“They [pettifogging lawyers] often had limited concern for scruples or conscience and the term was deeply contemptuous.” ~ Michael Quinion, World Wide Words
Wednesday afternoon, sunny, 46 degrees.
So from the ongoing impeachment trial, this nugget arose: PETTIFOGGING. In an NPR article, Elizabeth Blair elucidates:
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “Pettifogging people give too much attention to small, unimportant details in a way that shows a limited mind.”
On that note, let’s dive in.
Petty + fogger = pettifogger
Petty means small or insignificant. A fogger is old slang for a “huckster, a cringing whining beggar.”
In his admonishment of public officials during President Trump’s impeachment proceedings, Chief Justice John Roberts cited the use of “pettifogging” in the 1905 Senate impeachment trial of Florida District Judge Charles Swayne, who was impeached “… for filing false travel vouchers, improper use of private railroad cars, unlawfully imprisoning two attorneys for contempt and living outside of his district.” (After nearly three months, the Senate voted to acquit.)
According to a transcript, the offending word in question was uttered by Swayne’s counsel, the Hon. John M. Thurston. He subsequently apologized.
“I don’t think we need to aspire to that high standard, but I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are,” Justice Roberts said, as he urged civil discourse among House impeachment managers and President Trump’s lawyers.
What a wonderful word, and so fitting when talking about Mr. Giuliani et al. Who said politics was boring?
More later (if the laptop cooperates). Peace.
Music by the Patti Smith Group, “Broken Flag”
Nodding tho the lamp’s lit low, nod for passers underground.
To and fro she’s darning, and the land is weeping red and pale.
Weeping yarn from Algiers. Weeping yarn from Algiers.
Weaving tho the eyes are pale, what will rend will also mend.
The sifting cloth is binding, and the dream she weaves will never end.
For we’re marching toward Algiers. For we’re marching toward Algiers.
Lullaby tho baby’s gone. Lullaby a broken song.
Oh, the cradle was our call. When it rocked we carried on.
And we marched on toward Algiers. For we’re marching toward Algiers
We’re still marching for Algiers. Marching, marching for Algiers.
Not to hail a barren sky. Sifting cloth is weeping red.
The mourning veil is waving high a field of stars and tears we’ve shed.
In the sky a broken flag, children wave and raise their arms.
We’ll be gone but they’ll go on and on and on and on and on.
Oh my. Far too much to include in a quick update, so I’ll just hit the highlights: major ongoing computer problems causing me to reboot several times a day and making it pretty near impossible to write anything more than a few sentences (and I had several posts planned to begin the new year), major vertigo episode causing me to be unable to do much of anything several times a day……..
I’m uncertain if the vertigo was exacerbated by the Aimovig shot that I had last Friday, but the two things seem to be going hand in hand. I’ve never had vertigo that went on for days, and it’s maddening as I can’t do anything, especially anything that requires me to bend over. The medication that I take for vertigo (Meclizine) makes me very sleepy, so I’m unwilling to take it during the day. As a compromise, I’ve been taking half a pill, which really doesn’t do much to alleviate the feelings that I’m going to fall on my face at any second.
Anyway, that’s a very quick synopsis of my life this past week. I’m hoping that something changes soon, anything, actually.
I began this post Sunday afternoon, and then my computer decided to act up again. All of the script errors are back, and now whenever I do a search, half of the results page is blank. I’ve scanned for malware, and the scan says that everything is fine, but obviously, everything is not fine. I am so weary—these recurring computer issues always seem to rear their ugly head precisely at the moment in which I have decided to post, that exact moment in which I am finally ready to sit here and just let the words pour forth.
The fates conspire against me.
Sunday afternoon, partly cloudy, 43 degrees.
Rainer Maria Rilke wrote “Notes on the Melody of Things” in 1898, when he was only twenty-two years old, but the piece was not published in his lifetime. Many of the same ideas from “Notes” appeared in another essay, “The Value of theMonologue.” I have chosen to share just a few of my favorite passages, but you can find the full text here.
