The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meets in London this week. Members haven’t been in agreement on a number of important topics for many years. The discomfort of disagreement is elevated in the current world leaders gathering.
Most of my adult life the U.S. has been at war. Men and women in camel fatigues drive next to us on the way to work. They shop at Target, pick up lunch at fast food places. Their kids play in our neighborhood. Their parents look for support from those who understand because the U.S. doesn’t feel like a country fighting a real war. Most of us don’t worry about our kids because they are wearing the U.S. uniform in a foreign land, or fighting the daily battles of post-traumatic stress or physical pain when they are among us.
For two years I have been working with another writer on a book project about an amazing Marine platoon that came into existence in the Pacific Theater in 1944. 40 Thieves on Saipan rose from the letters, photos, papers and hours of interviews with survivors of that platoon. My father was on a Navy ship involved in the clean up of the battle of Saipan. Thirty-five to forty thousand men, women and children lost their lives during roughly three weeks of fighting.
How do you tell a mother that her son was decapitated in front of you asks one nineteen year old Marine in 40 Thieves? Who pulls the trigger to end a buddy’s agony as the enemy torments his bullet-ridden body with a machine gun? How can the smell of a battlefield be described?
Queen Anne’s Lace plants too late to blossom wave dried pods in meadows and along roads. More Goldenrod become dull amid remaining greenery. Creeping vine leaves are tinged with brown, exposing dead their host trees and stubs to the elements. An occasional Monarch butterfly flutters where hundreds gathered. Picked of most of its fruit, the last viable tree in the orchard offers rotting pears to squirrels and deer. Birds form back into flocks after months of carefree exploration
In a week the garden changed from generous colorful blossoms to petals dotted with brown specks, stalks of poppies, empty rose stems, leaves without flowers. Too tall decorative grasses or plants tower over shriveled annuals in pots around the porch. Acorns drop with abrupt, gently violent, sounds. Mushrooms claim their day of show.
Farmers markets offer piles of kale, squash, boxes of potatoes, onions and carrots. Remaining tomatoes have fewer days to be used atop store bought lettuce or spinach. Apples replace cherries, blueberries, raspberries. Pumpkins appear piled on wagons.
Summer left the land dragging with it a sense of promise and surplus. Fall took over acting all pragmatic, a combination of awesome color-splotched trees and clearing the earth of produce that can be preserved for the months when nothing will grow. When icy tree branches and drifted snow will be called nature’s beauty.
If the increasing numbers of mass shootings, domestic killings, urban murders, accidental tragedies, or individuals using a gun to end their lives were happening elsewhere, we might suggest these were signs of war. There might a call to send troops and support civilians dying in the cross fire.
Instead we work and raise our children and care for those more vulnerable in communities we can only hope are safe that day. Our elected leaders accept money from the ever powerful lobbyists of the gun world. Because too many politicians like the money and power, there is denial that a domestic war exists.
You and I can never raise the money these politicians–both men and women–require to change their minds or rhetoric about assault rifles. My brother and uncles never needed military grade firearms to hunt grouse or deer. There are an estimated fifteen million military-style rifles in civilian hands. Mass shootings are difficult to accept as part of the price of protecting some individuals’ personal freedom to own what they want.
There is another statistic that is difficult to accept–about sixty percent of gun-related deaths are suicides. Stop and consider the heaviness of that fact. Significant experts tie the flood of illegal drugs including opioids with the astounding number of guns in our country to violence and rising suicide numbers.
Some say it is too late to work our way out of this gun tsunami. Giving up on a safer future for our children and grandchildren because of facing difficult decisions and an angry minority today doesn’t feel American. It feels reasonable if a person wants a traditional rifle or handgun and can prove they have received valid training in safe handling of that weapon. That was how the US once lived. A country where people can own multiple weapons capable of mass shootings and stockpiled ammunition sounds like a nation where the body count will continue to rise. A country engaged in a passive aggressive sort of domestic war.
