A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that life has been far more stressful over these last… oh… two years? The continuous meltdown in DC sends shockwaves around the world, worries our allies, emboldens tyrants, roils the stock markets and even threatens our future climate. The nation struggles to cope with a condition professionals might easily label “Trump Traumatic Stress Disorder”. Clinically diagnosed depression is on the rise nationally, for all age groups.
Of course, this might be less the case if we were all enjoying the best economy in decades, except we’re not because Republican tax cuts went to the rich, who mostly pocketed many billions, wage growth has been flat for 35 years, and the federal minimum wage is still starvation employment. They can give away over a trillion dollars in tax cuts to themselves and blow the federal debt to the moon, but can’t afford a workable national healthcare solution. And this is only one demolished car on a very long train wreck.
But if you can arrange it for a couple days, if you can ignore the hit your retirement account is taking, perhaps ignore Trump’s shutdown if you’re not a victim of it and ignore the news that one of Mattis’ jobs was to essentially hide the nuclear football from Trump, then I think maybe it’s okay to take a break. We can’t let TTSD devour our lives. We can’t live simply to be victims of the news cycle, to gnash our teeth and shudder at the daily Republican/Trump debacle. Our condition – anxiety-approaching-panic – is understandable, but taking a reprieve doesn’t mean you’re being irresponsible, so don’t feel guilty. Abandon the news cycle for a few days and find a quiet place to rest your mind. The train wreck won’t notice your absence. Take the time to breathe.
I had a rural paper route as a young teenager, and on early winter mornings on my bicycle I would stop to marvel at the delicate ice crystals that covered the barbed wire fencing and blades of pasture grass that stretched out before me. Beyond the frozen field, to the horizon, Mount Rainier lay bathed in the sapphire-magenta silhouette of sunrise, and I was always, oddly, surprised that in spite of the drama of those teen years, of my parents waging their desperate marriage, and of the endless dread of the Vietnam War, in spite of it all, the mountain was always there, massive, silent and jarringly beautiful.
In spite of my unsettled life, ice crystals still formed on thistle. Overhead, exuberant geese still invaded the silence with their cacophony. There were always places, moments, I could find some balance. It seemed the natural world knew when I needed a reprieve. In spite of how we abuse it, this is a loving Earth.
Mount Rainer may not be available to you, but tranquility is still there in the joy of a laughing child, a cardinal on a fence post, a good book of poetry. Your forgiving lover. Your best friend. There is even the dog, who happily listens to your political opinions and is certain that you are, in fact, a stable genius. (May want to give the dog a break as well.)
It’s okay; you’ve earned it. Surely we all have, incarcerated in Trump’s alternate reality dungeon. Escape. Turn off CNN for a while. Leave the news sites. Find the beauty in your life and breathe. They can’t take this peace from you. Breathe.
Copyright 2018 Daniel R. Cobb