III. That occurs to me: when I observe: that we still always paint people against a gold background, like the Italian Primitives. People stand before something indefinite—sometimes gold, sometimes gray. Sometimes they stand in the light, and often with an unfathomable darkness behind them.
XVI. Whether it be the singing of a lamp or the voice of a storm, whether it be the breath of an evening or the groan of the ocean — whatever surrounds you, a broad melody always wakes behind you, woven out of a thousand voices, where there is room for your own solo only here and there. To know when you need to join in: that is the secret of your solitude: just as the art of true interactions with others is to let yourself fall away from high words into a single common melody.
XX. In other cases, when there is no difficult, heavy pain to make people equally silent, one of them hears more of the powerful melody of the background, the other hears less. Many no longer hear it at all. They are like trees that have forgotten their roots and now think that the rustling of their branches is their power and their life. Many people don’t have time to hear it. They are impatient with every hour enveloping them. These poor, homeless people have lost the meaning of existence. They strike the keyboard of their days and play the same, monotonous, lost note over and over again.
XXI. If, then, we want to be initiates of life, we must keep two things in mind:
First, the great melody, in which things and scents, feelings and pasts, twilights and desires, all play their parts; —
and second: the individual voices which augment and complete this full chorus.
Today is the birthday of novelist and playwright Frances Hodgson Burnett (November 24, 1849 – October 29, 1924), author of one of the first books that I chose to read as a child, The Secret Garden (1911). I still have a very clear memory of the local library’s children’s section, the exact location of the stacks I used to spend countless hours perusing in search of books to read.
I also read her other well-known book The Little Princess (1905), which was turned into a movie with child actor Shirley Temple, but I much preferred a lesser known book The Lost Prince (1915). Even as a child, I had a propensity for finding an author and dedicating myself to reading as much of that author’s oeuvre as I could get my hands on. When you are an only child, books can be a reliable bulwark against loneliness, as they were for me.
Two for Tuesday: Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller
Tuesday afternoon, sunny and very windy, 61 degrees.
Today I’m tackling two people as opposed to two poems or two passages, and in so doing, I realize fully that I am barely moving beyond the surface layer of two very complex individuals. It is not hard to find a plethora of books and essays about the life and works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803–April 27, 1882), the so-called “Sage of Concord,” and while available research on Margaret Fuller (May 23, 1810– July 19, 1850) has not been as prolific as that on Emerson, the last 40 years have seen a resurgence in interest on the feminist icon.
Fuller, a well-known name in Women’s Studies, died tragically at the age of only 40. However, Fuller was noted for her groundbreaking achievements, including being the first female American foreign correspondent, as well as the first female combat reporter, as well as being first woman to attend Emerson’s all-male Transcendental Club. In 2013 Judith Thurman reviewed Megan Marshall’s biography on Fuller in an article titled “An Unfinished Woman,” which you can find here.
I recently read an article on Brain Pickings by Maria Popova called “The Conflicted Love Letters of Emerson and Fuller.” Admittedly, I am not an Emersonian scholar, knowing only the basics—a la Wikipedia—about the American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet; the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century is often attributed to Emerson. I also know little about Emerson’s relationship with Fuller, who was once considered the “best read woman in America.” Fuller was a prominent female intellectual renowned for her literary criticism and feminist writing, most notable of which was her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century, published in 1845, which advocated more independence for woman and broader lives beyond the traditional hearth and home.
