Frost on the Windowpane

Little Round Top, Gettysburg National Military Park, (c) 2017 Elizabeth Maginnis — Warm Weather is my Reward for a Harsh Winter!

It’s been a while since we’ve had weather as dangerously cold as this. The past two winters were mild and not terribly snowy, enabling me to walk around outdoors in sneakers most of the time. I hardly needed my boots. I got spoiled.

Saturday night, we drove home from a party in heavy snow which, as anyone who lives in the Great Lakes region knows well, is a haphazard occurrence depending on where you happen to be in any given moment. We call it “zip code snow.”

A deep, bitter air mass settled in along with the snow. No one walks their dogs in this weather. My own dogs stay outside just as long as necessary, usually for a couple of minutes and they’re ready to come in. Their winter coats keep away the cold only for a short while before they start to shiver in place.

Despite this, I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. This is home. Winter lasts but a few months. Sure, it seems like forever, but we are rewarded with beautiful spring times at the end of it all.

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If Pets Were in Charge of the World

Peabody Maginnis; (c) 2009, Patrick Maginnis

My husband and I have lived with dogs and cats for close to 30 years. Not just one, mind you, but several at the same time. We are suckers for a sad face.

Pets carefully guard their own territories. (Sound familiar?) Of course, having more than one pet in the house presents opportunities for personality clashes and territorial infringements. A hiss or a growl, or the occasional snapping of teeth in the general vicinity of the offender, usually resolves the issue. There, all done. Conflict over. Time to go back to more pressing matters like fur licking or bird watching.

Humans may not want to admit it, but we interact just like animals. There is your alpha human who has to be the big cheese in any situation. Men often fight over females. Females dress themselves to attract males. You can always tell who’s looking for a mate. And we certainly do protest loudly when someone challenges our territorial rights. So, why don’t we settle our differences by hissing and growling at our adversaries? The loudest and more dominant group wins, period, then everyone goes about their business.

How about we hiss at North Korea and see if they hiss back? Maybe swat at each other across a negotiating table with claws extended. Then we could all have a good laugh and go home. Better than a game of one-upmanship with nuclear weapons.

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Harvey Reveals the Best in Us

Witness Trees

Witness Trees, Gettysburg National Military Park, (c) 2017 Elizabeth A. Maginnis

What it all boils down to is this: Racial and tribal politics mean nothing in the face of human suffering. In the face of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation. Twice this week, I’ve seen photographs on my Facebook feed of white helping black, black helping white out of harm’s way during the days-long deluge. Did Vice President Pence care whether his photo op clean-up efforts helped a Democrat or a Republican? I’d like to think he did not.

We’re all people. We all need each other. The outpouring of compassion for Harvey’s victims powerfully demonstrates what love can do.

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Nothing Will Change if Good People Lose Hope

Little Round Top, Gettysburg National Military Park, August 2017 (c) 2017 Elizabeth A. Maginnis

I’ve stayed silent all these months because the heart went out of me. I lost interest in writing. What difference would it make, I told myself. I can watch MSNBC all day, every day, and nothing will change. Trump will still be president, the GOP will sit on its hands, grateful for the chance at power. But what has the past seven months cost us?

I wanted to help, to add my voice to the masses protesting with their feet and their words. But I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. I started to lose hope, to hide in my corner while things got worse.

I can distance myself for only so long. As the courageous Amy Siskind reminds us every day, we cannot normalize Trump’s behavior. We cannot allow ourselves to accept even the slightest aberration, because he is slowly, carefully consolidating his power. It’s egregious to me that he pardoned Sheriff Joe last night while most of the country’s attention was distracted by the unfortunate shiny object that is Hurricane Harvey. He took advantage of our common horror and empathy to poke his fleshy finger in the eye of our judiciary. Congratulations, 45. You’ve passed Autocracy 101.

