On the very night that my beloved daughter was taking a red eye flight into New York City to attend a wedding this weekend, residents of that city were drowning in their basement apartments, being evacuated from flooded subways, and getting rescued from car rooftops by emergency responders boating through the streets.
All a result of yet more unprecedented extreme weather activity that was dumping more than 3 inches of rain per hour over the city at the storm’s peak.
The New York Times reports these additional
(Fortunately, my daughter was fine and enjoyed sunny, welcoming weather by the time she crossed the Brooklyn Bridge en route to her hotel.)
In Texas, a recently approved law essentially outlawed abortion by restricting it to only the first six weeks of pregnancy, before some 85% of women even know they’re pregnant. And in a pair of absolutely diabolical add-ons, legislators there made no exceptions for rape and incest, and then levied this coup de grace:
Here we are, thrown into a world not of our making—is it our oyster or our abyss?
Anyone else, living anywhere in the country, can file a civil lawsuit against anyone in Texas suspected of providing an abortion, or who assists in obtaining one, whether that person is a doctor, nurse, intake clerk or taxi driver who provided transportation to a clinic. If the case proves successful, the bounty hunter, er, “whistleblower,” stands to gain a $10,000 cash award.
Also, defendants may be required to pay all a petitioner’s attorney fees (in addition to their own). Notably, the writers of this law, in their strategic cunning, completely absolve the abortion-seeking woman of any legal liability.
In a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court let the law stand, despite even the majority justices’ acknowledged doubts about its constitutionality.
While flooding from Hurricane Ida menaced a swath of the United States from New Orleans up through New England, the National Interagency Fire Center reported that 85 “large” fires are currently burning across 12 states in the U.S. as of this writing, involving 25,000 wildland firefighters and support personnel.
Covid case trends in the U.S.A. over the past 14 days, through Thursday, as reported by the New York Times:
Cases: 164,326 (+14%)
Hospitalized: 101,572 (+16%)
Deaths: 1,521 (+67%)
Total Deaths (since the pandemic began): 645,383.
As reported by Healthline.com last week:
The rate of hospitalization among fully vaccinated people with COVID-19 was effectively zero in recent weeks in California, Delaware, D.C., Indiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, and Virginia. It was 0.06 percent in Arkansas, meaning over 99 percent of hospitalizations were unvaccinated. Over 95 percent of those hospitalized in Alaska and 99.93 percent in New Jersey were not yet fully vaccinated either.
The percentage of now willfully unvaccinated Americans as the pandemic rages anew and the vaccines that could halt it are readily available to anyone who wants it: 47%.
Of those, according to a report in Voa News, 45% say they will “definitely not” get the vaccine. Among them are multiple members of my own extended family, who cite reasons ranging from simple fear of the vaccine’s effects, resistance to government overreach, suspicion of the CDC, and the faith that their healthy immune systems will protect them.
The chaos of America’s make-haste exit from Afghanistan, as a stunned world watches.
“Hurricane Larry…predicted to reach Category 4 strength over the open waters of the central Atlantic Ocean this holiday weekend.”
And even with 25,000 firefighters already long entrenched, the traditional fire season is just getting underway as autumn winds grow restless in the west.
I am, probably via some mixture of natural disposition, aspiration, and considered rational judgment, a cheerful person. I’ve never seen much point in stewing to the point of disconsolation about matters I ultimately have little or no control over, and it rarely escapes my attention how much sheer beauty and wonder and fabulousness reside in the natural world and all of its creatures, very much including the better part of most human beings.
Here we are, thrown into a world not of our making—is it our oyster or our abyss?
While I have taken more than a few turns staring into the latter, world-as-oyster more often prevails. Turning sour about our plight has never struck me as having much going for it.
But jeez, there are days lately…
Two storytellings recently presenting themselves: Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s “Autumn Sonata” and the NBC television series, “This Is Us.” The Bergman from 1978, which I saw in the early ’80s and stumbled across again a few nights ago on “Turner Classic Movies.”
“This Is Us” debuting in 2016 and set to premiere its sixth season next month. Just discovered it a couple weeks ago and should be through the first season in a few days.
“Autumn Sonata” puts in front of us an internationally acclaimed concert pianist mother visiting her daughter, the wife of a country parson, for the first time in years. The mother is narcissistic and fake, the daughter brooding and lonely and plain, the parson remote and ineffectual.
On the surface, all pleasant chatter—“It’s been too long!” Barely beneath it and soon to erupt between mother and daughter: convulsive anger and pain in a torrent of recrimination, defensiveness and guilt. A kind of rhetorical death spiral that leaves the protagonists exhausted but none the better or more conciliatory for their spleen-ventings.
And then they start in again.
I’d remembered it as deep but dark. Upon second viewing: unbearably, unwatchably the latter. Life as a relentless march across dry steppes of bad faith and repression, and then death comes for us (which it does in “The Seventh Seal,” another Bergman that is actually worthy of exploration another time…).
Is that really all there is?
There is also “This Is Us,” whose protagonists suffer aplenty, too, but whose struggles take place in contexts of striving and fidelity to at least an ideal: that their persistence may yet add up to some better understanding, experience and expression of love.
Imperfect, sometimes tempestuous, rife with error and self-delusion, failing each other hither and yon, but all the more worth it for the tender, halting, hard-won, though still far-from-perfect understanding it can finally coax forth from a still open, albeit wounded heart.
Fear for the future seems built right into the package of our DNA. Our cave dwelling ancestors surely thought the apocalypse was nigh as tempests bore down on them, the fury of the gods unleashed.
The world has likely always seemed on the brink of collapse by those tasked with watching it.
Is it a peculiar conceit of this and every age that collapse seems more imminent or possible than ever, or do we actually know more about how much worse things are now than in the past? Or are they worse at all?
Luckily, our DNA package is also where hope abides, where the procreative urge serves as its own tsunami, gathering into itself the life force with its infinite expressions of creativity and intelligence, compassion and care. There, it carves deep channels toward a future we cannot know but into which we will nevertheless advance (and sometimes merely tumble), alternately losing and finding and losing our way, paroxysms of evil and avarice spurting as they will, there to do battle with the ever-birthing seeds and sprouts of desire to be and do and make and multiply love as we can, all of it nothing more and nothing less than the making of a world worthy of handing on to those awaiting us.
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Deep appreciation to the photographers! Unless otherwise stated, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing.
Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at top of page.
Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gnarled oak and pokeweed photos by Andrew Hidas https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewhidas/
Storm by Gillian Everett, Gloucester Shire, NSW, Australia https://www.flickr.com/photos/gilleverett/
Wildfire by Caleb Cook, Boulder, Colorado https://unsplash.com/@venturecreative