Monday, June 14, 2004

Lifestyle Magazine

I was at an afternoon party two weekends ago. It was held near a lake on the grounds of the summer residence of the Queen. There were platters heaped with chocolate-dipped strawberries and smoked salmon sandwiches with a sprig of arugula and slices of melon and cherries. Glasses of champagne all around. We were celebrating the launch of a novel, after all. Everyone there looked the part--breezy summer skirts and sandals, the men in khaki shorts, the children in stylish, but ecological cotton and linen (mine included). It struck me that we looked like something out of a lifestyle magazine. And I don't think it had been conscious on anyone's part. I guess that's how it is to be thirtysomething at the beginning of the twenty-first century. We've bought the lifestyle that's been sold to us. And strangely, I think it's actually making us happy.


Verlyn Klinkenborg says in his Rural Life that "A garden is just a way of mapping the strengths and limitations of your personality onto the soil." When I first read it, I was amused by it. But, lately, as I find myself increasingly drawn to getting rid of the weeds that keep insinuating themselves in all of my flower beds and vegetable rows and my herb garden--I find that I am learning exactly what he means. Until recently, I didn't care much about weeds. As long as the flowers appeared to be stronger and the veg could fight its way through the weeds--I was happy. But now I have discovered the therapy that is the battle against weeds. I had let the garden get rather shockingly weedy--just as my life had become choked by too much that was unwanted. I couldn't see the flowers and the productive, useful plants for all of the weeds that were in the way. It was definitely a limitation of my personality that I allowed it to happen--my life to be metaphorically covered by weeds. But now, slowly, I am clearing them and the flowers beneath are starting to enjoy the sun and getting ready to bloom. And it feels wonderful. And meaningful to have found myself in the garden. Finding my way back to myself and what's important by mapping my strengths into the soil.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Reagan Nausea

I am utterly nauseated by the eulogizing of Ronald Reagan. It's nauseating from afar and it must be a veritable nightmare for anyone with functioning brain cells and access to a television in the US. The man has effectively been dead for 10 years, just get it over with already. Admittedly, I had one moment of being moved watching CNN International this a.m.--a shot of Gorbachev paying his respects at the coffin--hand outstretched, lost in thought. It seems that he has some legitimate ownership of the grief. Whereas the rest of us--why do we have to be subjected to a litany of airbrushed (typical Hollywood) half-truths as to the grand effects of Reaganomics.

I realized during a course a few years ago at ASU that Reagan was a defining president for me--but in a negative sense. The president of my childhood. The president whose thoughts and policies I defined myself against. Even as early as his shooting in '81, I was in the 7th grade and my entire class had to stay after school when I asked brightly (and not without hope) in response to an announcement that he'd been shot, "Is he dead?" This did not please the wizened Mrs. Walker and she doubly punished me by making me unpopular with my classmates, since the entire class had to stay after for my statement. No wonder he was the defining president for me. It makes me feel a bit sad, really, to think that Reagan had any part in defining who I am.