Archive for July, 2014

Letter From New York July 27, 2014

July 27, 2014

Letter From New York

Or, as it seems to me…

It is a mercilessly grey day in Claverack. A medium hard rain falls outside the cottage and far away thunder rattles the skies. It is a drear day; so dark it is actually hard to see to the end of my property.

It is the flip side of yesterday, so lusciously beautiful that it caused a heart to ache – perfect skies, perfect temperature, a day lazed away in idle pursuits, antique shopping on Hudson’s Warren Street, a leisurely stroll through the little Farmer’s Market, then reading on the deck while the creek languidly slipped by on its way to the pond. It was a splendid afternoon. The wind caused the tall branches to brush against one another, their rustling the music of the afternoon. The reflections of light on the creek with the stirring of the water by the breeze resulted in thoughts of pointillism.

This austere day is made for contemplation. It cries for thought as I stare out the window by my desk, on the rain-drenched drive of the cottage, casting my mind out into the world.

It is hardly prettier out there this week; the Ukrainian crisis still unfolds. Body parts still apparently lie in the debris field of MH17, most certainly brought down by a missile. Putin seems to be doubling down on supporting the pro-Russian rebels. Two doctors leading the fight against Ebola have contracted the disease. I cannot tell from this morning’s headlines if there is or is not a temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. The ill-fated Costa Concordia reached its final resting spot. The United States has evacuated the embassy in Libya because of escalating violence. The Taliban reclaim tracts of Afghanistan. The Boko Haram have kidnapped the wife of the Vice Prime Minister of Cameroon. Forest fires plague the drought stricken state of California with no rain in the forecast. An Air Algerie flight fell from the sky over Mali.

The litany of the world’s trials and travails could go on and on. They are enough to cause us to climb into our bunkers and hunker down for the duration. And that may be a bit of what I do when I retreat to the cottage and indulge in the beauty that surrounds me. If I focus too much on the world an existential ennui falls upon me and I feel I cannot breathe.

For all the dark things happening in the world, there was still laughter on the street yesterday. Hot dogs were purchased from Rick’s stand at 6th and Warren. Ice cream cones were being consumed from Lick, farther down Warren. Little children careened down the street, chased after by parents. Newborns rode in carriages. People find jobs and sit down for meals. The world keeps going on and, in that, I find solace.

It is like this moment, when suddenly the rain stopped and the sun burst through the clouds to dapple the land with its light. The earth abides, hope survives.







Letter From New York July 20, 2014

July 20, 2014

Letter From New York

July 20, 2014

Or, as it seems to me…


A gentle rain fell last night in the Hudson Valley, ushering in a gently beautiful day. Not too warm, not too cold, a Goldilocks sort of day, sun glimmering off the creek as well as the small puddles left behind by the night’s rain. The deck is freshly stained, gleaming in the day’s light.

It is another bucolic day in Claverack.

It is not bucolic in much of the rest of the world. The past week has been haunted by the loss of MH17 over eastern Ukraine, a civilian passenger jet shot down by a surface to air missile, apparently by pro-Russian separatists who apparently bragged about having brought down the plane and then removed their social media boasts once they started to realize they may have hit a civilian plane.

According to reports I have read, Euro Control approved the flight plan for the plane; it is one of the generally used flight ways from Europe to the Far East. American airlines have been warned away from that route; I am sure none will be flying it now. Too late.

Nearly three hundred are dead, including eighty children, a leading AIDS researcher, an Australian novelist, a Dutch Senator, a cross section of humanity caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, their bodies scattered across nine square miles of contested land, some strangely intact, some ripped apart, all dead and gone in an instant, hopefully.

We are all appalled. The Russian propaganda machine has come up with all kinds of conspiracy stories, some that are completely bizarre but all of them pointing to others to blame. One pro-Russian separatist told a British journalist that this was all the fault of the Queen.

So it goes in the increasingly strange world in which Russia lives.

These seem almost apocalyptic times, with the chaos that is Iraq, that cradle of civilization, a Caliphate declared over parts of Syria and Iraq by ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The Kurds move toward autonomy. Iraq as we knew it seems destined for disintegration. War rages in Gaza. Rockets fall in Israel. And innocents die in all these places.

It seems hard to realize that innocents are dying in all these places when a soft wind is blowing through the Hudson Valley and lovely meals are being consumed in open air cafes with good food, good company and good conversation, often avoiding the painful topics of what is happening in the world because there seems to be so little we, as individuals, can do to alter the events. They seem out of our control. We can decry what is happening but what can we do to change what is happening?

Sitting here in the quiet of the cottage, I don’t honestly know. I can write my Congressmen and Senators on domestic issues about which I have an opinion but would Putin heed a letter from Claverack when he seems to pay little attention to the President of the United States?

But the downing of a civilian airliner seems to be coalescing European opinion into a united front of condemnation, something that they have not done. European interests are closely intertwined with Russia, provider of natural gas to much of the continent. It seems to be taking a tragedy for them to take a stand.

The digital front page of the New York Times this morning is splattered with news of the downed aircraft. The world is reeling from its loss. We depend upon our air lanes to move us to and from – they should be safe from what is happening on the ground but they no longer are. We are confronted by what modern weapons can do in overeager hands. This is no suicide bombing with an improvised device.

As we sit in our bucolic places on a warm summer’s day, the world grows more dangerous.