Friday, October 4, 2013

When is enough, enough?

A few days ago I watched "Network" again. I do that about every other year, and every time after doing so I ask ""When will we reach that point"? When will we throw open the windows and shout, "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more"?

Apparently we have not gotten there, yet  - the reaction to the amazing performance in Washington has been tame except for one poor woman who lost it and ended up dead in her car with her one year old strapped in a car seat behind her, and she might have lost it for other reasons. Why are we so passive? How can we accept this lack of governance, lack of seriousness, lack of substantive action on the part of our elected leaders (using the word with no conviction)?

Part of the reason may be that mainstream media has lost its soul to the corporate devil; part of the reason may be fear; part of the reason may be habit; part of the reason may be not having the time because we are all too engrossed in trying to get by. Or it may be that we have forgotten what is really important, become anesthetized by lack of challenge, thoughtful discourse and empathetic action.

Whatever the reasons, it is time to take a close look at what's going on, ask the hard questions, and act. Start personal, go local and get moving, now.  So MaineStreams relaunches. Join the fray.

Friday, December 28, 2012

2013 - New Year and still here

Dropped this ball - Too much going on and little discipline. It seems worth rekindling, and perhaps breathing life into, getting it to flame. No promises, no regrets. Get on with it.

This fiscal cliff show is like an 8th grade play - bad script, bad lines, bad acting before an audience that is captive in the auditorium until lunch. All semblance of good governance has been exposed and shown vacant.  

In an interesting little book I was reading today, "Opting Out of War", by Mary Anderson and Marshall Wallace, they posited that successful leaders were able to help their communities from falling into conflict when that were accessible, listening, consultative and accountable. I am afraid we have become so distanced from leadership, and leaders so impotent in the face of corporate power and individual wealth, that Democracy waivers on the edge of failure, and perhaps conflict is where we are headed.

Hope lies in local, where neighbor helps neighbor to live as best as they can, and we tune out the chatter and the banality, even as it encircles and imposes.

More soon.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

10 July

For the past week I have been subbing for Mandoline on a poetry blog in which she participates - - which is worth checking out. It's been fun, and the dailiness of it easier in poetry than in prose. Here's the stuff of it:


daughter pushed me in,
he said between coughs, belching sea water
sitting on the sand wrapped in aluminum foil
surrounded by buff saviors proud of the day's catch,
ready to grill.
coulda drowned but here I am - fish outta water.
not in the slot though -
better throw me back.

day's heat done

The air turns petal soft and even,
tree wings hum,
downy arms cuddle me in evening -
I settle into the night and slow to sleep.

7 'n 7
Sweet and cheap, easy toxicity not too halitosogenic, almost legal
discovered in Bermuda one Spring when little 50s
buzzed us half buzzed
up and down the hills
between beach and banter lusting for love
or at least a semblance to recount
when back in between pale green New Hampshire walls
waiting for summer.
Where are they now?


my glasses itch,
droplets weep, roll into rivulets, pool in my navel, overflow into the pond beyond the willow.
All cloth is excess, useless adornment, imposed.
Cats drape on shadow shoulders, dogs find cool rock pedestals legs splayed, wet tongued hunting trophies with relentless steam drives.
L I f e s l o w s
Listen…..the corn is growing.
Listen….. the Cool Cavalry is coming to give pause, allow sleep.

5 July

Give us this day
Sometimes you hunger and all of you knows it
and sometimes you lack elements
and your body doesn’t tell you
and sometimes you
just don’t care.
Our daily bread

4 July

The ell goes West from the old cape
sun pouring into morning coffee long cold.
love, loss, life - furled paint
on peeling shakes - new homes, different wasps
above a daytime sea of celebrating trefoils
orange over yellow and green

Saturday, July 3, 2010

re-beginning, July 2010.

After a long layoff, I am restarting this blog with a on a week pace. Join me if you will.

There is something magical, physical that happens when the wind turns to the Northwest and the sodden air moves on, slowly at first, clinging to the earth, then more and more rapidly as the dry edge of rising millibars cleans the sky like a broom. Things become clear. The crisp green line of the treetops against blue sky appears from grey fuzz. Thoughts unscramble and become more linear. Goals seem more within reach, and the reach seems to extend. It’s a good time to take things on. John Cole, who somehow introduced me to Maine, said: “of all the winds that blow, I like the Northwest the best” and he had, as with many things, good reason.

