Natalia J. Garland
Whether you live in the city, suburb, or desert, August is a hot
month and a challenge to the human comfort level. As a writer,
however, I seem to thrive under contrasting conditions. I need
the congested city or the austere desert, the blinding snow or the
scorching sun, a stylish blazer or a mishapen sweatshirt in order
to really feel inspired and motivated. So, in synchrony with the
August heatwave, I have jotted down a few random notes for those
of you who (like me) are not away on vacation.
quality and authenticity
The tool shed in my
backyard serves several purposes. In addition to my garden tools,
paint supplies, and craft materials, I also keep many books and
some boxes of employment records in the shed (it's a big shed--as
big as the county building codes allow). Last week, I re-organized
some stuff and came across a notebook of poetry I had written a
long, long time ago. The poems had been written--hold on to your
hat--from 1976 to 1984.
Now that I have my
own website (an impossibility in 1984), my immediate reaction was
to review the old poems and determine if any of them were suitable
for publication. The poems were quite personal, having an
ameliorative effect, and were almost like a diary. Anyway, I
chose a few of them to re-write. I used adjectives which were
more descriptive, replaced some adjectives with verbs, and
condensed wordy stanzas into one or two lines. The result was
that, although technically superior, the revised poems had lost
their freshness. It became apparent that I would have to let go
of the revised poems, return the originals to the tool shed or
toss them into the garbage can on my way to the backyard, and
recognize that my personal growth would not permit me to travel
back in time. I could no longer walk in my old shoes.
more than trying to save everything. Those old poems represented
my inner conflicts during a certain phase of my life. The poems
had already fulfilled their importance simply by having engaged
me in a process of introspection and expression during those years,
and by connecting me with friends who also wrote. Nobody else
needs to be privy to that part of my life. But nothing has been
lost. Rather, the poems are now given a requiem in this essay
which I write for new friends.
God grant me the serenity
accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
the wisdom to know the difference.
--The Serenity Prayer--
perspective on suburbia
If you have a minimum of one
million dollars in disposable savings, you might be able to afford
a rural lifestyle. There was a time when country folk were poor,
dirt poor, and sometimes they had to migrate to the cities to find
jobs. Now the reverse seems to be true. People leave the urban
areas to retire in the country. Then eventually, supermarkets,
gas stations, medical centers, and video rental shops begin to pop
up. Next, a new working class migrates to find jobs in those
markets: that means a need for more houses and schools.
wrongly labels me as unsociable, let me explain why I think the
rural life is important. People should have choices. If the
rural life disappears from the American landscape, then our
lifestyle choices are limited to the city or the suburbs. Even if
the suburb is somewhat contained and reaches only to the edge of a
forest or desert, the solitary country lifestyle is altered by the
number of people and cars, the necessity for new streets and
traffic lights, increased crime, and so on.
Some people want to
live in the open spaces. Some senior citizens look forward to the
country life as a retirement option. Some parents prefer to
raise their children in a simple down-to-earth manner. They want
to hear the rooster crow in the morning, teach their kids how to
ride a horse, breed animals to show at the county fair, grow their
own tomatoes, see the stars at night, and drive 300 miles to the
nearest mall. Living the rural life nowadays, however, seems to
mean having a few acres within a generally suburbanized
area, or having enough money to purchase land in a remote area and
build your own house.
No one can blame
people for going where the jobs are, or for enjoying the
conveniences of restaurants and discount stores. I have, in fact,
been on both sides of this demographic equation. I have migrated
to other places in order to obtain education and jobs, thereby
fueling the housing and transportation (but not crime) conditions;
and I have reversed that direction by seeking the quiet country
lifestyle. I have felt thankful for my survival, and I have
complained as newcomers are attracted to my location for
the same reasons.
have a right to move around and live wherever they choose. But,
is there a right to a lifestyle preference? Should people have a
right to live the rural life? Should there be zoning
restrictions, limits to business and housing development, and
protection of the natural environment? America is no longer an
agricultural society with a deep attachment to the earth. It
seems that only the rich will be able to afford to live
comfortably with a few pigs and a cabbage patch.
