Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Winter in no uncertain terms

Well, it must be winter: had to break out the warm, fake-leopard-skin robe this morning. The pretty, pale aqua one that was a Christmas present from friend Meaghan a few years back has served faithfully since about May, but this morning it was 28 degrees out (and snowing, about which more in a moment), and it was cold in my little house. Even turning the heat up didn't do the trick, so I dug around in the bottom of my portable closet (my little house comes with only one real closet), where I stack extra blankets, and I pulled out the folded-up, warm winter robe.

As to the snow, 6-12 inches are predicted. Although we had a freak snowstorm at the end of October -- which made newspaper headlines across the country, since it was only the fourth time since the Civil War that snow had fallen in New York City in October -- and many areas in New England got close to two feet of snow, here in the Augusta area we had only maybe four or five inches. So this is our first real snowstorm. And naturally it arrives on the day before Thanksgiving, when the whole world has a plane to catch -- or a couple of hours on the road to drive -- in order to get to Grandma's house. Fortunately I don't have to go anywhere, not even to work, since I made the executive decision, after digging out the winter robe, and standing at my front window for a few minutes looking out at the gently-falling snow (and the six inches that were already on the ground) not to open the library. Didn't even agonize over the decision, as I have so often in the past (see Note of Jan. 12, 2011). Although I have to admit I vacillated a little bit. I decided that if the snow had let up by this afternoon, we'd open at 2. My reason for this is that we are definitely and absolutely closed for the Thanksgiving holiday both tomorrow and Friday and, as I discussed in the note of Jan. 12th, I know some of our patrons depend on the library for reading (or viewing) matter to get them through such things as holidays, weekends, and snowed-in days. To be closed three days in a row is a bit much.

So I call the staff member who normally opens on Wednesdays, to tell her answering machine (Sue never answers the phone directly) that we are closed until maybe two o'clock; I call our answering machine at the library and change its message to say the same thing ("Please give us a call after that time to see if we are open), I call our snow-removal guy to let him know he doesn't have to worry about getting our walks cleared until this afternoon, and I prepare to enjoy an extra day off.

But nothing is ever simple. In my life these days nothing is ever simple. About an hour later I remember that this is ILL delivery day. Some libraries have two or three deliveries a week; our little library has only one, so if we miss it -- because, say, we're closed due to a storm -- then our patrons have to wait an additional week for their interlibrary loan books, and the libraries we are lending books to have to wait an additional week for their books.

So, sigh, I call the delivery service, to ask if they think the delivery guy will make it through, like the P.O., just maybe late. The woman I talk to says he may run late, because of the state of the roads, or he may actually run early, because so many libraries will have closed. So ultimately we agree that someone will be at the library to receive our delivery at two o'clock, unless I hear otherwise from her. And then I have to call Sue back to convey this information to her, so that she can plan on definitely being there then (Sue lives within walking distance of the library, so her getting there is not the ordeal it is for me when it snows.)

Now I just have to hope my neighborhood doesn't lose power...and that some strapping young boys will come around at some point and offer to do my shoveling for me (wait, do I have any money in the house? Hmm...)

Friday, November 18, 2011

All we need is love

Have you heard about the lady from India (named Sudhamani, when she was born in a small village in India, but now known as Amma), who offers a hug to anyone who wants one? And about the thousands of people who lined up to receive one of her hugs at Alexandra Palace (now a kind of convention center) in North London? All kinds of people, different countries of origin (plenty of native Brits!), different religions, young and old.

Amma had to leave school at the age of nine to take care of her family, and began hugging people way back then, anyone who seemed to need it. According to her web site she was sometimes punished by her family for hugging inappropriately -- especially members of the Untouchable class, and older men (!) -- but she felt this expression of love towards people who were, in her eyes, suffering, was important enough to continue.

It's amazing to me that this woman goes around the world holding these hug fests, that she decided this was a good thing to do, and by George she was going to do it (and by the way, people do not pay for their hugs, so she does not make money from this aspect of these events, though perhaps she does from the sale of souvenirs, or the like.) And what's even more amazing to me is that in a land of physically inhibited people, like England, she draws these huge crowds, who just want a kindly, compassionate hug. What does that say about the state of our culture? People are hungry for someone to wrap them in a mother's embrace and reassure them, if only for a moment, that they are loved.

I've checked out Amma's web site (, and find that her organization does have several what sound like very worthwhile projects, e.g., an orphanage for Untouchable children in Kerala, her native state, which is along the west coast of India, near its southern tip. And I love the quotation that appears on one page of her site: "A one word solution to all the problems the world is facing is compassion." I actually agree with that. I think if the leaders throughout the world felt real compassion, not only for their own people, but for the people of the other countries of the world, as well (remember that shot of the earth from space -- we are one small planet); if instead of competition and one-upmanship there was a spirit of helpful cooperation, springing from that compassion...well, a heluva lot of our problems would indeed go away.

David Sillito, the BBC newsman who was reporting on Amma's appearance in London, interviewed several people both before and after their hugs: "What do you expect from this?" "No idea whatsoever." "How was it?" "Unexplainable, you just cannot describe how you feel;" "I'm sorry, I'm speechless; I haven't come back to the real world yet;" "That was..."(expulsion of breath)..."something else." "Ah...It was a very nice hug.")

The reporter finally announced that the only way to really know what it was like, was to do it, so we saw him on his knees in front of this chubby little woman (who was seated), getting hugged. Then she laughed, handed him an apple, and sprinkled him with flower petals. As he stepped away and faced the camera you could tell that he was actually moved, to his surprise and somewhat to his chagrin -- undoubtedly as much of a cynic as the next reporter. In his report that appeared online, Sillito said that what that hug reminded him of was his mother, and what he did after he left Alexandra Palace was call his mother.

I can't imagine myself getting in line behind hundreds of people, to kneel, and have this total stranger embrace me in a hug of several moments. But I have to admit, I could use a hug.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Just imagine...

Well, it really is a shame about Mr. Cain. The accusations of sexual harassment are coming fast and furious now. The analysts on shows like PBS's Washington Week and Inside Washington have been saying for some time that he doesn't have the money, or the organization, to go all the way in the presidential race (and what kind of democracy is it in which having plenty of money is a primary requirement for running for president?)...not to mention the fact that his 9-9-9 tax proposal has come in for lots of criticism, being pronounced too simplistic by most economists. (Its simplicity is of course what appeals to people, since people prefer simple answers and solutions, even when the problems they seek to address are complex).

And now we have these accusations, which certainly won't help him, though apparently many people are still giving the man the benefit of the doubt, because they like him so much.

But here's what really makes it all such a shame. I was really enjoying the idea of two black men being the ultimate candidates for president. Who would doubt we had made progress in the area of racial relations then? Of course, those Republicans who dislike Obama at least partly because he's black wouldn't be thrilled to have a black man as their party's candidate, but if they still voted for Cain -- I'll take this black man over that black man -- that would surely represent progress! And that would mean two black presidents in a row! I don't agree with most of Cain's policy stands -- of course, since I'm a good Democrat and he's a good Republican -- but I would at least derive satisfaction from that historical precedent being set, were he elected.

The "experts" are still saying Mitt Romney is the most likely Republican candidate to go up against President Obama. It really will be interesting to see what develops over the next couple of months.