Prairie Home Crapanion

Here’s our exciting life.  We went to the dentist.  Out-of-pocket bites!  (See what I did there?)

Then we went to the voter registration place because of a troubling matter that could disenfranchise E, even though all the paperwork has been in order for over a year.  Thanks, trump.  We cleared that up (we think).

Then we visited our friend Ron’s antique shop in town, and caught up.  So much gaiety.

Then we ate at the lame excuse that passes for an Italian restaurant around here (think chef boyardee–it’s very sad).  When I think of all the awesome Italian joints in NY/NJ, PA, MD, and basically everywhere else, I don’t get what part of Italian they don’t get in Ohio.  People here settle for any old slop.  I guess I’m just spoiled by normal food.

Then it started to thunder, and as we arrived home, there was this deafening BOOM right near us, like a huge explosion, with repercussions…never heard anything like it.  It was unearthly.  But we’re still here.

Man, this place is unnerving at times.

Here is a tropical hibiscus flower in the rain.

 

Zen Maintenance

To expand upon my thoughts on paring down…after you get over the initial shock of being reduced to bare necessities, there’s a certain sense of, well, not exactly liberation, but–lightness.

I won’t lie, it’s not fun to have to decide between dental work, car maintenance, basic healthcare, food, and other essential expenses, and just hope that nothing goes terribly wrong in the meantime.  But there’s a weird kind of freedom in keeping it simple and cheap, and peeling back the layers of what you thought you needed to survive.

For example, I used to have a savings buffer for periodic major expenses that might come up, like dental, auto, insurance, quarterly taxes, travel, holiday gifts for the family, etc.  Now, we have to anticipate and save for costs months ahead, and/or sacrifice nonessential ones.  It teaches you self-discipline and keeps you honest.

We’re not in a position to pay large expenses in cash up front, but we don’t incur much debt either.  We only use credit cards to build and maintain our credit scores, in order to eventually qualify for a home loan, and pay the balance in full each month.  We are consistently strict about setting aside a percent of our meager income in savings to that end.  It’s not easy, but we’re still better off than many Americans.

Insecurity can take various forms, such as binge-eating, or frivolous shopping.  I used to indulge in some.  It was a temporary fix, not a solution.  Without that option, I’ve had to learn to be content with less, and make it work.  It forces you to think more resourcefully and creatively.

When I think of the horrible life of early American settlers on the frontier, how unprepared they were for the life they chose, and at what cost we’ve “progressed” to this current American lifestyle, I feel both fortunate and disturbed.  Native Americans had a much more civilized approach to the world around them, living in harmony with the natural world and taking no more than they needed. They perfected the art of living simply and using resources wisely and sustainably.  Greed and envy weren’t even a concept for them.

We can’t go back, nor should we, but we can learn to take less from our environment, and make the most of what we have.  Having not much choice in the matter does facilitate a radical change in attitude and behavior.  Would I prefer having more options, hell yeah!  But not having them forces me to focus on what’s important and essential.  The rest, you can’t take with you anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life In the Kroger Class, or, When Life Gives You Onions…

Living a spartan existence in a cultural desert like this does not lend itself to deep or stimulating posts, but I try to derive some meaning from even the insignificant, mediocre things I can experience here.  If nothing else, working class Ohio on a budget has been… educational!

I moved here directly from the more progressive and educated east coast.  I shopped at Whole Foods (for my mother) every single week.  I helped with the local farmer’s market, and provided my mother with a healthy kosher (i.e. more expensive) diet.  Almost everyone I knew was educated, world-savvy, and liberal-minded.  I got to know people from all over the world, and most people spoke several languages.  A high percentage of people were professionals who commuted to and from NYC.  Nice homes were beautifully landscaped and maintained by armies of contractors, and there were huge trees everywhere.  I myself had had to quit my job in another state to caregive on a low income, but I was still surrounded by privilege, and unconsciously spoiled by it.

Then I came here to the midwest, and the rest is history.  Culture shock on every level!  It’s hard to convey the challenging process of being gradually reduced by circumstances to extreme basics.  At first, we occasionally splurged and bought a few things at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, or at one of the nicer Krogers in more affluent neighborhoods.  But eventually we had to settle for the tiny basic Kroger in this redneck working class town, and even then limit spending to necessities.

