Japanese Painted Fern (athyrium niponicum variety picum)
There are three of these ferns in my garden. They come out in the Spring and die back in the Fall every year at exactly the same time. They are clockwork. Some gardeners call them the “Tried and True Plant”. They sell out quickly in nurseries.
This Memorial Day weekend the trials and tribulations of war veterans are very much on our minds. On Memorial Day we commemorate the soldiers that have fought in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and the wars following World War I. Our history lessons have clearly underlined the patriotic importance of the Revolutionary War. We know that the Civil War was fought to free the slaves, although we are also aware there were economic reasons for this war as well. There are World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and some I have forgotten such as the Spanish American and Mexican American wars. We are certainly not at a loss for wars. Each war took place for a reason. Hardly anyone questions the justification for World War II or better known as the “Good War”. In contrast, the Vietnam War is a blemish on the records of the American history books. We don’t really understand the reason we were even there, but there must have been one. It was a brutal war, as they all are, and young men were subjected to horrible methods of guerrilla warfare in the jungles, for which they were totally unprepared. To make matters worse our veterans returned home and were hardly recognized for their service. When they got off the boats or planes there were no salutes, no fanfare.
Getting back to our Latin foes, I wonder how many teachers and students know in our schools today why the Spanish American and Mexican American Wars were fought. It’s hard to believe the United States had a war against Spain. That’s incredible! Good old Spain! How could we possibly have fought a war with Spain? From what I understand we were helping the Cubans get independence. At the same time it was a convenient way for the United States to buy Puerto Rico from Spain after the war. A purchase we would soon live to regret. No one imagined the Puerto Ricans would flood Manhattan and the Bronx causing more racial tensions and social and tax problems for white American citizens. Then there is the Mexican American War, justified or unjustified, depending on which side of the Rio Grande you stand, or the “Wall” so gallantly built by the Bush Administration. Today we have a war in Iraq and Afghanistan, a war against the Taliban. These are wars in which we are no longer fighting against one country but against terrorists spread out all over the world. Every night on the “News Hour” they flash the young men and women who have lost their lives in Afghanistan. The numbers just keep growing while the reasons are less and less clear.
As I look back in time I really doubt if the benefits reaped from these wars outweigh the loss of lives. How we can morally accept the black and white point of view taken on the fatalities of war? When it is an American life it is tragic, and yes, indeed it is! Yet when it is the life of the enemy, it is O.K, because without the loss of life of the enemy we would not win the war. For the soldier it is a matter of life or death. As Baumer, the main character of All Quiet on the Western Front says; “It is not against men that we fling our bombs…when Death is hunting us down. ‘we can destroy and kill, to save ourselves, and to be revenged’. Baumer clearly shows how the black and white view is a fallacy when he talks about the French and German soldiers: “almost all of us are simple folk. And in France too, the majority of men are labourers, workmen, or poor clerks. Now just why would a French blacksmith or a French shoemaker want to attack us? No it is merely the rulers.” To which his friend Tjaden asks: “Then what exactly is the war for?” This is really truly the question? Why do we have all these wars? If war has been inevitable, then maybe on Memorial Day we should be remembering the fallen young people who lost their youth and their lives all over the world throughout time, be they Japanese, German, Spanish, Mexican, Vietnamese, Afghan, Iraqi, and yes, I hesitate to say it, a Taliban soldier. If we remember the injustices of war, on both sides, and all the lives that have been lost, maybe we will find a way to put an end to the madness.
Everyone wants to know about love. What is love? Why aren’t we loved? Why do we fall in love and how can that person possibly love him or her? Why didn’t I come first? These are questions, which Chekhov raises in his story “About Love”. “About Love”, is an alluring story within a story by Anton Chekhov. On a wet rainy evening, when all there is to do is tell stories, Ivan Ivanich and Burkin gather together and listen to their friend, Alekhin, the country farmer, tell about the time he fell in love. Alekhin describes how he befriended Luganovich, an important, well-to-do gentleman, and his wife Anna of the village Sofino. The first time he is invited to their home for dinner Alekhin is impressed by the grace, beauty and intellect of Anna who is 22 years old and has one child by her husband. That summer while working on his farm, the memory of Anna remains etched on his mind. After the summer Alekhin returns to the married couple’s home and subtly informs Anna that she has made a profound impression on him. Her feelings are mutual. Alekhin returns many times to the home and becomes close friends with Anna and her husband. The couple is so faithful to their friend, that they give him many presents. When Alekhin’s estate is not producing and he goes further and further into debt, the couple even offers him loans to lift his financial burden. As time passes Anna continues to bear the children of her husband while her and Alekhin’s love for each other deepens. There is no demonstrative show of their love, however they do attend the theater together on a regular basis. Sitting beside each other at the theater and sharing the ‘opera glass’ are the only forms of physical closeness they have with each other. Naturally the coming and going to the theater attracts the wonder of the public and it becomes so usual that everyone in the village probably knows deep down what is going on. A few years go by in this way. Alekhin and Anna, although satisfied to spend time together, are very unhappy that the pressures of society prevent them from being openly in love. In there own way they become melancholic. In their mutual silence, they know that they cannot have each other completely. Anna becomes progressively distraught and saddened knowing she has lived a married life to someone she does not love. She unfortunately acquires an illness, which forces her to go to a place to be taken care of. Her husband and children also move out of the home and the entire family leaves the village. After everyone has said good-bye, Anna is in the compartment alone waiting for the train to leave. Alekhin sees she has left a package behind, so he picks it up, goes to her on the train, and gives it to her. They are both very sad because they know it is the last time they will see each other. Chekhov, through Alekhin, questions “How love is born”. “So far only one incontestable truth has been uttered about love: ‘This is a great mystery.’” Alekhin regrets while parting ways with Anna all that has prevented them from loving: He thinks to himself, “ I understood that when you love you must either in your reasonings about that love, start from what is highest, from what is more important than happiness or unhappiness, sin or virtue in their accepted meaning, or you must not reason at all.” Chekhov, in his mastery for description of complex human relationships, poses questions in 1898, which continue to perplex us 100 plus years later in the 21st century. Love and happiness are two aspects of life he explores. As we search for answers about love, Alekhin says: “Everything else that has been written or said about love is not a conclusion, but only a statement of questions which have remained unanswered.” I believe, if one has ever been secretly or openly in love, in one way or another, that this story will bring tears to their eyes.
