Beauty and Wonder

8-9-2019

Toni Morrison (Chole Ardelia Wofford) born Feb. 18, 1931 – Died Aug. 5, 2019. Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.

My business card (it’s really not a business) says David R. Davis – Author. That term, author, implies something that is technically true, but somehow is far less than the word as it would be used to describe Toni Morrison. It would be equal to something like – I’m like Shakespeare, because I know the alphabet. I write words, Morrison painted vivid and beautiful landscapes with words. This is not a critique of my skills, it is a realistic comparison of an artist and someone who writes for pleasure.

I will offer up a challenge to anyone who reads this blog.

Read the first 20 pages of Beloved , don’t scan through them, or read them as you might the cover of USA Today, but deeply read Toni Morrison’s words and tell me they do not fill you with joy and wonder.

Page 8 (of my copy.) “Except for a heap more hair and some waiting in his eyes, he looked the way he had in Kentucky. Peachstone skin, straight-backed. For a man with an immobile face it was amazing how ready it was to smile, or blaze or be sorry with you. As though all you had to do was get his attention and right away he produced the feeling you were feeling. With less than a blink, his face seemed to change-underneath it lay the activity.”

or

Page 18. “I got a tree on my back and a haint in my house, and nothing in between but the daughter I am holding in my arms. No more running-from nothing. I will never run from another thing on earth. I took one journey and I paid for the ticket, but let me tell you something, Paul D Garner: it cost too much! Do you hear me? It cost too much.”

My challenge is this – read her work and if you are not moved, if you don’t see or feel the beauty in her words; I will gladly buy you a cup of coffee or a beer.

I vaguely remember a scene in the movie Amadeus. Salieri comes to realize that no matter what he does, no matter how hard he tries, he will never compare to Mozart. He loves music, he loves beauty, but he simply doesn’t have whatever it was that made Mozart, Mozart. I recall it as a somewhat tragic scene in the film.

In no way do I compare myself to this drama, still I know that should I have 500 more years to live, I will never have what Toni Morrison had that made Toni Morrison, Toni Morrison. Her writing, her art was a special gift. And I honestly believe the world is a better place as a result.

I won’t quit trying. I have never hit a backhand topspin like Roger Federer hits every time he steps on a tennis court. But I kept playing tennis for thirty years and I kept trying to hit a better backhand every time. I may never write a sentence like Ms. Morrison wrote routinely, but I will still sit in front of this laptop and try.

But don’t just accept my words. Pick up Beloved or Home and give yourself a gift, hook up your seat-belt and take a marvelous ride.

“You wanna fly, you got o give up the shit that weighs you down.” Toni Morrison

Rest well Toni, you’ve earned it.

Go well – David

Action is the antidote to despair

8-4-2019

Sitting and watching the news over the past twenty-four hours pushed me into the depths of despair. As I sat and watched, I couldn’t help but wonder if we are going to survive as a nation or as an inhabited planet.

Twenty-nine innocent people murdered, and fifty-two injured for no reason other than hatred. Both weapons used were built for no purpose other than for killing human beings. What is offered up for these two crimes; prayers, words of condolence and questions of how many more times will we let this happen. 251 mass shootings in the USA in 216 days. My despair comes from the years of hearing the same words. I feel despair because I want to believe this country is better than this. That we care about each other. That we have the courage to do something to stop this carnage. And yet, the facts suggest that maybe none of this is true. Based on the years of events just like the last two, our elected officials will do nothing to help prevent the next shooting. It is obvious to anyone who looks or listens to these men and women. They will do nothing to prevent the next man, woman or child from dying; if they think it could possibly in any way hurt them politically. When you are more concerned with keeping your job than you are in protecting the citizens of this country, you’re not fit serve in any elected office. And still they will be. Because we are complicit in allowing this to continue. By hiding behind the 2nd. Amendment, and not being willing to budge one inch in trying to slow down the slaughter in this country. We, the voting citizens of this country continue to allow this blood-bath to stain our country.

My despair does not begin and end with our obsession with guns. I believe it goes hand in hand with the nature that seems to have overtaken our country. Hatred seems to be the desired emotion. Greed has become our national pastime and religion. Lies have become more acceptable and desired than truth.

Last week it was reported that the Arctic’s ice sheet melted 11 billion tons in one day. Worldwide, July was the hottest month ever recorded. 97-98% of all climate experts agree on climate change, global warming and the impact mankind is having on this issue. And our countries highest elected office holder has said its a hoax. What is far more concerning than his comments, are the millions of people in this country who agree with him. They agree not because he has any proof, they agree simply because he says it and they would rather believe it.