“Ask me what I think of you & me, — & I am put to confusion.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, from a letter to Margaret Fuller
The article led me to peruse some of Emerson’s journal entries, such as some from the 1840s in which he reacts to the paradoxical nature of his relationship with Fuller. One entry is quoted in the Brain Pickings’ article:
You would have me love you. What shall I love? Your body? The supposition disgusts you. What you have thought & said? Well, whilst you were thinking & saying them, but not now. I see no possibility of loving any thing but what now is, & is becoming; your courage, your enterprize, your budding affection, your opening thought, your prayer, I can love—but what else? (September 26, 1840)
More from Emerson’s journal:
. . . When I write a letter to any one whom I love I have no lack of words or thoughts: I am wiser than myself & read my paper with the pleasure of one who receives a letter, but what I write to fill up the gaps of a chapter is hard & cold, is grammar & logic; there is no magic in it; I do not wish to see it again. Settle with yourself your accusations of me. If I do not please you, ask me not to please you, but please yourself. What you call my indolence, nature does not accuse; the twinkling leaves, the sailing fleets of waterflies, the deep sky like me well enough and know me for their own . . . You do not know me If my debts, as they threaten, should consume what money I have, I should live just as I do now. (October 7, 1840)
I do not give you my time, but I give you that which I have put my time into, namely my letter or my poem, the expression of my opinion, or better yet which in solitude I have learned to do. (October 1840)
For her part, Fuller opined regarding their relationship: more than friends, but exactly what, neither could discern:
We are to be much to one another. How often have I left you despairing and forlorn. How often have I said, this light will never understand my fire; this clear eye will never discern the law by which I am filling my circle; this simple force will never interpret my need to manifold being.
I think that what I and others find most relatable in their relationship is its very duality, the “emotional confusion” that abounded in their intimacy.
Music by Pomplamoose, featuring Sarah Dugas, “Sweet Dreams + Seven Nation Army”
“Push away the past, that vessel in which all emotions curdle to regret.” ~ Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, from Before We Visit the Goddess
Thursday late afternoon, cloudy and cool, 51 degrees.
I’ve had this one tab open on my laptop for about two weeks, maybe more. I haven’t wanted to close it as I wanted it to be a constant reminder that it needed attention on my part. It’s one of three posts that I’ve been trying to write longer than I care to admit. This particular tab is for an article that was published in The Atlantic called “My Family’s Slave,” by the late Alex Tizon, and although I’ve wanted to write a response to it ever since I read it, I cannot seem to find the best way in, if that makes any sense.
The article deals with a Filipino tradition (for lack of a better word) of the better-off taking in someone not so well-off and offering them the opportunity to live with and work for the family. Better-off is very subjective as it means anyone with more money than you. The only catch is that workingfor implies receiving a salary of some sort, and these women (mostly) never receive any money. Tizon explains:
Slavery has a long history on the islands. Before the Spanish came, islanders enslaved other islanders, usually war captives, criminals, or debtors. Slaves came in different varieties, from warriors who could earn their freedom through valor to household servants who were regarded as property and could be bought and sold or traded. High-status slaves could own low-status slaves, and the low could own the lowliest. Some chose to enter servitude simply to survive: In exchange for their labor, they might be given food, shelter, and protection.
. . . Today even the poor can have utusans or katulongs (“helpers”) or kasambahays (“domestics”), as long as there are people even poorer. The pool is deep.
“If ever I lose my memory of you, walk beside me like a stag; like a bird heard, unseen” ~ Anne Michaels, from Correspondences
Let me offer a bit of my own background here: For three summers, starting when I was just 14, I worked for my Aunt Remy, taking care of her five kids. I arrived at 7 in the morning and left at 6 in the evening, and for this I received $50 a week, and I felt lucky to be making such good money. In addition to taking care of the kids, my cousins (a term loosely used by Filipinos to identify anyone close to the family), my daily chores included cleaning the entire house, doing laundry, and attempting to cook. I never saw this as being too much work; after all, they had an in-ground pool and I could spend a few hours every day hanging out in the crystal blue water. I viewed the entire transaction was quite equitable.
These were my “rich relatives,” as I always referred to them. I loved my aunt and uncle like a second set of parents, for good reason. My uncle lived with my parents before he got married, and he was one of my frequent babysitters. My aunt lived with my parents when she came over from the Philippines before she married my uncle. They were always a big part of my life, and their deaths wounded my heart almost as much as those of my parents.