Don’t look down your nose until you try living on a retired fixed low income.  On my own, I’d be screwed.  It really opens your eyes to reality.  And then you realize you’re one of the fortunate ones, who can afford to eat and pay bills at all.  Once in a while, we can even eat out at a casual eatery, or buy a few trinkets or gifts.  Mostly we struggle to put back whatever we can after rent and necessary expenses, so as to eventually be able to move out of here and buy a small place of our own.  There is no buffer between us and unforeseen setbacks.  It’s a shaky balancing act.

But please don’t think I’m asking for pity.  My point is actually the opposite.  This paring down process may have been uncomfortable, but yet essential for transitioning from my old mindset to an entirely different life.  It’s so minimalist that I’ve begun to appreciate every little trifle that I used to take for granted.

If I get to mow the lawn or cut some flowers or veggies I grew, it’s a big event.  If I exchange pleasantries with the simple but friendly employees I’ve gotten to know at local businesses, I appreciate the human contact.  Accomplishing a healthy balanced meal from whatever staples we have on hand is a creative challenge.  Editing and publishing wildlife photos I’ve taken at local parks, though very amateur, gives me a sense of connection to the limited nature we have access to.  Having all this time on my hands provides an opportunity to work on my writing, however simplistic and superficial the topics.  Just some examples of making the most of an austere situation.

You may be thinking, must be nice to be retired and have all that time on my hands!  Be careful what you envy!  Life can be hard on either side of that divide, when you’re poor and restricted in what you can do.  I’m fortunate just to still have most of my wits about me (a few wits got misplaced somewhere), relative health for now, and shared incomes so I don’t find myself homeless, a very real possibility.  Killing time waiting for circumstances to allow you to proceed with your life is a bitch.  I don’t recommend it.

But I have to admit, I’ve learned a lot about real life on the Kroger side of the tracks.  Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

 

 

 

 

Dreams

I keep having these apocalyptic dreams wherein many people are being hunted down and killed, and there’s no way out.  Is it just me, or are others having more nightmares lately?

I’ve always been prone to end-of-the-world/nazi nightmares because of my background, but between the disturbing political turn-of-events, and more personal anxiety, these nightly disturbances seem to be more frequent.

From talking to people online in our anticipated future state, it’s clear those of a more progressive leaning are experiencing growing anxiety and fear in dealing with their less-openminded conservative neighbors.  The phobic net seems to be expanding outward to affect more minority communities, until no one is immune or safe.

It’s sad when so many people feel they have to hide under the radar and not engage in normal interactions, for fear of persecution.  When you’re afraid to patronize a business, or use a bathroom, or practice your traditions, or just walk down the street while being not white, there is something seriously sick and regressive in our democracy.  Likewise if you can’t access basic healthcare or services.

It’s a disease that our poor excuse for leadership is encouraging.  It’s a collective dumbing-down of society.  It’s no wonder intelligent people are apprehensive, and feel more like an alien minority.

Extreme troubled times can also bring out the best in human nature, and bring disparate minorities together in mutual support and activism.  I’m seeing more of this trend as well in certain red states.  Some good can come out of turbulent change.  Maybe that’s the only time humans realize just how low we can fall.  We have to be scared out of our lethargy and apathy.

Most of us just want to live in peace, with or without our neighbors.  We only get one life, to use or waste as we please.  So many people around us seem to squander it on nonsense.  There’s enough senseless animosity and injustice in the world to go around, without manufacturing more of it for kicks.

I don’t dream big, or much at all, other than nightmares, but I hope I live to see us wake up from this bad dream, and not to WW3.

 

 

Queen of the Prairie and Other Wonders

There is nothing quite as lovely as tall clouds of ethereal pink queen-of-the-prairie spread out across a wetland field.  Today at the fen we also saw lots of delicate pink swamp milkweed which attract monarchs and other beneficial insects, joe pye-weed just starting to bloom, lavender wild bergamot, bright yellow cinquefoil, pink wild roses, and many other wildflowers.  We even spotted some large turtles sunning themselves by the stream.  Big frogs were a-belching as we passed.

 

Daily Science

Albert Einstein wrote the following in response to a sixth-grade girl who asked, do scientists pray?

