10 October 2008

Sturm und Drang

I always know that fall has finally arrived here in the Northern California mountains when my Dr. Bronner's liquid soap turns from clear to cream-colored. Means the indoor temperature has dropped to 55 degrees – or below.

And indeed, that's what I found when I got into a hot shower this morning.

You'd think I'd know from the signs everyone else in the country goes by: cooler temperatures, the leaves turning fall colors on the trees, flocks of Canada geese headed south, the bloody calendar.

But here in California, even at 3,200 feet above sea level, these things take a little longer to happen. I've known the temp to break over 95 degrees in mid-October. I don't usually make my first woodstove fire until November, after waiting a few weeks to be sure that it's going to be chilly enough all day that the heat from the stove won't force us, sweating and swearing, out of the house by the mid-afternoon. Instead, Mr. Wren and I just break out the warmer clothes. Shirts with long sleeves, maybe sweatpants. My favorite warm, fuzzy socks on my feet, slipped snug into my wool slippers. Nice. See, since turning over the half-century-mark in my personal lifetime calendar, I get cold feet. Up 'til then, you could catch me barefooted or in sandals almost year-round.

But today, I know autumn is here. When I reached through the billows of steam in the shower for the Dr. Bronner's Lavender Soap, it was that milky color, rather than the clear amber I've grown used to seeing since, oh, around March. This pleases me, though my fingers are freezing.

I choose my shower soap according to my mood. It was sweet, feminine and flowery this morning. Tomorrow, though, I might choose the peppermint soap, as my mood will still be sweet but sharp, with a bit of burn and zing tossed in.

Or is that Sturm und Drang? Certainly, in the world outside my little house, the words "storm and stress" are a good way to describe the general mood. In politics, the McCain/Palin campaign continues to rile the crowds that come to see them speak, using words against their opponents Obama and Biden that turn crowds into mindless mobs. That a man that was once seen as honorable would use these tactics in a desperate bid for power is not only disgusting, it's frightening.

In other news, it seems that the American – and indeed the world's – economy is collapsing. Everyday people like you and me aren't just losing their homes or closing their eyes when the groceries are rung up now; they're losing their life savings. They're losing the money they hoped to retire on one day. Suddenly, next year's vacation isn't possible. Perhaps there will never be another vacation, period. Instead of looking forward to a time when we might finally relax and put our feet up after working hard for 45 years or more, we'll just have to keep on working. And many of us won't be able to. There might not be jobs. We might be physically unable. This is all frightening, too.

I know I have a Pollyanna-ish tendency to look for the bright side in everything. It's part of my nature, something I just can't seem to control. I stay calm when things turn chaotic. I look for the way over, under, or around obstacles. I compromise. I do my best to live by the Golden Rule, and I hope that the other people I encounter will do the same.

And I hope to be able to continue living that way, in spite of everything. I know we've got some hard – very hard – times ahead. We'll have to change a lot about the way we live now. We'll have to rethink what's important to us, and try our best to reach a helping hand out to those who are even less fortunate than we are. All my life, I've been told that this is what Americans do. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I believe we'll do it again, which is why I'm planning to vote for Obama. His philosophy rings true to me, and if it's idealistic, so be it.

We've seen what unfettered power, greed, and dispassion toward others brings to all of us. It seems autumn has arrived. And the winter will be long and hard. But like all people, all over the world, from time out of mind, we'll set our hopes on the spring and summer. They'll come. They always do.


Bill Stankus said...

The comfort Americans generally enjoy has been addicting... so much so that consumer desires have influenced Federal foreign policy. In order to keep US citizens happy there's been the steady progression of cheaper goods and more and more foreign oil.

To keep that addiction going, the military was used as a persuader - all the "small" wars since Reagan have been about positioning American presence and thus becoming outposts of Pax America.

President Carter in 1979 attempted to warn about an upcoming energy crisis and an over-dependence on foreign oil, and he was belittled for thinking such thoughts. Reagan told everyone Carter’s words were nonsense and that we could have it all - thus the beginning of a new foreign policy era. Reagan spent lavishly on a fancy new military, begging to be used, and he created a mega deficit. Unfortunately we are now seeing and living in the consequences of unchecked consumerism.

The problem is systemic - McCain is simply a product of the Reagan-Bush continuum and if he’s elected I suspect our woes will get a blanket tossed over them ... he will juke and jive with economic plans that do not go to the cause.. he will do the Reagan-Bush thing of blaming other countries and then do all the wrong things as we have seen during the past years.

All of us have to rethink how we want to live during the next decade or two. Will it be more of the go-go consumerism or will it be the old adage, ‘less is more’.

Wren said...

Both my nature and my meager pocketbook make me tend toward the "less is more" philosophy in life, Bill.

You're right about what brought this mess on. And I know it's going to be tough to give up the luxuries I'm used to, including good ol' Dr. Bronner's. I'm doing my best to prepare mentally and set aside a few of my dreams. At least, for the foreseeable future.

Ah, well. I've lived on a shoestring many times in my life. Now I'll adapt and learn to live on half of one.

Thanks for the commment.

Lucy said...

Although I'm not in the lovely California mountains, here in Ohio (please higher power, let us be a blue state this time), I'm also enjoying the seasonal fluctuations. I start the day in boots, middle in sandals, boots again by night.

As for the world outside--I've been on personal news blackout since the last debate. I've long since made my voting decision. I too embrace Obama's idealism... that's just how I roll, and I'm pretty sure I'm too old to change.

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