There is an energy that rides this wind, too, that begs tapping. It pulls you from bed and on through the day as if a charge of unknown source had entered the system, cleaned all the pipes and tightened all the fittings. The force still wants direction and discipline, though, and whether they too are in the wind is a question that remains. I’ll ride it back to MaineStreams and see where it takes me, and you?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Funds for Haiti

Extend a Hand to Haiti

The devastation and death inflicted on the people of Haiti by the recent earthquake has been overwhelming. Humanitarian organizations are doing tremendous work, accompanied by governments, military units and volunteers to try to save those who can be saved: to provide shelter, food, water and emergency medical assistance in circumstances that are dire. Port au Prince was a chaotic, impoverished, sprawling slum before the quake, and now lies in shambles. Aid is getting there, with great difficulty, and resources for the immediate seem to be being made available through governments and a huge outpouring of donations from around the world. The ability of the system to use resources to best advantage is a challenge.

So how can we do something meaningful, something more personal that could make a real difference for Haitians? Interpeace, the organization I work with, does not have an active program in Haiti, but we have been exploring how best to have an impact on peace in the country for some time. Through that process we met and have been working with Guerda Prévilon, who runs IDEJEN (Initiative pour le Développement des Jeunes), an NGO working with youth who on the margin in Port au Prince and elsewhere in the country. I met her in San Salvador when I was there last week for a workshop, and was incredibly impressed by her commitment, intelligence and compassion. She left after the first day to return to Haiti, and so I did not get to know her as well as I would have liked, but I have been in contact with her since (she and her family were spared by the quake, but colleagues and many of the youth engaged with the organization are lost.) While IDEJEN is well resourced generally for its work (including through USAID as well as IOM, the organization with which I worked for 13 years) it is now faced with incredible challenges and demands that far exceed its mandate and capacity.

I have asked Guerda if she received a small, totally unencumbered contribution, she could apply it completely to a compelling need for which there are no other resources, and she replied immediately that “there are so many youths now who are victims of the quake that the are totally vulnerable and at risk” that any donation to help them would be most appreciated and used immediately. So, I am starting a fund and will transfer it 100% to Guerda in early February though the Interpeace office working on Haiti (Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Martin Arévalo - program officer). She will identify the best use for the contribution, and will report back as to its use in due course.

Such a contribution should not preclude any contribution that you wish to make to the Red Cross, Partners in Health, MSF etc, but if you would like to participate in a more direct and personal contribution to the people of Haiti, please join me. You can send me a check made out to me or to “Haiti Fund”, and I will provide a full accounting.

Thanks for your consideration,
182 Ridge Road, Bowdoinham, ME 04008
+1 207 522-4118

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Of fathers and daughters and random encounters on a December Friday in Maine

It is always good having Mandoline here with us, though she is far too busy and organized so that when she leaves, as she did Friday to return to Paris via Boston and New York and Air France, I feel like I didn’t quite get enough time with her. After she left on the Concord to Logan, I went to play basketball as I do three times a week. We play at a small company which took over one of those ‘50’s primary schools that were up for grabs several years ago and transformed the building to produce high-tech brain probes for cerebral research around the globe: unlikely anywhere but perhaps especially in Bowdoin, Maine. The building serves its purpose well, but I am convinced that the owner of the enterprise really took it over because of its basketball court: the real thing yet small enough for 60 something’s to play full court, especially four on four, and the mid-day pick-up game is inspired. It’s co-ed, mostly employees, and fairly high quality: lots of tight defense, good passing competition, all in the spirit of fair play.

This particular Friday there were fifteen people who showed up so we played games to seven of five-on- five, and they were spirited. There was a newcomer, Ken, a local builder who had some down time. He clearly had played some ball and now in his fifties was still in good shape and had a nice touch on his shot, usually launched a bit tentatively and from not too far out. He wore a T-shirt from a running store and was fit and gentlemanly. We matched up for a couple of games and though he is a better player than I, it was an even go as this was his first time out and I had “home court” advantage. After a couple of games we rotated to new players and I drew Sarah, my height and less than half my age, a good player who runs me ragged. There are some patterns to her play though, so I can usually hold my own. All in all it was a good session.

