Peace and Plenty


Lately, it has become fashionable to lament the ills of the world and to moan and groan about coming catastrophes.  The climate will change, civilization will crumble, the present is rapidly decaying and the future is to be a savage howling wasteland.  If you park in front of a television, you must soon believe it all and be afraid to venture outside.  Armageddon is where the money is, and for many religions always has been.

But I trust my senses, and appreciate the present, and look at a world of blessings.  For this is a time of peace and plenty, at least in my own corner and in many others.  I do not worry about my next meal.  I do not expect barbarians to rush over the hills any day, raping and pillaging and destroying all I know.  The worst enemy for many of those I know is boredom, their greatest fear not making enough money to buy even more stuff to cache into their bloated lives.  For a simple person, the world winds on fat and beautiful and calm.

This is one of those gloriously luminous misty days that is probably a (warmer) variation on the constant climate of Ireland.  Every green glows impossibly bright, and although there is no sun there is a whisper that sunglasses might be a good idea.  All the harsh edges of the world are blended into pastel harmony.

Although we can embrace all kinds of weather for it’s novelty, some is obviously more likeable than others.   A heavy downpour such as we had yesterday, or humid temperatures in the nineties, or a blizzard are more endurance struggles than cheerful experience.  As a childlike persona who hates monotony, however, I find the constant change a wonderful surprise each morning.

Microclimates again.  All around us it is ten degrees warmer, brighter, drier.  Here mist and fog and cold breeze off the chilled waters.  Visually superb, but not what we expect for summer except maybe in San Francisco.  The contrast of the glowing sky, dark silhouettes of foliage, radiant leaves and dissolving background is worth taking time to actually stare into.

Well, that’s always true, of course.  We live in a rush-rush world, and our eyes are always focused on the prize down the road rather than the splendor all around us.  As you get older, the prize down the road seems a lot less desirable.

A quick glance would seem to reveal a pastoral land, scarcely populated except by local rustics, who will soon herd their sheep onto the meadow.  A hundred years or so ago that might even have been true.  But here it is all a false picture _ Long Island is as heavily populated per square mile as Bangladesh.  There’s a little more room per actual living space, but only because we don’t grow any of our own food.

The land look
s healthy, and sounds fine with birds.  Yet snakes and most other reptiles have been banished, insects are thin, the bats have died off.  People _ ah, people are everywhere.  I worry that this may be what the whole planet has come to be _ looking fine on the surface, but with an ecosystem made extremely shallow and in deep distress.  Ah, well, this morning looks beautiful, anyway.


An unexpected weed with beautiful flower can be a delight, showing that all our asphalt and concrete and weed-killing chemicals have not yet prevailed everywhere.  How long this state of affairs can continue I don’t know _ possibly in the future the only weeds and non OGM crops will be found in botanic gardens and greenhouses.  More or less fortunately, I won’t be around to find out.

Older people think they have become wise and have learned a perspective on the world.  But that perspective is not as flawless as they like to think, and it is flavored by what they knew and came to expect as normal.  Human experience has been rapidly changing everywhere for millennia, and will continue to do so.  If there are ever any old people anywhere, they will be telling the young how the modern world is going to hell.

Sometimes, Coindre Hall looks like a real chateau.  Of course, in France itself, many of the chateaus are less than real _ built in the twentieth century, reconstructed from absolute flattened ruin, restored in the last ten years _ so the whole notion of “real” is slippery.  Anyway, here we have an out of place “grand maison” on the Gold Coast of Long Island, pretty much languishing away because the county is not sure what to do with it. But on a misty day like this, with the Korean dogwoods in bloom, it is a vision of a wider world.

Now, some would have us tear down as much as we can, return this all to “native” status.  We have people marching around here with petitions all the time.  I find that natural state (which is never returned to prehistoric status, filled with invasive species of plants and animals) is far less useful to me than buildings, lawns, ornamental trees, and roadways.   I continue to believe a mature civilization should concentrate on a balance of nature and human, mixed, not inseparable, doing justice somehow to each.

Old ways remain useful.  This clammer in a dinghy might as well be paddling on the Yangtze river in the Song dynasty.  He’s bringing in a few bushels of freshly hand-dredged clams in plastic mesh bags.  Hopefully, they all came from unpolluted waters, for enforcement around here is haphazard.  Soon enough they will be available in markets all over.

No, he is modern enough.  This is simply the ferry from the motorboat to the shore.  Like me, he uses muscles in the old ways to do traditional things, but within a framework of modernity _ electricity, internal combustion engines, plastic.  We should not really give up one or the other completely, simply find a way to make them compatible and symbiotic.   Like this scene.







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