Even if my words disappear into the ether of madness that floats above our country, I will speak up, loudly. The pen is mightier than the sword, so they say. I plan to test that theory. That vile, disgusting pig of a man cannot twist the Constitution to suit his purposes. Neither can his base. He’s not going to reinvent us as the Nazi States of America. Good people cannot lose hope. They cannot stop fighting.

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Just Breathe

For a moment, just breathe. Let’s think.

Oh, Saturday’s women’s marches captivated me. Inspired me to action and to hope that we don’t need to settle for the next four years. I am old enough to remember the Nixon years, his paranoia and instability. He, too, believed that he could get away with anything. Time will tell what our 45th president tries to slip past the American people. Once caught, he’ll blame the media for excessive scrutiny and biased reporting. You know that’s coming.

I will be following the lawsuit filed this morning in federal court, the one that alleges that Trump violates the Constitution by maintaining certain of his business ties. I’m sure I won’t be alone in this. I will also follow his actions toward the environment, education, and health care. I’m sure I won’t be the only one. Strong, organized, and stridently vocal resistance to unjust policy changes will (I hope) grab Trump’s attention. If we keep at it, he may even react. If we convince him that his approval numbers will rise and history will better remember him if he listens to the people, playing to his narcissism could work in our favor.

But first we need to step back from this weekend and take a breath. Decide on our next step, the one that will get the best result. Knee jerk reactions are better left to the president.

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Democracy No Longer

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Visitor Center, (c) 2015 Elizabeth A. Maginnis

America can no longer call itself a democracy with the rise of Trumpism. Ours is a government by and for the wealthy. If working people figured anywhere in the equation, our Fearless Leader-Elect would have appointed men and women with more modest bank accounts to his cabinet. As it stands, the titans of finance and industry he nominated wouldn’t know the first thing about living paycheck to paycheck, like the rest of the country does.

Steven Mnuchin particularly troubles me. What honest, caring servant of the people evicts a widow for a less-than-$1.00 shortfall in a mortgage payment or locks out a homeowner in the midst of a Midwestern blizzard? I worked the legal end of the New York State mortgage foreclosure process for over twenty years and know an honest lender when I see one. OneWest does not fall under that category. The egregious foreclosure misconduct of OneWest, the bank he led as CEO from 2009 to 2015, violated every law of decency in the name of greed. It flagrantly ignored notice and waiting period statutes and backdated loan documents, all during the tenure of the chucklehead Trump has chosen to head his Treasury Department.

If Mnuchin couldn’t be bothered to show concern for the very people he and his ilk victimized with the bad mortgages that triggered the Great Recession, how are we to believe he will have the best interests of the country’s finances at heart? Isn’t this a little like the fox taking charge of the henhouse?

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Climate Change is my Standing Rock

Abandoned post office building, Kelso, California, August 2016, (c) 2016 Elizabeth A. Maginnis

The inspirational Eve Marko posted in her blog the other day about the origin of the term Standing Rock, which got me wondering about the nature of my own personal Standing Rock. What is mine? What is the one truth, the one cause, from which I will not yield?

The answer, for me, is climate change. And the preservation of our planet. If we do not heed the warning signs Mother Earth is sending us, she will someday become as dry and dusty and useless as this abandoned post office building that I encountered in the Mojave Desert last summer. This is our only home, people! Believe the science!

Trump’s selection of Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator alarms me. Together, the two of them could turn back the clock and negate all the progress we’ve made. Just listen to all the good people tirelessly advocating for our future. Regulations keep rampant environmental destruction in check. They serve the greater good!

This country has become a plutocracy decimating everyone and everything opposed to its agenda of profit and gain. It’s the common man’s nightmare come true, for who will listen to us? Who will hear our small voices crying out for a leg up, a patch of earth to call our own, a chance to succeed? Land of Opportunity no longer.

I will speak out as often as I can in support of Mother Earth, for whatever my words are worth. I will send my positive thoughts and energy out to land where it will, for the greater good — and fervently hope that others do the same.