For the past five years I relied on individual health insurance plans with high deductibles. A minor, in-office surgical procedure cost about $2,300 including lab work. I paid all the cost out of my pocket. The annual physical was covered as preventative care except I asked a couple of questions and those were coded as diagnostic and resulted in billings that I paid. In 2017 it appeared that each question was worth about $130.
This year I am in a more generous healthcare insurance setting and was cautious about asking questions at the annual physical. The explanation of benefits arrived this afternoon with a cool $1,042 charge. Holy cow! I’m not responsible for paying that amount, but am blown away that just the physician component could be so costly. Lab fees haven’t been posted yet. We’re talking five minutes of rooming by a CNA and about twenty minutes of physician time in a regular clinic setting. No technology or specialty care.
When your doctor tells you what immunizations need updating and suggests you go to the drugstore or a drop in clinic because they charge about half of what the medical practice will bill, that’s uncomfortable.
Have leaders in the healthcare world lost connection to reality? What percent of annual after tax income should an individual, or family, be expected to commit to basic healthcare?
The integrated healthcare delivery systems that grew out of giant mergers and acquisitions of physician groups were supposed to provide improved quality with greater efficiency. I worked in that sector during the first decade of consolidation. The thousand dollar physical suggests the experiment didn’t work.
When the building’s cool interior is a haven, a group of seven-year-olds act like adorable bunnies and a fourteen-year-old belts out “It’s a Privilege to Pee”,it has to be Urinetownin a summer children’s theater program. All those satirized themes about the legal system, capitalism, social irresponsibility, corporate greed and politics are chiseled down by kids to jokes about a pay toilet, decorating with toilet paper and empty paper rolls painted with slogans about pee and keeping the earth healthy.
We can’t blame the situation on global warming alone. Populations are expanding dramatically which drives the demand for water. Regions in the United States have been fighting for years over access to water sources like the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River or the Colorado River watersheds. Manufacturers want unlimited and cheap water setting jobs today against conservation. Farmers don’t want their fertilizing and animal feeding processes limited. Other interests fight for irrigation to grow grass, flowers, home vegetable gardens. Water sports enthusiasts don’t want restrictions on swimming pools or boating.
There’s no easy answer to matching endless demand for a limited natural resource. There’s no competent governing body watching out for the future beyond their elected terms.
Officer Lockstock’s closing monologue predicts that access to remaining water without carefully thought out restrictions brought only doom to the town when the fragile river became diminished and polluted. I hope Mark Hollmann’s play has the storyline wrong.
Writers need readers. Simple enough. I’ve taken advantage of Facebook to boost postings and engage with new readers. I blog, both on my website and with other writers and bring links about those posts to Facebook. But I have become cautious about posting anything but easy thoughts on my website (email@example.com).
All who have reacted in a civil manner to postings or photos are greatly appreciated. The hatemongers and brutes on Facebook are another experience. Respectful disagreement appears to have disappeared into rambling, often vulgar, statements that not only disagree but also add opinions about the supposed personality of the writer. While blog responses can be prescreened, not so on Facebook.
I began my writing career as a journalist. People disagreed with editorial content and called or wrote letters. We also had a few cranky folks who would show up at the office. They weren’t fond of conversation, were more prone to raise their voice to tell you their thoughts, maybe with a few vulgarities, even pound on a desk. Sometimes we’d call a family member to help us out, a time or two we called the police. In general, people owned their opinions with names and addresses on letters or by talking face to face. We didn’t deal with people hiding behind threatening screen names. We never expected to be harmed, stalked, or killed.
It is a different time. While holding the right to free speech dearly, I am perplexed about how to deal with the verbally abusive responders. At this point I hide their comments. I hear from others that this is part of today’s communication and just not pay attention to what is ugly. Unfortunately I can’t forget.
What’s your experience and do you have any advice?
Under my desk a hardbound copy of Ken Follett’s Edge of Eternity acts as the perfect footrest. The first two volumes of The Century Trilogy were placed in the hands of other readers, but the Edge of Eternity replaced Bill Clinton’s My Life when a friend asked for that biography.
