There are thousands of dandelions around here, but I looked out the window and saw this one across the street and in the meadow and I grabbed my camera and went out after it. It was just in the light, with a dark shadow behind it, and it was waiting for me. I love to chase the light, it is the best metaphor there is for life.
On Route 68, a furious sunset, a churning sky, autumn announcing itself with emotion on an old country road, the suggestion of life to come, just over the hill.
You can find light and love reflected on the good working farmers of Kinney Road. A struggling, vanishing
America. These photos are about their struggle. And mine.
This morning, I am offering my readers a precious gift, the gift of a smile. I promise you, in the mist of all this dark and menacing politicking – whatever happened to being uplifted? – that if you look at this video, you will smile, whatever your politics are, however pissed off you are on Facebook.
Where else can you get a promise like that this week?
The political convention held this week seemed to almost everyone to be depressing, it seemed to cloud the very air with anger, disbelief and gloom. It was as if we forget to laugh, at ourselves, our leaders, our world. It was humorless from beginning to end. All of the funny stuff was an accident.
The vision of America I kept hearing about all week and seeing when I watched was of a broken, Dystopian, lawless culture, a sort of political Mad Max movie starring pissed off older white people in suits and big hair, holed up in their basements with rifles waiting for the displaced and the starving and the lawless and the brown and black and foreign to storm the big new walls and come and get them.
I didn’t see one smile all week.
Not from the people inside, or the people speaking, or the people watching.
Everyone I talked to seemed to have stomach cramps. I kept thinking that everyone I saw on television needed an enema. I wouldn’t care to argue the politics of the thing, but I sure wouldn’t to have lunch with those people or invite them to the farm. The donkeys would run away and hide.
I confess I see the culture differently from some of the politicians in Cleveland. We are a diverse, quarrelsome, disparate country with some very real problems to address and nothing resembling a consensus on how to fix them. Our democracy has rarely been peaceful or reasonable. History is our friend and our guide, and I love history.
We have been through far worse times than this.
I skipped the convention, the whole thing was just too dark for me.
This morning, I woke up at 4 or 5 a.m. and browsed the Web. I was surprised and intrigued. Martha from Nevada e-mailed me and said if I did nothing else, I should watch a video from the Late Show that was going viral. I’ve been online a long time, my neural system is sensitive to things going viral sometimes.
The Web was full of posts and links and praise for a Broadway actress named Laura Benanti who had appeared on the Stephen Colbert Late Show to spoof the plagiarism controversy from Tuesday night involving Melania Trump and her reading lines from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech.
I downloaded it – it was so popular it took me awhile – and then I laughed so hard I made Red growl and woke Maria up and made her watch too. We lay together in the dark looking at my Iphone and we watched the skit three times and were laughing just as hard at the third round as we did the first.
We laughed so hard Fate started whining in her crate and the donkeys heard us out in the Pole Barn and brayed.
We both looked at each other and realized how good it is to laugh. We hadn’t laughed in a while. For me, that is a warning sign, a kind of death.
Melania Trump’s speech is not very important in the scheme of things, nobody will be talking about it by Sunday, I imagine. So why did Benanti’s performance – she is a star now – light up social media and draw millions of views in minutes, really. It was really a tonic, whichever side you are on, and if you brain is not dead and you have not become one of those angry, raging ghouls.
We needed to laugh and we needed to be reminded to laugh, at least here on the farm. The commentators are as grim as the politicians.
This all made me realize how much we all need to laugh once in a while, even in the midst of trauma and conflict, and how healthy it is for people to lighten up, to smile. It is an integral part of who we are as a people. Lincoln knew it, so did JFK and Ronald Reagan. So did Winston Churchill. Every great leader knew how to laugh. There is no greater or more stirring signal to a troubled people than a leader who can make them laugh.
We need some humility, none of us or our beliefs are all that important. I have no right to take myself so seriously that I can’t laugh at myself, or at you. The other day, I was chasing Fanny around the pasture for a half hour trying to get some anti-fly ointment into her sore ears. It was ridiculous, really, I had no chance of catching Fanny or getting her to hold still if she didn’t wish to. With donkeys, everything has to be their idea, or you can forget about it.
Finally, Fanny turned to me and let out a jeering bray. “You are laughing at me!,” I said, and she was. I went back and tried again later. She was fine with it.
I will leave it to others to argue the politics of the election, but we forget sometimes that creativity is the most powerful political force there is, and a world without humor is its own Guantanamo Bay.
We seem to take ourselves so seriously, and as someone who finds himself inherently ridiculous, and life utterly unpredictable and absurd. As a former political writer, I knew there is nothing funnier in the whole world than posturing politicians. If I can’t laugh at them sometimes, I am finished.
When we laugh, we are uplifted, transported, it does something good to our biology, it prolongs life, builds perspective, helps the heart to beat strongly, burnishes the soul, brings the world down to size. It just feels good, something I needed very much to be reminded of this week.
They reminded us with laughter than there are many bigger troubles than ours, and so many people in the world would be happy to trade places with us. That is humbling when you think about it.
Thanks to Stephen Colbert and Laura Benanti for that, they may have just made the most powerful political statement there is.
This week, I’ve been chasing the sunrise, the frost has been a helper to me, the early sun lights it up in a beautiful and framing way, it tells the story of the morning for me. The frost only catches the sunlight for a few minutes, I have to be up and ready. The early part of the winter pasture. Looks like we will miss the big storm. Or it will miss us.