Why do those who deny all factual data supporting this danger, continue to believe, or at least say they believe this is is not real? I suggest it is because of greed. To alter, to stop this potential species ending catastrophe, would cost money for those who most profit from our behavior. To alter our way of living, to partner with the rest of the world to alter this behavior would require us to make fundamental life changes. And those who profit, who financially support those who deny climate change, will not tolerate change and any potential reduction in their greed. Perhaps also, it’s because we’ve simply grown lazy. In a three and a half mile walk this morning, I saw thousands of items of trash (cans, plastic whisky bottles, straws, paper, garbage, fast food wrappers) strewn along the side of the road. Thrown there because it was too inconvenient to use a trash can. Maybe it wasn’t the inconvenience, maybe it was the sense of entitlement so many people have come to accept.

My good friend Jack often says to me, that he tries to “always take care of his side of the sidewalk.” He does what he can to help. He seems to have found some contentment in being responsible for doing what he is capable of doing. And so I will try and do what I can. I will attempt to take care of my side of the sidewalk. I will not be silent regarding those things that matter. I will be active in trying to change those issues that effect those I love.

“Action is the antidote to despair.” Joan Baez

Go well – David

I’m Scared

7-15-2019

I’m scared! Not for myself. I’ve already lived the majority of my life. I’m scared for my two sons, and I’m scared for my two grandchildren.

Merriam Webster:

demagogue – a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.

racism – a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

This is not the country in which I was raised. This is not the country for which I went to war. This is not the country my grandchildren deserve.

“We don’t realize how much racism has tainted our self-image as human beings.” Ruby Dee

Go Well – David

My old baseball glove

7-7-2019

I was eight years old and it was the year that New York Yankees’ pitcher Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the World Series. My dad was in the Air Force, and we were stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany. Two things started that year, my lifelong love of the Yankees and the first year I played Little League. In the era of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Yogi Berra, my favorite Yankee was a rather obscure utility infielder named Gil McDougald.

My dad coached our Little League baseball team for two years. We were the Wiesbaden Buffaloes and I pitched and played shortstop. In the two years together, our team lost three games. Years later my dad would tell the same story. “The other teams would see that they were playing us and would forfeit the game rather than have us beat them.” Now I doubt that was true, but for years I believed it. Somewhere, I still have a small felt pennant that says Wiesbaden Little League Champions. A couple of years after our return to the states, my mom passed away and I lived two years with my grandmother. I played Little League for the Vernon Frogs. To the best of my memory we celebrated whenever we got within five runs of winning a game. My Frog years were quite a contrast to the Buffalo years.

There was one constant in those years, my baseball glove. It was an old school, three finger, dark brown leather beauty. My dad had owned it and then passed it on to me. It looked old enough to have been used by Satchel Paige. The leather was soft as a baby’s butt and tough as elephant hide. When I put it on, I knew I could stop any grounder pounded at me by Duke Snyder. I knew my fastball made Bob Feller blush with envy.

Somewhere along the line of life, that baseball glove was lost. I bought others in the years that followed. I rubbed buckets of saddle soap into them. I put a baseball in them, and tightly wrapped a belt around them to make the perfect pocket. No matter how hard I tried, I could never recreate my first glove.

I never played organized baseball after those four years. I still love my Yankees and during baseball season, I always look at the box scores to see how they are doing . There have been good years and bad ones, but I’m always a loyal fan. This year so far, looks good.

Looking back, I know there was something more than baseball in those years. There was something now lost. My mom, my dad and my grandmother are all now long dead. Playing baseball is a fading memory from childhood. I’m retired and have children and grandchildren. I vaguely remember 4th. of July firework shows in Germany. I remember my first bicycle and my first real date. I remember playing drums at my first gig with The Avengers at the Dumas, Texas YMCA. But when I let my mind grow still, I can still clearly feel that baseball glove on my hand. I can still hear the pop of a baseball slamming into the pocket. I can almost hear my dad saying, Use two hands to catch a ball, you can use one when you make the major league.”

For a moment today, I felt a hint of excitement and pride like I felt playing shortstop on that baseball field. The women of the U S team won the World Cup in soccer. Graceful, athletic women ran, kicked and were bloodied on that pitch. In the end, they walked off, world champions. Nothing will ever take that honor away from them. Just as I’ve carried the memory of that baseball glove and those two years of Little League baseball glory, all my life. I was never a world champion, but when your eight or nine and you’re a Buffalo, you might as well be a world champ.

