I was looking uphill from our living room window this morning when a red tailed hawk landed on the very top of the huge Monterey pine at the crest of the hill. Three large ravens hastily exited the tree and, after a moment to regroup, began dive-bombing the hawk. I got out the binoculars and watched. The hawk sat stolidly on his perch, unfazed by swooping black bomber birds, only drawing in his head a bit when they got too close. Every now and then the ravens would fly to a nearby pine and rest a bit, then resume formation and begin again. It went on for about ten minutes. Finally, during one of the ravens’ rest periods, the hawk flew leisurely away, still king of the urban forest. Life is not easy for ravens and other living things.
Especially clear reading the morning paper, full of news of the expanding war in Gaza, the continuing war in Syria, UN airstrikes in the Congo, widespread anti-austerity protests in Greece, France, and Belgium and general strikes in Spain and Portugal, floods and homelessness and hunger in Haiti, destroyed neighborhoods in New York–and that’s one morning’s news in one newspaper. Some days, the world seems to have only drone-filled skies and teargas spreading through the streets. War, crime, crisis and disaster sell papers, and they have plenty to choose from.
I’m in a bleak mood this week, worried about the world we live in, the impact it’s having on people I know and those I don’t, the terrible poverty and deprivation for so many, the increasing hardship of daily life for the great majority of people. Ah, distinctly I remember / it was in the bleak December / and each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor… (Poe, “The Raven”). Except it’s November, but never mind, it’s rushing right along.
I spoke with a friend in Brooklyn a few days ago. She has major disabilities, difficulty walking, her life made so much harder by the multitude of buses she now must take to get to medical appointments. “Haven’t they fixed the subways yet?” I asked. “Most subway stations in New York have no elevators,” she said, “and I get too tired hauling my walker up those long stairways.” Just leaving the house is a challenge for her, trying to get her walker down three flights of stairs from the tiny apartment she shares with her daughter and son-in-law. There’s no money to find a better place, little subsidized housing available, more pressure on it with the thousands made newly homeless by Hurricane Sandy.
If you judge a society by how well it takes care of its neediest citizens, ours is certainly lacking. The emphasis on individualism and competition, perhaps. Every man for himself. Sink or swim. Nice guys finish last. What’s first, I wonder? I guess it depends on whether the goal is getting rich or being part of a caring community where every person counts.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?