icon of personal history – a good-luck talisman that brings love to mind.
Not Big Love in the romantic, hearts-and-flowers sense.
But lesser love in the sense of affection attached to memories and ordinary things.
I loved all the houses the spoon has been in.
My children and I loved the dog who would have chewed it to pieces if he could.
I love the memories of the quiet mornings spent using the spoon in all the seasons and years of my life when I loved being alive.
I love the memories of the times when it was used at meals with friends I love.
I love the woman who usually joins me for breakfast and uses an identical spoon.
My son wants the set of tableware when I die.
These food tools are part of his past, too.
I love the son who loves the spoon and its companion utensils.
Perhaps he will use the same spoon I’ve used for his morning cereal.
Perhaps he will pass the knives and forks and spoons on to his son.
I love imagining my grandson sitting and eating his Cheerios with my spoon someday, long after I am gone.
If the spoon could talk, it would tell him a lot about love and the unexpected sizes and shapes it comes in.
I hope he thinks of it as Grandfathers Valentine Spoon.
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February 03, 2015
Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
First week in January, 2015
Full moon rising – with Venus as the bright evening star.
Still a few snow showers in the mountains, but rain in the valley.
Mild weather during the day.
My team lost the game on Sunday. And all day Monday and into the evening
there was what seemed like a jazz riff going on in my mind on the theme of losing. As the notions and concepts blipped through my brain, I jotted them down in
my notebook. There’s no particular point to the exercise – but each item is in common, current usage. I hear them often – and each points to a powerful human experience. So much to lose . . .
Losing the game, losing face, losing heart -
Losing one’s head, one’s mind, one’s marbles -
Losing ground, losing the way, losing track -
Losing a child, a parent, a friend -
Losing your wallet, your keys, your glasses -
Losing a limb, a tooth, your hair -
Losing at love -
Losing money, losing dignity, losing a bet -
Losing one’s reputation -
Losing your life -
Losing time, losing your job, your identity -
Losing your hearing, losing weight, your appetite -
Losing your balance, losing ground, losing one’s cool -
Losing your grip, your nerve, your courage -
Losing your shirt, losing your temper, losing your touch –
Losing sleep, patience, contact –
Losing your bearings, favor, losing the plot –
Losing one’s edge, your advantage, your resources -
Losing your lunch.
If you think of any I missed, add them to my Facebook page:
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