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.” Yogi Berra

Go well – David

Slowing down, trying harder

7-2-2019

Two thoughts have been stuck in my mind for a while. One is my perceived need to slow down and be more mindful. It’s not like my schedule is so packed that I have little time to breathe, much less slow down. I’m retired and have more free time (misnomer if there ever was one. Time is not free and it’s always limited.) I have only two scheduled commitments per week. I’m talking more about, as the old saying goes, ‘slowing down to smell the roses.” Even in my retired life, I realize I’m often in a hurry and not paying attention to the small joys in life, although I do seem to slow down enough to pay attention to the small aggravations that pop up. That’s a discussion for another time.

When I do manage to be mindful, I find life filled with joy, exciting events, great people and beautiful sights. So, I’m on a quest to use more of my time to slow down and less of my time to rush to the end of who knows what. An example perhaps. Eating. Oh yes, that daily chore that has become an event to rush through while we sit uncomfortably with a plate balanced on our laps; while watching some inane TV program about being beautiful and falling in love (perhaps lust) with 20 hard-bodied bachelors whose goal is to give a rose as their token of love, and then get the woman in bed. (A long rambling sentence)What did I eat? I don’t know. Was it good? I’m not sure. Did I eat too much? Of course. But every so often there is a good program. One that should be watched with attention and not the distraction of spilled BBQ sauce over a new tee shirt. A program about kids attempting to get our attention about climate change. Or maybe a program about the care and love a female monkey gives her baby. No matter the subject, if we are mindful, selective and alert to what’s before us, we can learn, enjoy and perhaps add our part to honest and real life progress.

So being more mindful is one goal.

I heard a story yesterday on NPR about writing. The speaker told the story of a famous writer (I was wasn’t being completely mindful, so I don’t know who the writer was) being asked a question. “What is your best book?” the response from the writer was, “My next one.” I’m no famous writer by any stretch of the imagination, but I do write and most of the time I enjoy the process a great deal. So why can’t my answer be the same. “My best book is my next one.”

Although I have my lazy moments, I don’t like lazy people. Just to be clear, laziness is a subjective word. I do think we all have our own personal definitions of laziness. In writing, I sum it up in simple terms. Its not caring enough to try. I am fully aware that people write for various reasons. Some seek fame and fortune. Some seek a pleasurable pastime. Some people have a need to create. I’m a little old for fame and fortune. Writing is pleasurable for me. Trying to write better than I did the last time is great pleasure for me.

I’ve been a drummer for 55 years. I generally say that I’m not a musician, I’m a drummer. That aside, at best I’m an average drummer. I have probably never cared much to try and be a great drummer. I played tennis for 30 years. I was a decent player until my age overtook my ability to get better. It was fun, I won a few tournaments and lost more. It was enjoyable to be with friends and on occasion to beat some jerks. Now I’m a writer. I love books and I love good writing. I’ve drawn some comments about being too hard on myself about my writing. I’m well aware that I’m not John Steinbeck and I will never write as he wrote. But I can be better. I can try harder. I can practice, and someday I might even be a decent writer. That’s a goal I take on with some relish.

So there it is. Slow down to enjoy, to notice and to embrace. Sit down and write, use my brain and make the next sentence, page and book better than the last. Maybe if I get another lifetime, I might accomplish both. If not, I’m still going to try.

“Be mindful. Be grateful. Be positive. Be true. Be kind.” Roy T. Bennett

“What is written without effort is generally read without pleasure.” Samuel Johnson

Go well – David

I’ve found some hope

6-24-2019

Some of you may know that I volunteer at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. I do it for a several reasons. It gives me a commitment that I have to meet weekly, it’s a beautiful early morning drive where I sometimes get lucky and see coyotes and other desert creatures. I get to play with and learn about stingrays, turtles, chuckwallas and snakes. The best part is I get to meet some fun, bright and delightful young people. Young people that give me hope for the future.

This morning I met a five year old girl with the prettiest green eyes I’ve ever seen. She was wearing a bright red baseball cap with a big white N on it. I asked her grandfather if it was a Nebraska hat. “Nope.” He said. “It’s a Nova hat.” I thought it meant some group, toy or something I’d not heard of, so I let it go. The little girl walked up to the stingray tank and was ready to touch them and feed them. No hesitation. I’ve seen grown men hesitant to touch the rays, not this little girl. As I was showing her how to feed them, I asked where she had gotten her beautiful green eyes. Her answer was perfect. “I got them when I was born!” Her answer emphatic and to the point. A few minutes later her grandfather and I were speaking and we saw a squirrel feeding on the beans of a Palo Verde tree. He turned and called to his granddaughter. “Nova, come here and look at this squirrel.” The white N on her hat stood for her name – Nova. This little girl was bright, polite, beautiful and daring, her name fits her perfectly. She will do fine for this world.