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I Have to Be the Change I Want to See in the World

Ivanpah Road, Mojave National Preserve, (c) 2016 Elizabeth A. Maginnis

As this week’s events at The Ohio State University unfolded on my television screen, my thoughts turned to the time when my young granddaughters enter college, in the not-so-distant future. Run Hide Fight. Excellent preparation, as it turns out, but it’s also hard for me not to despair that college life requires education in survival techniques.

However, I will not lament and hash over the years I was in college, when all we worried about was bad weed. The sun came up this morning (as it did the day after Donald Trump became our President-elect). I am trying mindfulness to keep myself focused on what’s in front of me, good thoughts, good energy. Despair does me no good. If I send good thoughts out to the Universe, maybe they will have a ripple effect. Is this how I can make an impact on the world?

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From Women’s Rights National Historical Park, (c) 2016 Elizabeth A. Maginnis

Yesterday, for the first time, I voted for a woman for president. We are silent no longer. Our struggle for equal rights has come to this. Thank you, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Thank you, Susan B. Anthony. I hope our future actions do you proud. I am only sorry that the electorate chose a pompous bombast over progress.

Despite my sadness over the election results, I am heartened by the thousands of people who peacefully waited to pay their respects to Susan B. Anthony yesterday. I am proud to say that I am a native and lifelong resident of this wonderful city that helped launch the suffragette movement. The images that appeared on my evening news broadcast will stay with me forever. There is hope. There are decent people out there.

I have my work cut out for me. I will take heart in Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s words:

“We do not expect our path will be strewn with the flowers of popular applause, but over the thorns of bigotry and prejudice will be our way, and on our banners will beat the dark storm-clouds of opposition from those who have entrenched themselves behind the stormy bulwarks of custom and authority, and who have fortified their position by every means, holy and unholy.”

-Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Address Delivered at Seneca Falls” (1848)

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I Found my Park

Joshua Tree National Park, August 19, 2016, copyright 2016 Elizabeth A. Maginnis

The National Parks Service has been encouraging the country to “Find Your Park” in this, its 100th anniversary year. My husband found his park several years ago. He loves Death Valley National Park so much that we set aside our own Death Valley Day whenever we visit Las Vegas. Feeling a bit left out, I suggested that this trip we set aside another day for Joshua Tree National Park, which I’ve wanted to see since I laid eyes on my first Joshua Tree some years ago.

It was with no small level of anticipation that I awoke the morning of our adventure. It takes roughly four hours to drive from Las Vegas to Joshua Tree if you take the diagonal route through the Mojave National Preserve, which is a visual treat in itself. Miles and miles of undulating roadway past creosote bushes and Joshua Trees, jagged mountains in the distance. A few abandoned rail yards and old buildings along the way reminded us that this area once thrived. I especially enjoyed passing through the town of Kelso, California, with its old rail cars and abandoned post office.

Many miles of starkly captivating desert scenery later (including a short jog through Amboy, CA, on Route 66) we arrived in the village of Joshua Tree, the funky, artsy capital of the Morongo Basin. I bought a cup of coffee and some beans to take home from the Joshua Tree Coffee Company. Between it and the park entrance, we drove through one of the most unusual, yet visually appealing, residential areas I’ve ever seen: small desert houses plunked down on semicircular hardpan streets in hodgepodge fashion, sloping gradually upward along the side of a hill to the park entrance.

The park is the coolest place on the planet, so far as I’m concerned. Otherworldly Joshua Trees, branches raised heavenward, and massive, odd rock formations that resemble clay pieces left behind by giants eons ago: I felt like a wide-eyed child watching the scenery pass by from the air conditioned comfort of our rental. (The wall of heat that greeted me every time I opened the door got to be a bit much, I confess. I took photographs from inside the car.)

It speaks to me, this place. It tugs and lifts my spirits like none other, perhaps for no other reason than its simplicity. It’s Mother Earth at her most elemental. As time goes on, I find that it’s the untouched landscapes that call to me. Artificial, man made wonders cannot compare to the masterpieces created by unseen natural forces. Fortunately for us and for future generations, the U.S. government has seen fit to preserve these masterpieces.

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