Yesterday and the day before: was there ever a worse weekend in America?
1. Over 100 million people in 30 states are trapped under a heat dome that has been baking them at 115 degrees for the past 15-20 days. It got so bad here on Long Island at Top Cat Manor that for the first time in the eight years that I’ve been hanging out in this 100-year old house, we turned on the dining room air conditioner (the only unit in the place) and have spent the last two nights sleeping 10 feet from its heavenly refrigerated breeze. (It only goes on at 11pm, and goes off at 3am. I am not going to have the extinction of the polar bear on my conscience.)
2. Our quality of life, having been on a slow skid for the past generation, is heading for its final demise while our elected representatives debate over the best way to totally destroy it: by defaulting on our debt? By bankrolling the oil industry? By making sure that every millionaire gets his pick of private plane? By shoveling money into a broken social welfare system? By turning us into an economy and a culture that is only good for fighting unwinnable wars under the guise of protecting an American way of life that is rigged from the get-go?
3. The local water supply, according to a notice we got from the municipality, is not fit for consumption. We are advised us to boil our water unless, that is, we want to drink a good dose of human crap in our iced tea.
4. A man from the most peacable nation on Earth decided he has the right, as male-type humans tend to take for granted, to take out his piddling rage at the tide of history by killing 92 innocent countrymen.
5. A gifted young artist with all the accolades and success that thousands of her peers will never come close to achieving decides to throw her life away at age 27 — a choice that 80 teenagers from Norway will never get the chance to not make. Not to mention the thousands of young men and women in the US armed forces who are sweltering after the measly economic opportunities that active duty offers, some of whom (it’s certain) will never get the chance to lay eyes on 27.
I was sitting on my patio, having my morning tea in the numbingly still, threateningly warm air. It was 86 degrees at 7:30 am and I was already exhausted by the weather, the news, and the future.
If it weren’t for the fact that one of my outdoor cats had got into a feud with the rest of the pack, I would probably still be sitting there in my misery. But Dudley was menacing Bibs, who was lording over the breakfast buffet that morning, and I had to go chase Mr. Duds down and get him away from the battleground and serve him a bowl of kibble under the rhododendron tree.
That’s where I found my sanity.
Do you see it?
That’s because it’s a tiny bit camouflaged, lying in wait (being aerodynamically designed to land up-side down). Raisons d’etre tend to fall into your life that way.
Let me turn it over for you:
It’s a Blue Jay tail feather, the center tail feather — the one around which the bird’s symmetry is arrayed.
No scientist would have the nerve to invent such a thing, the way its form and pattern meshes so effortlessly.
No artist would dare invent such a color, a cool steel-blue that shimmers hot turquoise like a flash of lightning.
This is the kind of miracle that you only get in nature, as a gift, just for paying attention,on this planet that seems determined to kill itself with sorrow.
In the quantity of joy this Blue Jay feather brought me on the morning that I found it under the rhododendron tree, this little little occasion of beauty and surprise, the world was redeemed. At least for the day. Well, at least for the rest of the morning.
Dudley did OK, too; he got breakfast, and nosed around with me under the rhododendron tree, and pushed his head through a cobweb.
It stuck on his forehead, and last I checked, he was still ignoring it. (Cobweb? What cobweb?)
Update as of 11:35: I just checked up on Duds and his face is back to normal. I just checked up on myself, and I’m celebrating with all the New Yorkers who are celebrating Marriage Equality on its first day as law! Over 675 weddings all over the state – because when it comes to the human need to find one special person to share your life’s ups and down with, we are all birds of the same feather!
PS. Carol Gillott, who writes the lovely blog called Paris Breakfasts, is taking a watercolor class in Maine this month and posting her lessons at www.parisbreakfasts.com. Check it out to watch real painters at work – or just to gaze longingly at people who are so chilly IN JULY that they have to wear SWEATERS.