A few weeks back another volunteer moved away from Tucson. Lorenzo had just graduated from the University of Arizona. He headed back to his home state to start a job in community development. Before starting work he was first attending training at Georgetown University and Harvard University. There is no question that Lorenzo is bright; I’d match his intellect with anyone’s. More than being bright, he is one of the most polite, engaging, interesting and caring young men I have ever met. It took me two months to get him to stop calling me “Sir.” I have no doubt he will do great things in the future.

My two grandchildren are no less special then Nova and Lorenzo. My granddaughter once said when I asked her, “What makes you happy?, with a big beautiful smile , “Everything makes me happy.” And indeed, it seems that’s true. Her teacher, with tears in her eyes, once told my son at a parent-teacher conference, “Your daughter is the sweetest child I’ve ever met.” She is sweet, but she’s also humble, curious and smart.

My grandson wears a man bun in an Idaho town that is as white bread as they come. He seems to have never considered that someone might question the look. He is as smart as a kid can get, and wants to go to Ireland and draw caricatures. He wants to be who he is, and has no desire for fame or fortune. (Fame and riches are the two most common goals of teenagers, as noted in a research study.) He loves his sister with all his heart, he’s compassionate, and polite. Good traits for a teenage boy. And yes, he’s a damned good artist.

Those of us who have far more years behind us than in front of us, have in many ways left a tough future for the next generations. Climate change, skyrocketing education costs, great political division and so much more. We’ve not done our job in protecting the future for our children and grandchildren. But I have hope. I have hope that Nova, Lorenzo, Lauren and Holden will make this world a better, a kinder, a cleaner and more compassionate place to live.

“Children are the worlds most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” John F. Kennedy

“Children are our greatest treasure. They are our future.” Nelson Mandela

Go Well – David

Who are We?

6-20-2019

It is 3:59 p.m. as I start to write this. I just finished watching the news and two commercials before I turned off the TV. Now I’m writing a brief statement about what I saw. I honestly don’t mean this to be political, I write it in hopes that we will stop and ask ourselves if this is who and what we are, and if this is what and who we want to be.

I just watched a video tape of three judges asking questions of a government attorney who was appealing a decision that children who have illegally crossed our border with Mexico must be provided with a blanket, a toothbrush and soap. Think about this for a moment, a toothbrush, soap and a blanket. The government is arguing that we need not provide these three items to children. All three judges were obviously appalled that they were hearing the appeal. The attorney for the government (in my opinion) appeared embarrassed that she had to stand in front of the judges and make the case for the government.

Soap-a toothbrush-a blanket, for children.

The appeal will have to be decided by those three judges and from what they said, it seems the federal government is in trouble in this case.

As quickly as the story ended, two commercials came on next. The first, a beautifully dressed and lovely female swaying and showing off her gold $600.00 Mondavi watch. Not a $20,000 Rolex for sure, but a watch that makes you sway like a golden goddess. One that can start and start time at your whim. As soon as that commercial was over, the second, a beautiful new SUV driving across the country with two young, beautiful and adventurous passengers (aren’t they always young and beautiful) on a cruise across America without a care in the world.

I don’t begrudge anyone having a watch or a new car. But in my simple little mind, there is a huge undeniable disconnect between having luxury watches and denying children a bar of soap because they have darker skin and come from another country. Yes, I freely admit our immigration system is broken, it must be fixed. But where in that fix is there not a need to provide the basics that we citizens never consider for one moment?

I’m reminded of a program I once watched called “CNN Heroes.” People are nominated for doing wonderful things to help others. One young African man was nominated. Briefly his story was that of being in the U S and staying in a hotel. He was astonished to see that after he had used a bar of soap one time, the next day it had been discarded and another new bar was in it’s place. In his home country, thousands of people died because of the simple lack of having soap. A human being could have lived for the price of a bar of soap. He started an organization for collecting used hotel soap, re-formulating it and sending it to Africa. That man’s simple and humane effort resulted in the saving of countless lives. A bar of soap. And our government sees no need to provide a .50 cent bar of soap or a toothbrush to a child.

So, I ask if that’s who and what we perceive our country to be, or we want this country to be?

No country was ever, or will ever be great, if we turn our backs on basic goodness. On basic kindness or basic compassion for others.

No one has ever become poor by giving.” Anne Frank

Go Well – David