How to talk to kids about the end of democracy

Dr. Seuss’s art

This is not really a how-to essay. I’ve always hated anyone telling me how to raise my kids or giving me books about parenting.

But we’re living in the last days of the American constitutional federal representative democracy, and we have front-row seats to its rapid descent into hell.

What better teaching moment could you possibly ask for? Continue reading How to talk to kids about the end of democracy

The Vageries of Patriotism

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Nationalism

We walked around the small town of Bandon waiting for the stores to open on a rainy, breezy Veterans Day. We wanted to taste local cranberries, so we piled into the Cranberry Sweets store just after someone unlocked the door at ten a.m.

After listening to the historical spiel, we walked around the store tasting candies to our hearts’ content.

“Happy Veterans Day,” the overly coffee’d retail worker sang. “Any veterans in the group?”

My daughter, who was caught in her tractor beam while she waited for popcorn samples to be put out, looked at her mother and then me, and shook her head no.

For some reason, I felt compelled to speak up. “No, no veterans in our family.”

My wife looked back at me. “My dad was a veteran.” Continue reading The Vageries of Patriotism

Into the Desert: Borax Lake and the Fish That Live There

Two BLM intenrns and an ODFW biologist prepare traps to rescue Alvord Lake Chub from a shrinking pond in the Alvord Basin.

The two BLM interns from The Chicago Botanical Garden both had the look of someone who has been in the desert one day too long.

Their bloodshot eyes surveyed the bleak landscape in the way you’d expect someone who had seen the same featureless view every day for months and months.

I rode in the government truck with them down to a spot in the lower Alvord Basin just a few miles from the Nevada border. We stopped and opened a gate in a fence and drove off into the sage brush for a long distance, before a small, dark tree began to take shape in the distance.

Continue reading Into the Desert: Borax Lake and the Fish That Live There

Into the Desert: Alvord Basin

There is a small, cold desert east of here that I have seen in my dreams for decades.

The Alvord Desert

It sits high up on a plateau created millions of years ago when basalts flowed over the area in giant, motlen floods .

It sits in the shadow of the snowy mountain, which catches the rain, leaving it parched and flat and featureless.

I had seen the Alvord Desert far below the East Rim Lookout on Steens Mountain the previous evening. The twelve-mile-long by seven-mile-wide playa looked exactly as I had seen it in my dreams, a vast, sandy nothingness stretching away to the south.

Continue reading Into the Desert: Alvord Basin

Into the Desert: Steens Mountain

Mount Washington along the Santiam Pass

I sipped hot green tea as I drove over the Santiam Pass at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

The air was still night-cooled, and the tea felt good on my throat, raw as it was from so much smoke from a brutal summer of forest fires.

The familiar landscape of a pass I’ve driven maybe a hundred times gave way to the the suprising landscape of a big burn as I neared the top. The Whitewater fire had burned parts of the forest on either side of the road, and I noticed the mosaic pattern of the burn left swirls of green amidst the blackened earth.

Dropping down into the high desert, as I have called Central Oregon since I first visited there, is always exciting in the way it transitions from the deep green of the Cascades to the beige and sage of the high and dry country. Continue reading Into the Desert: Steens Mountain

A fledgling leaves the nest

He left for his final training run here in Oregon around 10:30 a.m. I teased him about the intense heat. It’s supposed to be 97 degrees today, a slight downturn from yesterday’s 101.

Last night I made him some sockeye salmon on the grill, and last week we went for a Father’s Day hike up to just one more of the many beautiful places here in Oregon.

Part of me wants all of these memories to stick with him through the next four years of college. So that he longs for this place like a small ache. Continue reading A fledgling leaves the nest

Sex-ism

I’m not a great feminist like I’m not a great father.

But I try.

I don’t like the word ally, even though I understand it and want to be what it implies.

What I am is male. A white male, in fact, living at the height of my species’ dominance and the pinnacle of my sexs’ power.

Entitlement isn’t a concept or a designation you either fall into or you don’t, if you’re white, male and living in America, you’re entitled.

Here I am, writing about myself. When what I intended to write about was women. Continue reading Sex-ism

Fork Stuck In The Road

I was musing about the collosal failure that was the AHCA. Not from the moment the Republicans pulled it yesterday, but from the beginning.

From the very first intention to defeat the ACA rather than  working to build something with their fellow Americans across the aisle.

And through a messy rollout, there were no overtures to improve it, just a lusty zeal to repeal, to strike back at a president they couldn’t afford to allow a signature policy victory to stand on.

Continue reading Fork Stuck In The Road

Papa

I’m not sure when I switched over to calling him Papa.

It was always Ken, my wife’s father. Before that, he was Ken, my girlfriend’s father.

When we got married, he had tears streaming down his heavily lined face. He was signing our marriage certificate, and he stopped, looked up and said, “I’m not losing a daughter, I’m gaining a son.”

And to this day, I have never felt anything less than a solid member of the Carpenter clan.

Continue reading Papa

"THE WORLD BREAKS EVERYONE, AND AFTERWARD, SOME ARE STRONG AT THE BROKEN PLACES." – HEMINGWAY