When my summers became too full with cheer leading practices for me to continue my full-time summer job with them, my aunt found a Filipino woman to live with the family. I never knew if she was paid, only that she lived with the family full-time. I’m embarrassed to say that I cannot remember her name. But this article immediately called her to mind.
“This memory was not painful to her now. Her life was an open window and she a butterfly.” ~ Simon Van Booy, from “French Artist Killed in Sunday’s Earthquake”
Another memory: When relatives from Newark visited one summer, they brought with them their live-in woman. My aunt asked me not to mention that I was paid because she didn’t want their live-in to feel bad. I realize now that the woman probably wasn’t paid anything. That’s just how it was done.
We never had one of these women in our house, probably because it was just my mom, dad, and me, that and we weren’t well off. However, over the years we frequently had a relative of some sort living with us. Again, that’s just how it is, and it never seemed odd to me. I think that if my parents had wanted a live-in that there were certainly many relatives in the Philippines who would have jumped at the chance, life in the States being much preferred to a life of poverty in the islands.
That being said, I don’t think that my American mother would have ever been comfortable with such an arrangement, not because she was opposed to have help, but more because she was such a very jealous woman and having another woman living in our house would have stirred her monster, which was always seething just below the surface of her marriage to my dad. Truthfully, though, my father gave her good reason to be suspicious. I can admit that now without feeling that I’m betraying either of them.
“Stare at the monster: remark How difficult it is to define just what Amounts to monstrosity in that Very ordinary appearance.” ~ Ted Hughes, from “Famous Poet”
What has made it so hard for me to write about all of this is that my aunt and uncle were good, generous people, and I wouldn’t want it to seem that I’m criticizing them in any way, but if I am to be honest, then I have to admit that the tradition that they carried on was very much like the slavery the article’s author discusses. It is hard, painful even, to try to think of my relatives in these terms.
Slavery is a hard word—it is filled with negative connotations, rightfully so, and when most American heard the word, they think about that shameful period in our country’s history in which the color of one’s skin dictated how the individual lived, whether or not the person was paid or could vote or even if that individual could have the barest education. Tizon’s article recounts another form of slavery, one that most white Americans know nothing about, but one that most Filipino Americans know about but rarely acknowledge.
But back to the article: Tizon narrates how Lola (an all-encompassing Tagalog word for grandmother or nana), lived with his family after his mother died, and after Lola’s death how he took her ashes back to her family in the Philippines. It’s a bittersweet story, told in retrospect through a child’s eyes and then later through the wisdom that being an adult sometimes imparts, too late more often than not.
Tizon recounts the story of how his maternal grandfather, Lieutenant Tom, a “cigar-chomping army lieutenant named Tomas Asuncion” brought an 18-year-old Filipina girl named Eudocia Tomas Pulido into the family in 1943 to take care of his mother whose own mother had died in childbirth. Pulida, or Lola—a cousin from a marginal side of the family, rice farmers—was a gift to Tizon’s mother, and Lola stayed with various members of Tizon’s family for almost 68 years, 56 or them as an utusan (people who take commands).
Lieutenant Tom had as many as three families of utusans living on his property in the Tarlac province of the Philippines. He had lots of land but little money, and he was shrewd. As Tizon explains how Lola came to be the family’s slave, “The lieutenant was shrewd—he saw that this girl was penniless, unschooled, and likely to be malleable . . . She could have food and shelter if she would commit to taking care of his daughter . . . Lola agreed, not grasping that the deal was for life.”
“Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.” ~ Evelyn Waugh, from Brideshead Revisited
Another memory: My parents and I spent several months in the Philippines after my dad retired from the Navy. The plan was for us to live there, but that didn’t work out as I became ill and found to be allergic to pretty much everything. But while we were staying at my grandmother’s house in my dad’s village of Gapan, we would visit my great aunt Tiba’s house. I recall that she had an utusan, but that’s all I remember. Later, when we moved to Quezon City, two of my cousins moved with us. They helped out, but I honestly don’t know if they were there as utusans or as family, or even if there is a difference.
