Up on Hawthorn Hill
It has been quite some time since my last essay appeared in these pages. It is nice to be back where it all started. My first FJ essays appeared under the heading of “The Timely Writer” and after a while it changed to “Hawthorn Hill Journal.” That made a lot of sense, since so much of what I write is nurtured by an ongoing and quite intimate relationship with this gently sloping hillside we call home.
I ended most of my essays with a sort of thank-you note to my beloved sheltie, Gabby. And that is the case here so many years after her passing. The days are few that do not find me stopping by her memorial tree, sometimes sharing a thought aloud, other times just cherishing one of our many wonderful moments together over the course of her sixteen-year life.
For this first essay, I will share some random thoughts. Some having to do with Hawthorn Hill and others concerned with social and cultural trends casting a pall over our land. I am an optimist by nature. And while I see dark clouds above, it is my view that light is always more powerful than darkness and that we will square ourself with ourselves at some point down the line. We have no choice.
I am concerned that the memes and pithy phases that have evolved, especially over the last four or five years, to both describe AND divide us, are doing us a profound disservice. We talk about ‘tribalism’ as if it were a new thing. It is not. It has always been with us and probably always will be. As I see it, the key is to celebrate difference and respect and protect its right to exist. We are an ethnically, racially and ideologically varied stewpot of people. But we tend more and more these days to cloak ourselves within the restrictive boundaries of identity language that if anything pulls us further and further apart. As far as I am concerned, and this may not be popular, we define and describe ourselves by a multitude of hyphenated terms that undermine the very reconciliations we claim to be working towards. Despite our varied differences we have a profound reality in common: our humanity.
We ought to devote far more time and energy to cultivating our common ground.
I have always been wary of hidebound certainty. And over the course of these pandemic months, with lots of time to read and think about things, the ideological (and moral) certainty exhibited by each side has caused me to rethink just what it means to believe in something, anything. A day does not go by that I do not question the validity of an idea, the consequences of an action, ostensibly for the benefit of all, or the worthiness of a particular policy or program. The complex relationship between individual and state is always rife with complexities. Finding a workable balance is tough and hard work. The other side is not always wrong or bad. Our salvation as a nation requires shrinking from such behavior.
Up here on the hill, after forsaking us for two years, the bluebirds are raising their young, as are the tree swallows. The first bluebird sighting of the year never fails to lift my spirits. I am easy to please. Give me a few good bird sightings while sitting on the deck sipping dark roast coffee and I am in heaven.
Otherwise, the gardens are in, filled to the brim with potential bounty, all despite my claims of cutting back and continually complaining about a weakening back, as well as a periodically waning zeal for all that it takes to accomplish these self-imposed tasks. I put up a fence earlier this spring, planted two dwarf pear trees against it, and now I am fascinated by the whole espalier thing. Perhaps a small vineyard is next. If Gabby were here, I suspect that those fathomless sable eyes would express an understanding that the self-destructive and venomous selfishness that characterizes our relations with one another simply have to stop.