It's bagels versus tortillas. If you live in
the New York City vicinity, you have access to the best bagels,
real bagels. You can stop at a bakery or corner coffee
shop and buy a variety of bagels made with a dense interior and
thin crust. But, you cannot find a good tortilla. The tortillas
are banished to the refrigeration section in the supermarket.
They are stiff as cardboard and taste the same.
Now, if you live in
the Southwest, you can buy fresh tortillas in every supermarket.
The tortillas come in a variety of sizes, both corn and flour,
and are soft and supple. But, you cannot find a good bagel. The
bagels are bready and heavy, and with no distinguishable crust.
The only exception to the depressing Southwest bagel situation is
this: you must try a cheddar-jalapeño bagel!
Finally. I have found a literary review of
excellent quality (with the exception of a couple of stories which
I did not like). I am referring to the South Loop Review,
(Volume 9), published by Columbia College Chicago. It is devoted
to creative non-fiction, and contains the works of both
experienced and beginning writers. I dislike most literary
reviews--the writers often seem pessimistic, stagnate, and
stereotypical of how writers or publishers think they should be.
The contributors to the South Loop Review, however, seem
life-affirming, diverse, and talented. Since I yearn to find
contemporary writers from whom I can learn, I cherish this volume.
I hope the next volume will continue the same core of creativity.
No return to
There was a T.V. news analyst who made the
comment that it was a mistake for President Bush, after 9/11, to
advise people to return to their normal routine. He argued that
the reason the Iraq War is not now popularly supported is that
Americans did not adapt themselves to a wartime mode of thinking.
He makes a point which I would like to explore. Although I
believe Bush wanted to prevent paralysis of the nation's activity
and spirit, it is possible that the return-to-normal mode aided
the current denial of the threat of terrorism.
What would be a
wartime mode of thinking? We would have to acknowledge that
terrorists intend to conquer nations (under their version of
Islam) and persecute dissenters. We would have to take whatever
steps necessary to protect America. Politically, this might mean
supporting surveillance at home and prisoner-of-war interrogation
techniques (the Consitutionality and effectiveness of such steps is
a topic beyond the scope of today's essay). On a personal level,
it would mean constant vigilance and the right of citizens to
report suspicious behavior, with immunity from lawsuit retaliation.
These three areas:
the Patriot Act, the Guantánamo Bay prison, and the John
Doe amendment (initiated by Congressman Peter King), are very
difficult for Iraq War protestors to understand and support:
whether because of legal objections, or because their anger with
President Bush has possibly undermined their ability to confront
the reality of terrorism generally. For some Americans, their
return to normalcy somehow detoured onto the highway to denial.
Although my living conditions and
finances are modest, I am thankful for small but important
comforts. The car starts every morning. The air-conditioner runs
smoothly day and night. The cupboards are stocked with enough
food items to sustain any emergency. Meanwhile, the world is
filled with people suffering from disease, hunger, violence, and
persecution. And, there are people in America who must rebuild
after nature's fires and floods. I have had my share of
hardship and misfortune, but I have never directly experienced
America is burdened with another
catastrophic situation. Following 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, we
are now trying to cope with the Minneapolis bridge collapse. In
my essay, Societal Versus Political Divisions, I wrote that
our presidential candidates needed to pay attention to America's
deteriorating infrastructure. Unless it becomes evident that
terrorists caused the Minneapolis bridge collapse, then our
infrastructure must indeed become a campaign platform priority.
have proven themselves to be non-partisan humanitarians when
disaster strikes. Everybody tries to help, regardless of race,
gender, income, religion, or political affiliation. This is how
we were after 9/11. If only we would stay united after the shock
wears away. If only we would really repair all our bridges,
literally and figuratively. If only we would really fight
terrorism. If only..... (Written 08/06/07)
Until we meet