We were Americanized. We weren’t rich, but as compared to many in my father’s family, we were well off. We stayed in an air-conditioned apartment in Quezon City at a time in which air conditioning was a luxury. It may still be a luxury—I have no idea. So the opportunity to live in the city with us as opposed to a small village must have seemed appealing.
My mother, born into a large family during the Great Depression, never had servants, so I don’t think that she would have been able to order people about naturally; at least, that is how I like to remember things. My father made it out of his small village by becoming a Guerilla during WWII and then later enlisting in the U.S. Navy; he was never entitled but he believed ardently in helping out family whenever he could.
If it sounds as if I’m trying to convince myself that for those few short months we did not have a family slave, I am, but I’m also trying to be realistic, reconciling the parents I knew with the parents I couldn’t have possibly known well as a child. What we know of our parents is what we choose to know, and few of us choose to know or to remember that side in which our parents were human beings, with their own likes and dislikes, wants and desires, shortfalls and foibles.
That’s just not how it works. Is it?
Utusan. Helper. Servitude. Long hours. No pay. No personal life beyond the family’s environs. Bottom line: slave. It’s ugly no matter how memory shapes it. If you get a chance, I do recommend reading the article that jump started this post. It is a lovely narrative, one to which few white Americans can actually relate but deserves a wide audience nevertheless.
“The antidote to a government controlled by a powerful few, a government that divides, is a government by the organized, energized and inclusive many. That’s what this moment’s about. That has to be the answer.” ~ President Barack Obama, speech at U. of Illinois (September 7, 2018)
Sunday afternoon, sunny and lovely, 69 degrees.
I know that I’m on a political bent as of late, but how can I not be? So much is happening so fast that it’s hard to keep all of it straight. It’s no secret that I’m an ardent liberal, but more than that, I’m a patriot. I believe in this country, and I believe in the Constitution. And the current state of affairs is breaking my heart and making my blood pressure go crazy, so I try to ameliorate the effects a bit by writing about them or by sharing some of the more significant items such as what I’m featuring today.
Former President Barack Obama addressed an audience at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in September 2018, and although this speech was delivered over a year ago, I believe that his message is particularly important and relevant in these dark days of our republic. I’m not going to put the entire transcript here because it’s always better to hear Obama’s words as opposed to reading them—he remains a powerful orator, capable of grabbing and holding an audience with his words and cadence. It’s a striking contrast to the bluster and fumble of 45.
I have pulled out just a few of the more relevant snippets:
The point Washington made, the point that is essential to American democracy is that in a government of and by and for the people there should be no permanent ruling class. There are only citizens, who through their elected and temporary representatives determine our course and determine our character.
More often it’s manufactured by the powerful and the privileged, who want to keep us divided, and keep us angry and keep us cynical, because it helps them maintain the status quo and keep their power and keep their privilege. And you happen to be coming of age during one of those moments.
It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years.
It shouldn’t be Democratic or Republican to say we don’t threaten the freedom of the press because they say things or publish stories that we don’t like. I complained plenty about Fox News, but you never heard me threaten to shut them down or call them enemies of the people.
It shouldn’t be Democratic or Republican to say we don’t target certain groups of people based on what they look like or how they pray. We are Americans. We’re supposed to stand up to bullies — not follow them. We’re supposed to stand up to discrimination, and we’re sure as heck supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers.
You cannot sit back and wait for a savior. You can’t opt out because you don’t feel sufficiently inspired by this or that particular candidate. This is not a rock concert, this is not Coachella. We don’t need a messiah. All we need are decent, honest, hardworking people who are accountable and who have America’s best interest at heart.