“Scientific research is based on the idea that everything that takes place is determined by laws of nature, and therefore this holds for the actions of people. For this reason, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, i.e. by a wish addressed to a supernatural being. However, it must be admitted that our actual knowledge of these laws is only imperfect and fragmentary, so that, actually, the belief in the existence of basic all-embracing laws in nature also rests on a sort of faith. All the same this faith has been largely justified so far by the success of scientific research. But, on the other hand, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe—a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.”[42] (Wiki)

That’s your erev thought of the day.

Cosmic Brain Fart

I noticed I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t write or post yesterday.  Could there be a cosmic collective overload on certain days, where it’s just too much for everyone?  Yesterday must have been one of those days.  Probably Jungian or something.

Not that today is much better, but I thought I owe it to my loyal readership of 2.1 to be consistent, and keep to my resolve, so here I am, FWIW.  I wish I could find some good news to report, but every day brings a fresh load of shitstorms from the WH, if that were possible.  The best thing I’ve seen lately is Andy Serkis as Gollum reading trump tweets to Colbert!  A perfect rendition of that addled nutcase known as the “president”.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, we’re just biding our time, trying to stay sane, hoping our little hopes.  Maybe that’s all anyone really does, bottom line.  Somewhere out there, plants are enjoying all this rain, so that’s something.  My vegetative brain can relate.

I wish I had more to share, to raise spirits.  The truth is, there is a lot to be discouraged about in the world right now.  It feels like a Black Mirror marathon that you can’t get away from, it’s so surreal and disturbing.  I envy people whose illusions haven’t been shattered yet, in some parallel world.

But as I’m realizing more lately, nothing is a given or guaranteed.  Even if you bust your ass for it, pay your dues, vote, advocate, fight, dream, whatever, in the end it’s still a random, arbitrary universe.  A privileged few have the power and call the shots, whether they deserve it or earn the right or not.  May they get their justice.  I still hold onto a weak faith in karma, as illogical as it may seem.  There have to be some consequences for such evil and corruption.  Maybe I still have a shred of idealism left.

As for us mere mortals, we’re still alive, and get to live another day, hoping that all our efforts won’t be undermined once again.  Having a lofty purpose or vision for your life is a privilege of the more fortunate–I hope you’re one of them.   But when you become disillusioned, you find the little things like breathing, surviving, mundane pleasures, and small hopes are not to be taken lightly or for granted.  If you find a fellow human to experience them with, it’s more than many people find.

Each of us has to work out our own life as best we can, with as much integrity and humility as we can muster.  Comparing yourself to others’ so-called successes and coming up short will only hurt you and discourage you.  Regrets will kill you–take it from one who knows!

Each day you wake up again is a chance to re-evaluate and start again.  It may be from scratch, but you have to start somewhere.  Some days (most days for me!) you won’t know what the hell you’re still doing here or supposed to be doing– that’s called being human.  You’re fooling yourself (or braindead) if you don’t sometimes question and challenge yourself.  But you can’t let it drive you crazy (like I do)!  Sometimes you just have to do your best under the circumstances, and keep going.  You don’t have to like it.

This is me being “optimistic”.  It’s as good as it gets right now.  Mostly I’m talking to myself.  It’s a kind of therapy, like gardening (before the hillbillies from hell took that small pleasure away).  But if it happens to amuse or console someone else out there, all the better.  My evil plan is working.

 

 

 

 

 

Mindless

OMG is the American public so stupid and gullible that they can live with this BS?!?  What kind of Borg assimilation mind control are we in thrall to?  It unbelievable.  No other admin could ever get away with all this corruption.  We’re all f***ed.  That’s all I can say, it’s so insane.

In lieu of words, here are flowers.

 

Creature Comforts

Everyone has their default comfort settings, when they’re feeling insecure.  Ours seem to be the Fen,  the Tavern, and certain shops in YS.  People there are friendly and more progressive.  It’s like an oasis of calm in a chaotic storm.

Literal thunderstorms were threatening as we enjoyed all the summer natives starting to bloom in the wetlands, like swamp milkweed, queen of the prairie, wild roses, and others.  You could see the rain squall line forming as we headed out of the Fen just before the rain.

 

We found “our girl” sitting out the weather inside our favorite little shop of period clothing/jewelry/etc.  We visited with the cool lady in the art supply store.  Our old black cat Mister Eko was camped out asleep on his favorite sofa in the bookstore, as usual.

We ourselves camped out in the Tavern with some local craft beers, and hung out with our favorite wait girl.

When you’re a stranger in a strange land, it sometimes helps to find an alien-friendly refuge.