In her last update, Rachel wrote about springtime in Seoul.
Springtime in Portland has been miserable this year.
It’s the last day of March and it’s not raining. At least not right now. But it’s been raining in Portland for months on end. I have already complained a lot about the weather this year and it’s not my intention to keep complaining about it, but I have to state that even as a life-long Oregonian, I am getting pretty sick of the rain.
From The Oregonian: “Portland has also not experienced two consecutive dry days since Feb. 12 to 13. The last time the region saw three dry days in a row was Jan. 12 to 16 (but there was plenty of snow on the ground, so the "dry" might have been hard to notice).
‘The National Weather Service also tweeted Monday morning that this winter has been exceptionally cloudy, with 86 percent cloudy skies for February and March.”
- (March 27th, 2017)
The moments where I remember having stood in the sun in the last few months, I can count on one hand. And both times were on real estate trips outside of Portland.
Yesterday was one of those moments. My mother and I showed property in Olympia, Washington. Outside of a small blue house on a large lot, we stood and chatted with our client in the sunshine. I was having a hard time paying attention because it felt so good just to stand in the sun.
Something fuzzy and black sort of careened through the air towards our client’s car, hit the car and then fell to the ground. We both stopped to look. “Is it a Bumble Bee?” I asked.
I wanted it to be a Bumble Bee, because they’re going extinct. But I also wanted it to be a bee because that would mean springtime. Warmer weather. Hope.
It wasn’t a Bumble Bee, it was just two black flies locked together, mating or fighting. (Probably mating.)
It was nice to drive up to Olympia and back with my mother. We talked about a lot of different things. Throughout the day my mother joked about her political platform; among the propositions: large semi-trucks should be banned on the freeway during rush hour, all cafes and coffee shops should be required to sell hard-boiled eggs. And according to my mother there needs to be more “nap stations” around…public places where people can take naps.
I agree with my mother’s political platform and would add to the list that yellow mustard be added to the list of required condiments at all cafes and coffee shops.
We also talked about what kinds of exotic meats we’d eaten. My mother remembers eating snails and frog legs as a kid. I’ve eaten squirrel, nutria, snails, venison. We talked about which family structures encourage matriarchies. (Hint – it’s not the nuclear family.)
I’ve been listening to “The People’s History of the United States of America”. I brought up how white settlers in Jamestown were so badly starving that they murdered family members and ate their bodies, and dug up corpses to find edible meat. They also ate dogs, horses and rats. Their trade with the Powhatan and other tribes had been soured for one reason or another and a drought had killed their crops. I don’t know enough to say authoritatively, but I’ve always been struck by colonialists inability to adapt to and adopt Native diets and technologies. From what I’ve read of history I’ve realized that until literally starving to death, so many colonialists saw their way of life as inherently superior to the people already living in colonized lands. I’m not sure if this was exactly the case in New England but it sure seems like the English settlers tried to impose their way of life on the New World instead of learning and adapting. This also happened in Greenland with the Vikings and many other places throughout history.
We also argued about Dave Chapelle’s Netflix comedy special.
We talked about our family’s history in early America. My maternal grandmother’s family, The Buckmans, came from England in 1720 to St. Mary’s Maryland. They were English Catholics. Eventually they moved to Kentucky and were part of the horse culture there. Then they moved to Missouri and raised horses there as well. They also owned slaves. This part of my family’s history is not surprising, nor is it something to be proud of. My great, great-grandmother was part of the Daughters of the Confederacy. On one hand this was a racist institution, on the other hand it was a way to deal with the real trauma of the civil war. And her parents owned human beings. It’s a reality that is hard to wrap my mind around.
For most white people, whose families have been in the America for many hundreds of years, this is just a fact. Whether or not your family owned a plantation, or just a few slaves and black servants like mine did, you were part of the slave economy. That’s a legacy that all white Americans need to think about. As for myself I have been thinking a lot lately about how we can perform reparations as individuals when our government hasn’t stepped up. This can come in many forms. I give to Black Lives Matters, I try to be inclusive when planning events, I ask my friends of color what they need. But it feels pretty hopeless sometimes, and then other times I think that if every white person just tried to reach out, to humble themselves, to listen….that would go a long way. Of course, actual reparations from institutions and governments would be great too.
We talked about my maternal grandfather’s side of the family, Swedes who moved to Astoria in the early part of the twentieth century. “They came here to fish the ocean to death,” I say looking out the window at the swollen Columbia River.
“My grandfather was a baker. He didn’t fish,” my mother replied.
I make the point that any person living in Astoria at that time was part of the fishing and lumber economy whether or not they were actually fishing and cutting down the trees or not. The defense that my relatives and the men involved in the catching and chopping didn’t know what they were doing … it doesn’t really fly with me. Many people will say that we thought that nature was boundless, that the sea would forever give. That’s just not true. I have spoken with old time loggers and I’ve read accounts of men on sealing and whaling boats from the 18th century. Many wept, many had deep misgivings about what they were doing. Many knew they were cutting down trees, the likes of which, would never be seen again in Oregon or anywhere on the planet. They knew they were contributing to the extinction of species, even if they didn’t have the word extinction in their vocabulary. This is sadly the human condition; we are often so caught up in the systems that profit us that we are unable to extricate ourselves, unable to imagine another way.
I am trying to imagine a better way.
There are so many other things to write about this month: my busyness, my writing, being a finalist for the Oregon Book Award, the Trump presidency, the shit show that is American politics right now.
But I’ll end here, hoping for sunshine, hoping for Bumble Bees