Thursday, March 17, 2022



Ukraine is always in my thoughts. Sometimes it's the foreground and I am imagining the suffering there or reading news and opinion articles or trying to understand what I and others can do. Other times, it's hovering in the background, as I contemplate my own small life.

This week, I was deeply moved by two people's writing.

by Eric Whittington

Eric is proprietor of Bird & Beckett Books & Records in the Glen Park neighborhood of San Francisco. Bird & Beckett is far more than a bookstore. It is a center for the performance of jazz and poetry several days a week -- both live in the bookshop and live streamed. I urge you to check out the website and sign up for the weekly newsletter. Eric has created a wondrous cultural center, and I have delighted in many B&B performances -- both in person and online.

Eric's words below come from the Bird & Beckett weekly newsletter, which lists all the performances.
"We salute the fierce bravery of those taking up arms to push Putin's pawns back, to save their brothers and sisters, their parents and their children from the calculating, delusional madness of an autocrat and his ugly machinery. How many times have we seen this? How many accounts have we read in the historical record? How many times will such a threat raise its head and how many times must it be resisted and defeated? 

How much agony will be inflicted on the citizens of our world in one corner after another, siblings aligning themselves with opposing forces, turning one on another as the mad infect the vulnerable with their fevers?

The essential weapon we wield in the war against the war on the imagination is the imagination itself -- the imagination born of "...a cosmology / a cosmogony / laid out, before all eyes" that precedes our articulation of a just and peaceful world in the face of the propagandistic illusions conjured by the power mad, the avaricious, the greedy, the hateful, their handlers, their facilitators, their minions.

We pity their pawns. Ultimately the pawns will let fall their arms and accept the embrace of their brothers and sisters, their parents and children. But how long must it take? And at what horrible cost?

Though we may be deluded by the propagandists to think that our imagination is not up to the task, the artists never surrender the task of feeding our imagination. Culture is never extinguished; it smolders and roars back to life over and over again. Take heart from it, take nourishment, get exercise and fresh air and be strong. Vote, mobilize, protest. Make your voice heard. Gather in the public square and share your insights and well-grounded convictions. Do what it takes."

Two things in Eric's words especially filled me with energy:
  • His "how many times?" chant. In fact, almost all of recorded history is made up of the kind of brutal Russian invasion we're witnessing today. And the victors, who wrote history, have always been clothed in glory! What was so great about Alexander "the Great"? I bet the people whose families were slaughtered in the course of his great conquests despised and loathed him! And yet he is lauded to this day. Putin probably dreams that future history books will burble in admiration, "Putin the Great restored the Russian empire!" We are trying to change the pattern of history with our united effort to boycott and isolate Russia.
  • Eric's insistence on the importance of of artists as the life blood of culture -- creating our identity and sustaining the struggle. This reminds me of what Churchill famously said in World War II when he met with the Chancellor of the Exchequer (equivalent to Secretary of Treasury in the U.S.). The Chancellor was understandably concerned about where England would find the money to continue to wage war against Hitler. He urged Churchill to slash the budget for the arts, eliminating funding for all culture -- including the theater troupes touring the country, performing Shakespeare's plays. After a long pause, Churchill replied, "Then what are we fighting for?" In other words, what is the POINT of risking our lives and treasure for the survival of England if we are willing to throw out Shakespeare? End of discussion of cutting the arts budget.

(To get a feeling for what theater meant to the English while they were being incessantly bombed by the Germans, I urge you to watch THE DRESSER. There are two versions, 1983 and 2016. The earlier film is one of my all-time favorite movies. Haven't seen the later version. THE DRESSER is about a theater company touring King Lear to small towns during World War II. The focus of the movie is on the relationship between the actor playing Lear (Albert Finney) and his dresser (Tom Courtney). But the war is always present in the background. At one point, the whole theater shakes from a not-so-distant bpmb explosion. But no one leaves their seat. After a brief pause, the actors continue. The play's the thing.)

by Molly M. Remer
This poem comes from this year's We'Moon calendar, which contains so many interesting, startling and beautiful poems and images. As they say on their website, "If Mother Earth needed a calendar, she'd use We'Moon."


Rescue tadpoles from the
evaporating puddle
in the driveway.
Listen to the crows in the compost pile
And try to identify them
By their different voices
Plant basil and calendula
And a few more
Rows of lettuce.
Check blackberry canes
To see if the berries
Have set.
Wonder about
Action and apathy
And what bridges gaps.
Refuse to surrender belief in joy.
Listen for the faint echoes of hope.
Feel the tender beat of humanity
Pulsing in the world.
Feel the sun on your face.
Remember that even if you
Have to move one tadpole at a time,
Change is always possible.

Thank you, Molly, for your evocation of a world of crows and blackberries and time for contemplation. A world where small actions make a difference. Your words made me cry.

Dear Bloggelinis: I feel a sense of relief and catharsis when I cry. It's feels good. There is so very much to cry about. Often it's music that releases my deep sadness. This time, Molly Remer's gentle vision moved me to tears. Terry