Hello Ryiad, Rabat, Barbastro, Jerusalem, Teheran, Mega, Rouen, Lisbon and Pawpaw! It is rainy and cool in little Macondo by the Potomac. Roses, irises, oriental poppies, spirea and sweet rocket are blooming, asparagus is ready to harvest and it is time to plant more strawberries. I am about to have a slice of freshly baked corn cheese bread and a cup of espresso. How about you? I am assuming that you also have breakfast, wherever you live and I hope that you have plenty to feed yourself and your family, plus a few extra pennies to blow on books, a box of chocolate, flowers, a bottle of good wine, music, movies, and whatever you like and your religious beliefs permit. Out there, in the big world of realpolitik, things are not so pretty. People are killing each other in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Darfur, and Sri Lanka, among other places.

I suspect that some of you might think that killing is not such a bad thing. Some of you might believe that you go boom-boom and you fly straight up to where your seventy virgins await you. That is your thing. I confess that I do not understand it. It is not that I am that terribly afraid of dying. I just happen to have seen enough death to gather that it is dadblasted final. Besides, there a few features this side of paradise that I would like to enjoy a little longer.
Being on the sunny side of sixty, I belong to a group whose peers seem to be departing life all too often. Two of mine died within the lat couple of months. A couple of days ago I helped bury a good friend. Actually, some of us who love her scattered her ashes in the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, below Harpers Ferry. It was a sunny afternoon. The sky was as clear as the best aquamarine. Gold flecks shone on the cool river water and and on the hills, the old trees had the achingly beautiful green of new saplings. A gentle breeze turne the surface of the water to a froth of lace. A Pawlonia tree showered us with it royal blue flowers.
After we had scattered ashes and roses into the river, a pair of wild ducks made its leisurely way to the shore. A swallowtail butterfly, old quaint old buildings of the town seemed to huddle together arund gardens where e pink clematis yellow roses bloomed. In the hour long trip home we saw more wildlife than we usually see in a week. Baby turtles sunned themselves on a log on the Potomac. A trio of groundogs played in the grass. Deer watched us from the woods. A great blue heron fed in the shallows. Mourning doves sang in the wheat fields. All about us there were reminders that in the midst of death there is unquenchable life.
I think that you out there in Rabat, Teheran, Rouen, Jerusalem, and I, in this little town in West Virginia are good neighbours. We have more in common than you imagine. We hve known love, loss and we have learnt to carry our burden of grief with dignity. We know that some of that grief could have been avoided if only we could have chosen wise leaders. As it is, we have to do goes on when our best as individuals. We cannot determine the results of the talks between Obama and Netanyahu. We cannot prevail upon Ahmadinejad to stop rattling his nucler saber and bringing the world closer to complete disaster. We cannot stop floods in Brazil, nor keep the swine flu from spreading globally. What we can do is to respect each other. Life is short. We can do nothing better than to honor our shared humanity and tend the seeds of peace as carefully we tend our gardens.

Matchstick mum

Autumn woods

This is what a cord of wood looks like.

Sometimes this endlessly toxic campaign is too much with us. Every day, as we turn on the television or open the paper, a flood of scurrilous rumours and tendentious stories wash over us, threatening to drown us. At this point, there is some consolation in knowing that of the candidates remains unsullied by the opposition’s relentless attacks on his honor, his patriotism, his religion, his national origin, his skin color. We want more than consolation, Perhaps foolishly, we want all presidential candidates to be people of honor. We want them to inspire us and to appeal to the best in us. This is too big a job for one person. The ugliness of the fabrications, the brutal attacks on the body politic brings us close to despair. At such times, it helps to put the whole hideous mess out of mind and turn to the kind of October surprise that reassures us that there is more to life than politics.
This afternoon, we took a break to stack a cord of wood or wood guy, one of the few local people who have to keep the Mountaineer accent and courtly manner of rural West Virginians alive amid the urban hordes. He drives a battered truck that has Bluetooth, he accepts three kinds of credit cards, and he is voting for Obama–so much for the myth of barefoot, moonshine slurping, racist mountain folk. He gives us great service. The wood he brings us is mostly reclaimed fence posts. Some of the trees he cuts are so damaged by insects they cannot be used for much else besides than firewood. He cuts them precisely so that the logs will fit into our Norwegian wood stove and he takes pride in telling us which kind of trees they came from. This time around, he brought us mostly oak logs, which we stacked as neatly as we know how, being urban folks ourselves. It was hard work, make bearable by the buttery autumn light that bounced off wild cherry and sugar maple trees. We piled the logs on a space where bergamot grows. Crushed bergamot leaves have a heavenly citrusy smell and this is what we will remember from this afternoon, as we will remember the last roses blooming in the garden and the unsurpassed beauty of chrysanthemus glowing in the light of setting sun. Not bad for an October surprise.

I have news for the Republicans–this election is not about gender or race. This election is about serious issues that affect the average American, such as the Petco clerk with whom I talked in Charles Town, WV. She will vote for the person who will seen to it that her mother, who has cancer, will have adequate health insurance coverage. It is that simple. I asked her if she had watched the debates and added that Obama’s own mother had died of cancer and that he recalls that she spent the last month of her life struggling with insurance problems.
Republicans are desperate to change the focus of the election. The drag in myths about Obama’s supposed association with terrorists, they make up stories and distort the truth, claiming that Obama is a Muslim, a traitor, a drug user, and what happens? Obama is up wight points in the state of West Virginia. Republicans should take a lesson from that. We are a proud people. We dislike being condescended and lied to. We know Obama is not a Muslim, not a terrorist, not a druggie. We resent it that Republicans are trying to use the race card instead of zeroing in the real problems we are face, such as the failing economy. We hate the divisiveness Republicans such as Sarah Palin are trying to bring about with their incendiary remarks and their barely covert racism. We are not idiots. We can read the subtext of the hateful messages Mcain, Palin and his followers wish to cram down our throats. We reject that hatred, we reject divisiveness. We shall not be moved by hate mongering and lies. Mountaineer are always free.