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Heal the Planet? Absurd.

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Why, oh why, did I watch Romney’s speech? I guess if I’m going to write with spirit, I might as well write in anger once in a while. Anger is usually a defense for me, a denial of deep sadness. And sadness seems an appropriate reaction to that convention. Oh there were the lighter moments, such as watching Clint Eastwood do whatever the heck it was he thought he was doing with that chair. Offensive, yes, disrespectful and juvenile, but kind of a giggle because it was so nonsensical. I just hope he made it out of the building OK. And then there was the over-the-top pandering to women, Latinos, and African-Americans – that was so blatant, it was kind of funny.

But the underlying message of the whole shebang seemed to be, “Americans love money.” The notion that America is all about who gets the most stuff is now, apparently, something to be proud of. Oh yeah, we love our kids, but mostly for their earning potential. They must make more money than their parents, or they are failures. I kept telling myself to calm down, I was over-reacting; it was just politics. Until the end of the speech, when Romney dropped what has to be one of the most ignorant, terrifying statements ever made at a convention. And that’s saying a lot.

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans,” said Romney, and then paused dramatically while his followers figured out that they were supposed to scoff at climate change. Then he finished his sentence, “and heal the planet.” Oh my God, you’re kidding! What kind of a nutcase would want to take care of the planet we live on?? Oh no, Romney has much bigger aspirations. “MY promise is to help you and your family.” Like curbing climate change won’t help people? Yes, it’s true (and highly unfair, IMHO) that the effects of global warming won’t be as lethal for North America as they will be for less developed nations, which have contributed relatively little to carbon emissions. But still, don’t the drought, heat waves, wildfires, West Nile, and more frequent and severe hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes cause Romney to at least raise a well-groomed eyebrow? Is he so out of touch?

Yes he is, and he’s not the only one. I think the reason I was so bent out of shape by his willful denial of reality is that earlier in the evening, I had inadvertently ended up in a debate with a “friend of a friend” on Facebook. He had started on health care reform, trashing “Obamacare.” I don’t know why, but I piped up that I had just received an $800 check from my insurance company because they had not met the new standards and spent too much on admin. I also said that I was glad my brother with a pre-existing condition would be able to get care. Well, then this guy smelled liberal, so he moved on to abortion, which I happen to think that reasonable people can disagree on. We did. Then I said that I thought climate change was a more important issue in the scheme of things. “Climate change isn’t climate change,” he wrote. “It’s caused by solar flares.” OMG. I ended the discussion and turned on the convention. So I was primed to erupt.

No more politics for a while. Bad for blood pressure. I said in my last post that I couldn’t seem to get worked up about it anymore. Guess I was wrong. Not too long ago, a friend suggested that my “overreaction” to anti-environmentalists was a deep-seated issue within me. I did some inner healing work on it, following the agitation and anger back to childhood memories of escaping from my dysfunctional alcoholic family to the safety of the outdoors. Catching guppies and frogs in a nearby pond had restored my sanity. Nature was my refuge, and it saved my life. So today when I deem nature threatened, I fear I might not survive. Deep-seated inner angst, indeed. But in the case of climate change, I’m afraid it’s not displaced.

Noted Climate “skeptic” changes his tune in new scientific study:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/opinion/the-conversion-of-a-climate-change-skeptic.html?pagewanted=all

Some of the latest:

http://ncronline.org/blogs/making-difference/climate-change-its-real-and-its-dangerous

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Conventional Wisdom?

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The light and shadows seem more distinct this morning, no longer dulled by humidity and summer haze. A pine-scented breeze ruffles the browning meadow grasses dotted with goldenrod, and my fingers are chilly as I write. Autumn is beginning to insinuate herself on this lovely New England day.

So why do I want to write about the Republican convention? Wouldn’t you think I’d opt for describing the silent parade of wild turkeys through the field, or the dappled fawn that just materialized from behind a veil of white hydrangea blossoms? Nope, it’s the convention. I didn’t even mean to watch it, and it caused a serious breach in my serenity shield, which was emphasized by periodic breaks in my internet service that juxtaposed Great Horned Owl pronouncements and coyote conversations with the rants and raves coming from my computer.

I’ve always been a convention addict, ever since my Dad decorated me with Barry Goldwater buttons, handed me a little American flag, and plopped me down in front of a black and white Zenith television with a box of Lucky Charms. I was hooked – everyone wore funny hats and brandished signs and tossed balloons and generally acted like children; but at the same time I felt grown up, watching politics with my family. It’s all they talked about at the dinner table. I belonged. Four years later at age thirteen, my friend and I plastered ourselves with bumper stickers and leapt around intersections like cheerleaders, shouting, “Humphrey, Humphrey, he’s our man, if he can’t do it, Muskie can!” (By 1968, I had discovered the teenage joy of ticking off your parents, and I’ve remained a life-long Democrat.)