If you are tired of politicians who are all for nothing but “thoughts and prayers” after a mass shooting. You’ve got to do what the Parkland kids are doing. Some of them have not eligible to vote yet. They’re out there working to change minds and registering people. They’re not giving up until we have a Congress that sees your lives more important as a campaign check from the NRA. You’ve got to vote!
“And even if there’s no magic fix for mental illness, it seems indigenous Australians have much to teach us about developing greater awareness and reciprocity with our planet for our physical and emotional survival – if we only take the time to listen.” ~ Bonita Grima, from “A 60,000=year=old cure for depression”
Thursday afternoon, sunny and too warm, 90 degrees.
The other day I read an article about Australia’s traditional Aboriginal healers and their approach to treating illnesses of the mind and body. The article, entitled “A 60,000-year-old cure for depression” was published on the BBC Travel Site.
Because of my long journey with mental and physical ailments, I’ve long had an interest in alternative medicines—and would love to know more about the various uses of herbs and plants. As I’ve mentioned, I take various vitamins and supplements like eggshell membrane and cinnamon for things like my IBS, blood sugar, and arthritis, and while Western medicine tends to scoff at the effectiveness of supplements, I have seen improvements in some things. For example, my blood sugar levels are back to normal, and my thyroid levels are closer to normal as well.
Is it a placebo effect? Who knows, but I’ll take what I can get if it means that I can take fewer prescription medicines. I think that part of what I like is that I feel as if I have more control over my health. Anyway, much of what I know, and that is limited at best—comes from reading about Native American healers, but the title of this article caught my attention.
As the article points out, the indigenous Aboriginal people of Australia have the oldest living culture on earth. However, their numbers have substantially dwindled, in large part because of the influx of Europeans, who brought all of the negative effects of colonizatioin, such diseases, violence, and forced separation of Aboriginal families and removal from traditional lands. But as the article states, one of the traditions that has remained in spite of outside factors is the role of traditional healing:
For around 60,000 years, their intricate understanding of ecology ensured survival, and their physical, spiritual, mental and emotional well-being was achieved by maintaining healthy, balanced relationships with all living and non-living things.
At the heart of their communities were traditional healers. They have been respected and entrusted with the well-being of Aboriginal communities for as long as the culture has been alive.
For the mubarrn, or elders, the most important step in healing is a connection to the land, which is directly tied to listening. The term dadirri, which means an “inner deep listening and quiet still awareness:
For indigenous Australians, this spiritual listening practice provides a way to observe and act according to the natural seasons and cycles in a way the modern world seems to have forgotten.
The article quotes Dr Francesca Panzironi, a human rights academic from Rome. Panzironi is the CEO of Australia’s first organization of Aboriginal traditional healers, Anangu Ngangkari Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation (ANTAC). “For indigenous people, it’s about reconnecting to culture and accessing healing techniques that are different from Western medicine,” Panzironi said. Ngangkari are the healers of Australia’s central desert areas.
Now that I live here on the ridge, I find myself observing and learning each time I venture onto the land. Corey and I joke with one another about preparing for the zombie apocalypse, but truthfully, I want a greenhouse so that I can raise herbs so that eventually, I can learn how to make things like soap and my own tinctures, especially for treating the animals when they have small wounds or inflammations. For now, I settle for ordering things like an ointment made from Manuka honey, which is native to New Zealand and has been shown to have several healing benefits.
I’m featuring this article for those of you who may share my interest in learning what the land can provide for us. I’m including a link to a similar article about the Ngangkari healers, which can be found here, as well as an article here about some of the medicinal plants used.
Just a quick aside: I’ve been trying for almost a week to write this post, but my brain is overloaded with a bunch of stuff, so I cannot focus on one thing well enough to write about it. I hope that the above is linear enough to follow.
More later. Peace.
Aboriginal Healing Music (uncertain as to performers) composed by Giordano Trivellato and Giuliano Sacchetto