June 15, 2002

Journal du jour

A weekend feature of more or less random journal entries from the past four years....in lieu of fresh writing:

Slipping into the glove of the summer equinox, a low-rider house reminds me of the houses on Capri, or those squat against the Florida sun with the brine smell of the near-ocean...then comes the clean smell of the laundry detergent at the Estero Laundrymat, proof that even in Paradise they have to clean clothes…

Meandered past houses that shone in the escaping natural light with preternaturally clipped grasses that soothe and relax, as order always does. Death, taxes, and Perot’s short-clipped never-out-of-place hair. The grass does not extrude an inch upon the sidewalk - are their lives so orderded or is this compensation for disordered lives? I’d love a lawn and garden worthy of such meditation, but too often the time spent meditating on its glory is a small fraction of the time spent accomplishing that condition.

After a few sundry raindrops, I continued for a visit to Ohio Village. A bit farther back in time I went, first the 1940s era exhibit inside the Historical society, followed by an outside visit to the old buildings and a patriotic speeches by guys dressed in period clothes. A horse-drawn carriage came by a very fast rate of speed and and I idly imagined the headlines if lawsuits weren't the issue:

Pedestrian Killed by Horse-drawn Carriage at Historical Society
A pedestrian-horse accident claimed the life of a visitor yesterday, according to an Ohio Historical society representative.

“We like to keep things exactly as they were in 1862, and back then if you were in the way, you got yourself run over,” said the Historical director. “They didn’t molly-coddle you back then. And he isn’t the first one you know.”

The Society has recently come under fire for the accidental lynching of a young black man.

Man has been divided for the millenium over questions that have perplexed the wise – how should we govern ourselves (politics) and what is truth (religion). Politics and religion. Religion and politics. Walker Percy once wrote "It crossed my mind that people at war have the same need of each other. What would a passionate liberal or conservative do without the other?"

With religion, differences have been made of hairsplitting distinction causing liberal Baptists to scorn their conservative Baptist neighbor. And now to this panoply of divisive issues we can add one more, one of hairsplitting (or at least hairwetting) dimensions: rain. To rain or not to rain is the question, but just don’t ask it in front of a mother and daughter with a combined age of an impressive 155 years. It has been said that into each life a little rain must fall, and into their lives this damp, discordant subject has reared its dripping head.

Yes, to that long grey line of controversies such as “how many angels can fit on a pin?” and “how does trickle-down economics work?”, we add “how much rain is too much rain?”. My mother and grandma are absolutists on the subject, and therein lies the problem. No rain is too much for Grandma, no number of sunny days too many for Mom. They have reached an impasse.

A short look of how man has evolved may illumine this touchy subject. Over most of the past 20,000 years, rain was considered so important it was deemed a god and sacrificed to. It became so because it was so intimately connected to the livliehood of the first agriculturalists, farmers if you will. Rain meant crops would grow, drought mean crops would die. Theoretically a lack of sun could also cause crops to die, but the sun never seemed to be a problem. However, for the millions of years prior to the first agriculturalists rain was a nuisance, making it more difficult to find and catch prey. We see the two groups still today - Mom is a hunter/gatherer on the subject, and Grandma an early agriculturalist.

Mom showed her hunter/gatherer tendencies early. For most of the early 1970s she sang to her children songs like, “rain, rain, go away, come back some other day!”. That sounded a bit disingenuous to our young ears, for if truth be told there didn’t seem a day she did want it to come back.

Grandma, on the other hand, comes from a long line of farmers going back to west Ireland. She lived on a farm, and through a depression, and rain was like money except it couldn’t be stored. Her parents sang and composed pro-rain ditties like, “Rain, rain why can’t it rain?” and the classic “Let that be a rain cloud and not a dust cloud”.

Ireland, you see, is the land of milk and honey, if by milk you mean rain and by honey you mean rain. The Irish have learned to deal with the unrelenting rain over the centuries by drinking a lot. An awful lot. They developed one of the smoothest whiskey’s (Jameson) and one of the best ales (Guinness). They’ve never invented much else, and that should tell you something about a rainy climate. But I’m not here to insert my admittedly sunny-day bias. I can have an opinion and not let it affect my reporting, for this is a no-spin zone. I report, you decide.

Alas we see that the roots for a great conflict were sown. Just as the pro-slave South went on its merry way during the antebellum period while the North became increasingly abolitionist, so did Grandma and Mom become even more fixed in their beliefs: that rain was intolerable and that sunny days were tragic.

What is the solution? A civil war? No! Perhaps as simple as avoiding the subject.

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