Energy, engagement, belonging, purpose. That’s what politics has meant to me. But last night I didn’t get any of that. I didn’t scoff at the syrup, “I want to talk to you about love,” or get angry about the half-truths, or even say “shut up” to the whiney chants of, “We built it, we built it, we did so build it, don’t say we didn’t build it.”

I’m finally sick of it. Sick of both parties. There aren’t off years anymore, where our elected leaders can get things done together, like maybe addressing climate change before Tampa’s under water for good. It’s twenty-four hour, media-driven, mean-spirited diatribes and warped-fact rants, interspersed with those serious speeches where we all look somber and talk about bringing the country together. It’s the gleeful sarcasm that gets me most – did you know that sarcasm means “to tear flesh”?

The first century Roman philosopher Seneca said, “As long as you live, keep learning how to live.” Sometimes that journey is a process of elimination, of shedding old behaviors or interests that you adopted for whatever reason – to survive a chaotic childhood, to please a partner or parent, to feel significant, to belong. So maybe I won’t be watching the Democratic convention. Maybe I’m done.

Who am I kidding? I’m still fascinated by politics, even if it’s more like watching a car wreck than a country at work. I like to think that, like me, America is on a transformative journey, learning how to live. Maybe eventually we’ll decide to drop behaviors that don’t serve our common good. Perhaps we have to see how low we can go, before we can start climbing our way back up to constructive civility.

So, yeah, I guess I’ll keep watching the extravaganzas. It’s my country, and besides, the Democrats usually have better hats.

Writers Write

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Writers Write. That’s what they all say. They get this coy little look, and then they come out with it, time and again. When you’re looking for sage wisdom from an accomplished writer, that’s what you’re going to get. Writers Write. It’s the best they can come up with. The thing is, it’s true.

That’s one of the main reasons I decided to blog, to keep myself writing. Oh, I journal everyday, some might say obsessively. But that’s for my eyes only (and, I guess, for the eyes of some unfortunate heir to my clutter). I don’t want these pages to replace my journal. God forbid I should produce yet another navel-gazing blog. But I do want to write regularly for other eyes — to get beyond whatever it is that keeps me from launching my words into the world.

I’ll spare you all the fear and self-esteem issues. Suffice to say I’m an introvert, although you wouldn’t know it from meeting me. I shy away from the competitive, who-you-know aspects of the literary world — I got enough of that as a Washington lobbyist. That’s why I escape to my farmhouse in rural New Hampshire to write. Away from my writing group, away from the readings and workshops, away from my (beloved) classmates in the Johns Hopkins writing program in D.C.

This cozy white Cape Cod was christened “Quiet Hills” by my grandmother Beedie when she bought the place in 1940. Quiet Hills is a safe, non-threatening refuge from which to launch words, and so it’s where I’m birthing this new endeavor. You’ll hear more about the house and surrounding hills and meadows, I’m sure. It seems to slip into my writing unbidden. It is a muse.

Quiet Hills

Bestselling author Dani Shapiro has escaped the frantic writing life in New York and now writes from “the top of a hill in the country.” Check out her essay on the writing life in Psychology Today. (Thanks to writer Sue Eisenfeld http://www.sueeisenfeld.com/ for sharing it.) Dani offers a lot of wisdom, although I think she’s a bit harsh on the young writing student who was excited about David Foster Wallace’s book party. Perhaps Dani’s gotten a little jaded? Anyway, her grand conclusion about the writer’s life? We write.              Here’s the link. Enjoy!

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/one-true-thing/201208/dani-shapiro-living-writers-life

Welcome Inside My Head (Yikes!)

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Greetings, fellow Web wanderer. I’m glad you’re making a virtual visit to my new blog. I’m more than a little nervous about this undertaking, so I appreciate your company. My name’s Melanie, and I’m a recovering environmental lobbyist, having escaped from nearly thirty years on Capitol Hill. My soul is still green, and I enjoy working locally in Maryland and occasionally consulting on faith-based environmental initiatives, but I am increasingly absorbed in my new life as a freelance writer.

I’m told that every “serious” writer (a somewhat dubious label) must have a blog, and so, I begin. This shouldn’t be too hard, because I love stories, and isn’t that what the best blogs are? I like all kinds of stories, but true stories are my favorites, so most of my writing consists of essays, profiles, and memoir.

Writing has been spiritually and emotionally healing for me, and I want to help others explore writing as a path to serenity and personal freedom.  I believe we’re put here to love and to learn from each other — I hope that my journey will be of some use to you, and I trust that your stories and comments will help me grow as well. Welcome!

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