Martha and Esther were out for a drive and decided to visit my mom today. Martha and I grew up together, sometimes we were like sisters. She had no idea I would be there so it was quadruple surprise for everyone. We both came from big families and our mom’s, Mary and Esther would take turns watching us. The memories we share run very deep.
“The lie which exalts us is dearer than a thousand sober truths.” Pushkin
This quote comes from Anton Chekhov’s short story, ‘Gooseberries’. The narrator, Ivan Ivanich tells the reader that he finds that the gooseberries he tries at his brother’s dining table, at his newly acquired estate, taste sour. Nonetheless, his brother’s dream to grow gooseberries has come true! Ivan comments, “And he ate them greedily, repeating over and over again: ” ‘Simply delicious! You try them!’ “They were hard and sour, but, as Pushkin says: “The lie which exalts us is dearer than a thousand sober truths.
Thank you friends for taking the time to look at my blog. Since I am on vacation visiting my mother in the Upper Midwest, I thought I would spend the day thinking about happiness and unhappiness. Not much else to do in this tiny town. Anyway, I’ve decided I am a pretty happy person, and if anything rubs me the wrong way, well, I usually get over it pretty fast. Clearly, life is too short to muddle our minds with unhappiness.
So in the sweltering heat, in Gotham City, where Solitude is taken for granted, I continued to read and edit my dad’s World War II diary in its digital form. We managed to help my mom find the originals, which after rummaging around in closets and cabinets, were neatly hidden under her bed. My brother and I decided they need to be made accessible to the public, but we thought, before sending them off to some museum or having them digitally processed by the Veteran’s Project, that we should scan them ourselves. Well, this shall be a daunting task, because found in the box were five volumes, and four or five little notepads. The small notepads he filled while he was crossing Belgium and Germany, digging trenches and wading through snow up to his waist, between the months of January and April of 1945. Such is warfare! I often try to imagine him in the midst of bombs exploding overhead and the bullets whistling by, close to grazing his helmut, what it must have been like and how he actually survived this horrible war. He never spoke about the his activities much in daily life. Once my son, Francisco asked, “Grandpa, what did you do in the war?” He replied, “I ducked a lot.” Of course, we laughed knowing it wasn’t a laughing matter at the time. With this in mind, Richard P. Rivard’s (better known as Yochen) diary is a testimony to his days in the war, and a relic to be treasured.
Another thing I accomplished in the day was to take photographs of my mother’s art. An art teacher before retiring, she produced many beautiful things throughout her career and instilled in me a great appreciation for all the Arts.
Oh! Before signing off, there is one more thing. Getting back to what Ivan Ivanich said about having reason and purpose. Well, I just want to say that I am writing this to express my gratitude to my parents for the wonderful life they have given to me.
So, thank you, to the two wonderful people notoriously known as Bona and Yochen, or my mom and dad! Thank you for teaching me how to be a happy person.
The quote, “Money, like vodka, makes a man eccentric.”, appearing in the story “Gooseberries”, by Anton Chekhov, inspired me to start this blog. “Gooseberries” has many themes, all of which reflect the problems of the 21st century; rich vs. poor, educated vs. uneducated, city vs. country and happiness vs. unhappiness. Like the 21st century, “Gooseberries” is about the cost of the pursuit of happiness for society. Ivan Ivanich, the main character, in his frustration over his brother’s dream to become a wealthy landowner, grow gooseberries and have servants, says; “those who are happy can only enjoy themselves because the unhappy bear their burdens in silence, and but for this silence happiness would be impossible.” Sound familiar? He continues; “There ought to be a man with a hammer behind the door of every happy man, to remind him by his constant knocks that there are unhappy people.” Finally he concludes as he points to the younger Alekhin; “There is no such thing as happiness, nor ought there to be, but if there is any sense of purpose in life, this sense and purpose are to be found not in our own happiness, but in something greater and more rational. Do good!”
With that in mind I plan to ‘do good’ by this blog. I will post on my varied interests, such as Photography, Art, Literature, History, Culture and even some personal and fun matters, from time to time. As Ivan suggests they will have a purpose and reason, and if they cause happiness, unhappiness or non-happiness, so be it! Welcome to my blog! Oh, and by the way; I highly recommend Anton Chekhov’s Short Stories.