Always a New Crossroad

This photo is from Ocean City. I like the crossroad of land and sky and water. There’s an old couple who struggled together up the dune to look. They, too, are at a crossroad. I like to┬áimagine they have come to the ocean for years on vacation and played in the surf. Now they stand and remember.

I’ve often stood at a crossroad. Usually, it reads STOP on the side I can see, but the destination, written on the reverse in ink fated to remain invisible for an unknown span of time, is hidden. I stop, reconfigure, and head off somewhere, not knowing where or why I’m going, trusting I’ll eventually understand.

Social Evolution vs. Political Revolution

For the past few weeks, the concepts of evolution, as in social evolution vs. revolution have occupied my mind. It appears to be on many people’s minds, unconsciously if not in those exact words, this American political season.

Bernie Sanders calls for revolution; Hillary Clinton for evolution. Trump calls for revolution, Marco Rubio, evolution.

Social evolution comes into “Big History...and emphasizes long-term trends and processes rather than history making…” says Wikki.

Revolution, on the other hand, suggests radical changes, sometimes with violence, sometimes not. Now! Well, maybe sometimes not is overstating. For the most part, political revolution in its radical-ness is noisy in one way or another.

And there’s always a backlash to revolution. In the American Revolution, the leaders had to acquiesce to the Southern states regarding slavery. Which led to the Civil War. Which we’ve not yet recovered from and put behind us as a nation.

I was part of the 60s Revolution and protested against war, for civil rights, and for women’s rights. We made a lot of noise. In 1968, the Beatles sang:

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world….

We want a revolution…Now! …. yeah. I remember all that.

And then there was the backlash: Martin Luther King assassinated, riots, more hangings or burnings in the South. The war ended and Vietnamese refugees poured into the country and were segregated and hated. A woman’s right to choice was slowly, state by state, curtailed, and equality in pay is still a dream. Now the United States is an ally of Vietnam, politically and economically, and the U.S. has moved on to bigger wars in the Middle East; abortion rights are once more heading to the Supreme Court, and voting rights are being constrained and into the courts.

Gay rights is more in the social evolution camp. Yes, there were loud leaders, and the war against AIDS was fierce. Nancy Regan came out in support of gay rights and convinced her husband. But then, he had a gay son. Gay rights were close to home. Now, marriage equality is in the law.

Smoking pot was pretty common in those 60s years and many smoked openly and grew two or three pot plants in converted gallon milk jugs in a sunny window. And then Ronald and Nancy came along with the War on Drugs, drugs went underground and cultivation into other countries, and we ended up with cocaine and heroin and home-made crack and drug wars–and money, big money–now, slowly, legalization of marijuana.

That’s an example of revolution leading to evolution.

Revolutions are usually bottom-up, not top-down. In a New York Times editorial, the editor writes, “Ilya Sheyman, the executive director of…is confident that movements like Occupy Wall Street, the Fight for $15 minimum -wage campaign, and Black Lives Matter will eventually propel young progressives into elective office.”

Those are “movements”–or one could say, “revolutions”–that will propel young people into the fields where they can make changes on the state and local level and eventually national. That takes time. That’s revolution into evolution.

Seth Godin, a blogger I follow, writes, “As soon as self-awareness kicks in, it’s possible to be more discerning about what you believe and why.”

Revolution was more attractive to me when I was younger and impatient for change. Now that I’ve seen changes, many changes in my lifetime, and way too much war, I am more patient.

Evolution doesn’t go backwards–once you grow an elbow, you’ve got an elbow–but I’m not so sure about revolution. It seems to take a huge leap only to back up to evolve.

I guess what I’d like is a social evolution. Something lasting as befitting the human condition of growth and evolution. I’d rather not have to wait the millions of years it takes to grow an elbow, but maybe, just maybe in my lifetime, it will arrive.



Maybe Mud, Not Stone

This is a little how I feel today. Easier to say what I’m not doing. Like today. I’m not revising. The memoir. Now sitting at a whopping ninety-some thousand words, gone over and gone over and revised and revised, and not done.

Exercise doesn’t even interest me.

Today I feel stuck. We could, perhaps, blame it on the dark of the moon which always tends to drain my energy, or on ennui–one of those great words which we so seldom have a chance to use–and which is more than likely partly true, although not true of the story.

In the memoir, I’m constantly doing.

If this memoir were not a labor of love, or labour, the British spelling, which, one hopes, makes it more respectable, elevated even, to work hard; make great effort, perhaps I would have tossed it. Or maybe not. There’s a “bull-headed”–as my dad used to say–quality about me that rarely allows me to stop once started.

Ursula Le Quin cheered me some. I am not granite and should not be taken for it. I am not flint or diamond or any of that great hard stuff. If I am stone, I am some kind of shoddy crumbly stuff like sandstone or serpentine, or maybe schist.

Or not even stone but clay, or not even clay but mud.


A Piece of Texas

Well. It’s Tuesday of the first week of going back to work. I worked on comments for a friend’s piece of writing and revised maybe two pages on the manuscript. Mostly I seem to be catching up on email and exercise. This afternoon, in the writing room, I’ve been doing all sorts of things to avoid the open screen. The revision task ahead seems daunting. I’m not sure I even know how to write anymore.

So I’ll tell you about a Christmas present: Django and Jimmie.

courtesy Wikki
courtesy Wikki

Now. You may not believe such a present would make me so happy, but it revives scenes and people of my life in Texas.

The first time I saw Willy was the winter of 1976 with my friend Cynthia in Austin. We went to some smokey club, I don’t remember the name, but big enough yet small enough for a full crowd. A Texas couple, complete with big hat and big hair, invited us to their table. Willy was already big in Texas. He was also living hard in those days and often late to appear and often high. But he sang his heart out. The most memorable part of the evening came after, however, when the Texas man invited us to his office, an oil man it appeared. He had matching chairs out of huge Texas Longhair black and white hide, horns for armrests and horns across the high chair backs. Cynthia was always better at charming small talk than I, and we finally escaped but not before the Texas Oilman gave us each a ten-inch high oil rig painted gold.

The next time I met Willy was on the set of Honeysuckle Rose in 1979 when I worked as an extra in a barroom music scene. As shooting a film goes, the extras and musicians and Willy did several shots. Same song, different takes. Same enthusiasm, same clapping. We were there most of an afternoon (movie making not as glamorous as it seems –re: Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant.) At any rate, the shoot over, the crowd filed out by a side door. Willy was out there, smoking a cigarette, saying thanks as people walked out. I stopped, told him I’d seen him in ’76 when he’d won my heart. He leaned in and kissed me.

My friend Jessica says I should get a lapel pin that says I Got Kissed by Willie Nelson.

It’s Texas mostly I remember when I listen to Willy Nelson. It’s where I learned to dance the two-step, earned my union card in Screen Actors Guild, learned to be a bartender at the Rio Club–another smokey funky bar that ran to blues and country. Austin is where I knew Cynthia who has since died. She was a big part of my Texas life, and in my wanderings, I’d get to Austin between destinations whenever I could. The Texas years ran through our early to late-thirties, with a two-year break when I was in Germany.

I taught my Baltimore City husband the two-step with this new album. He, who could not abide country music when I met him, has become a fan of the Texas sound and he can finally feel the two-step in his body. It helps that Don Henley of The Eagles has just put out a new roots music album. Henley’s roots are Texas. For years, listening to the Eagles, I’d say, “But that’s country! Listen.” His response, “That’s not country; that’s the Eagles,” has now become a familiar laughing line.

So thank you for traveling with me as I remember how to write again. It’s only a piece of Texas, but it’s a big piece.