Jodi Picoult dominated one of the seven shelves of books in my office until some of her titles were rotated to guest rooms or the basement bookcase. Phillipa Gregory had been sent to my mother-in-law to be shared among her Indiana reading group.
Some authors are like Facebook friends who post about a puppy, a grandchild, a new writing project, a spectacular vacation then disappear for months. I trust a short list of these writers with my time and attention without a lot more expectations. When they have a new release I’ll invest in the real thing, a hardcover or paperback, not an e-book. If I’m disappointed I’ll give them another chance to regain their favorite reads position. And if one of them passes, I feel sad that their voice is gone.
At this time of the year when purging season is high I admit that books by these three have been shuffled into a bag for recycling at The Peninsula Bookman. Peter Sloma has customers who look for these popular names. It’s a fair trade. I get store credit to shop and my books go home with happy readers.
Except for Edge of Eternity, which is just the right height for when I’m sitting up straight and working on my own writing. It might be time for Fall of Giants to give up its shelf space, but not its nice hardbound friend under my feet.
What could be more fun than holiday gift or winter reading shopping at event featuring 30 local authors chosen by librarians and readers? Please come join us at the Local Author Fair 2017 on Saturday, November 18, noon to 4 p.m. at the Galaxie Library in Apple Valley, MN.
Laurie Hertzel, book journalist and editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, is the keynote speaker. The Loft Literary Center will conduct two free workshops.
On a sunny, genuine Door County fall morning the house is filled with six writers on retreat. Outside trees are rustling in a definite breeze while inside the furnace and the dog provide the noise. It is a wonderful gift to be surrounded by writers and given two solid days to work.
Everyone in this group is in a committed relationship and our spouses or partners are supportive of our creative work. But here we can indulge in a twenty-minute discussion of word count without feeling kind of dorky. And we can be supportive of a writer who is so eager to finish a work that he started before six this morning. Sitting right in the middle of people making coffee, getting a little breakfast, watching an amazing sunrise, he kept his fingers on the keys and his eyes on the screen as the words flowed. Awesome.
There is a smooth energy under the quiet like the subtle chocolate hints in Door County Brewing’s Polka King Porter. One or two of those were consumed last night while watching The Packers beat the Bears. That’s rowdy behavior for a mature group of creative introverts.
I’ve put Inky aside this morning to concentrate on a final review of a short story bound for competition. In the arts rejection is the norm and one came in via email as I began working. A handful of successful writers I consider mentors have told me that they do over one hundred submissions a quarter for a handful of published stories. My counts are puny on that scale.
Today or tomorrow I’ll begin working my novel’s revision plan. Wednesday I shared the work’s graphic and background information produced in the first days of work to a person interested in starting his first novel. Being a part of Write On, Door County has opened the gates for these kind of discussions at the most unexpected times.
This is community. Six writers working on an unknown number of stories in the parts of a house made for this kind of gathering.
The Autumn Equinox began in Door County with high temperatures. One month ago eighty-five degrees would have lured us to a beach, a farmers’ market, a family outing. Sunday I carried cold water and a first draft of the new book to the deck and began reading and making notes. Revision launched.
I like my protagonist. A new working title is needed, but her name is fine. With that done there is no reason to delete subtle references that generated the existing title. A new working title is brewing.
The read through is going well and the next steps are coming into vision. By end of today clean manuscript needs to be produced with prior revisions inserted, a few sections moved and basic fixes handled like correcting names or locations. When that is done, a twenty-word blurb about why this book is important is the next key assignment.
Heading back to the deck. As the last day of heat makes work outside possible that is where I’ll be. What’s the big deal about working outside? For many years I felt tethered to my desk. I couldn’t write without music, without a footrest, without a whole lot of false comforts. It’s great to be beyond that set of restrictions.
Leaves are falling, the breeze is increasing and wasps come out in the afternoon. No time to goof off. Four days remaining in solo time.