That evening we drove down to Portland to see a concert by Childsplay, an annual festival of musicians who all have a connection through the violins made by Bob Childs. It’s a fun evening of wonderful music. And there sitting three seats down is Ken, who comes up to me at intermission with “what are you doing here” look on his face. Turns out one of the Childsplay musicians, and one whose music I know well, is his daughter, Lissa. (Last weekend we went to Rockland to hear Crooked Still play at a sold out Strand – fun concert - and we sat next to an chatted for a while with the father of the group’s bass player – who I know from fiddle camp and elsewhere – who is married to Ken’s daughter…)

Enough? Well not quite. Pierre and I went to get the Christmas tree this afternoon - -Staying local but not trekking out into our own woods we headed out the Brown’s Point road and cut a nice full one at a farm that has transformed an old hay field into five or six rows of now ready firs. After fixing the tree in the back of the pick-up, and paying the farmer, he handed me a card to prove that I bought it – apparently now the State law. Turns out he is Sarah’s father.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Written in Geneva, 15+/- yearsago...

Spring has come to Geneva, with the blazing yellow colza already giving way to the soft waving pale green of young wheat. The “jet d’eau”, the fountain which fires up from Lac Léman almost 300 feet into the air against a backdrop of a distant Mont Blanc, has been turned back on. To the North, the Jura are speckled with budding birch and maple, light between the dark evergreen hemlock below the tree line, the barren fields above still dotted with recalcitrant patches of white. The tulips in the Botanical garden were splendid, again, and passed. The banks with their neon headbands never changed.

In Tuzla, in Dushanbe and how many other places around the globe Spring may be unfolding different glories, different hopes and births and rebirths. What joy such renewal must bring, even if it is only to color the graveyards with fresh blooms. But is there joy and wonder left in those places which continue to bear winter’s scars long past the Spring thaw? Here in Geneva, the miracle is only noted with remarks of how early or how late, passing like a Spring storm.

Yet Geneva is often where great matters of state are cussed and discussed by concerned people who live their day to day in this splendid basin, where humanitarian concern takes shape and form, and where promises kept and unkept nudge the future of man along one path or another. Can bureaucratic council, nestled in comfort and ease, anesthetized in fog between Alps and Jura make such weighty choices? Who are the people entrusted with the play in the fields? What are their qualifications, their license, their duty, and how can they bear up and shoulder the weight? Do they have the mettle?

It’s a long way from Vern Ricker’s vending machines in the mills up and down the Androscoggin, or taking care of dave Berry’s pigs and roofin’ in the winter, or pullin’ traps with the Cooks or doin’ post-and-beam. The comfort and slack of Geneva may be part of the problem. It seems all too often decisions are made by those who have never had to go downstairs in the morning with a propane torch that won’t start until the umpteenth try in order to thaw the pipes at four a.m. so they won’t burst before before six and the first cup of morning coffee fresh from the woodstove in the early dark. Or, once the tongue burned and the house cozy, have to step outside into a biting north wind to try to start the reluctant hard-oiled buggy, and to scrape a patch for view on the inside of the windscreen. Or, even with the warm rush of May, to put up with Nature’s Airborne, small but mighty, unstoppable in their persistence and ability to inflict.

It seems in retrospect that there could have been no better preparation for the Diplomatic Corps than getting by in Maine for ten years in the seventies. Lessons of sharing, of pain and joy, living on the edge of have and nave-not, but always coming down on the positive side, pushed to learn new skills, to face hardship and change, always change, always the same. I said to a colleague the other day that I thought one winter in an old country house in Maine was worth two at a European University. He laughed, and so did I: he thought I was making a joke; I knew I was underestimating true value.

I haven’t run into too many Mainers in the course of the past few years. The stretch of international diplomacy seems to fall short of Portland for the most part. But there’s no doubt in my mind that extending that reach could bring a dite of uncommon sense to Geneva, and maybe even a touch of DownEast wisdom.