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Beauty, Despite the Ugliness

While the intent of this post is NOT meant to be focused on the eruptions of discord and hate surrounding Mr. Floyd’s death, I can’t ignore it. The massive pendulum that is the collective social justice and conscience has swung hard. Sadly, it has left a wake of even deeper hatred, divisiveness, disrespect, destruction, and death in its wake. In Chicago alone last weekend, “protests” resulted in 80 people being shot, 20 of whom died. I’ve lost track of the count of police officers who have been killed in the last week, none of whom have been even mentioned on any of the news reports I’ve had the misfortune to see. Likewise, there were dozens of simple ordinary small business owners and other innocent people killed during the “protests” across this country as they desperately tried to protect their businesses; in a neighboring town here, an 85 year old man was violently body slammed to the pavement by a protestor who disliked the elderly man’s sign. And in Buffalo NY a 75 year old man was pushed by police clearing the street and fell, resulting in serious injury. The stories of carnage are seemingly endless….

The pendulum of our society now seems to support any action that lashes out at our police officers in anger and has zero interest in sympathy or sorrow when a violent protestor kills an innocent. And while Mr. Floyd in no way deserved to die as he did, and while that police officer deserves the full and complete ponderance of punishment our laws permit, the fact remains that this was one case. But rather than focus on the individual circumstances, we’ve chosen to roll up every police officer into a single entity and villainize them. There is even talk of abolishing police departments altogether! Like the song and the movie: Who ya’ gonna’ call? Hah – not the police apparently!

Watch Live PD some time, watch the unbelievably trying circumstances that these officers are forced to endure, throughout their entire shift, every single day. Two police officers die on the job every week of the year; we are well over 50 deaths so far this year, most of which are at the hands of criminals, and that total may well be far greater now after a week of demonstrations. I think we’ve lost six officers in just the last week. Imagine pulling over a car at 1AM on a deserted road for whatever reason – speeding, erratic driving, expired registration, or whatever – you are alone in your cruiser and there are four in the car. You have no idea of their mental state, whether they have weapons, their intent, or their purpose. But it’s your job to uphold the law and go determine who they are and work through the situation, no matter how scary. Perhaps you know this: every police officer who approaches a vehicle touches the tail light and trunk; this is to leave their fingerprints should they be shot and killed by the people in the car to help those investigating their death. How’s that for a routine day at the office?

Police live in a world of constant aggression, deceit, and violence. They are always on the edge, always ready for the smooth talking and often lying person to pull out a gun or knife. Does that excuse the excessive force and subsequent death of Mr. Floyd? Of course not, there can be no excuse for that that behavior. But it helps explain why police, in general, are quick to impose their will upon suspects. The problem is that a bad cop can and will take it too far, as we witnessed. I have NO idea how to fix it either. How do you ensure the people you’ve asked to go out and protect your neighborhood stay safe when constantly dealing with people who will shoot then dead if given the chance? I don’t know. Body cams are a start, perhaps with an independent behavior observer in each car whose sole job is to make sure the officer is both safe but is also acting with constraint. I am not “siding” with the police over the victim by any means; I merely want rational thought, calm consideration, fair and equitable non-violent debate, and equality. I want a slain police officer to be mourned as deeply as the death of a criminal in the street by the hand of the police, such as Mr. Floyd. I want equal outrage for the killing of an innocent person trying to protect their business as a person killed by police in a riot. Death is death, neither death is deserved, acceptable, or tolerable; both need to mourned and need to spark outrage. Both matter or neither matter.

I said I was not going to write about the protests, the riots, the deaths of innocent citizens and of police officers across this country over the last week and of the complete lack of attention that has received in the news media. I was not going to write about the millions of people who all joined together hand in hand, without masks, yelling and screaming at each other, in complete disregard to the pandemic. I was not going to write about the tens of thousands of people who lost people to the virus and could not have a proper funeral – people who couldn’t go pay their final respects, yet it’s fine for Mr. Floyd’s service and funeral to have thousands, including celebrities and politicians – ostensibly including Joe Biden apparently. I was not yet here I am deep into it and that is exactly what I writing about!

But I will change that now; I will get back on topic and write about what I wanted to talk about. Our water level here in our yard is high; at wet times of the year we have a pond in the back. During the drier times of the year there is no water in the yard, but it lurks just below the surface. It is high enough that I had to spend nearly three times the cost of a conventional septic system to install a specially designed system for use in and around wetlands. The neighbor across the stone wall has a pond that remains with water mostly year ‘round; only in extreme drought conditions do I lose sight of the water from my yard – it may still be in the bottom but I can’t see it. I am not even sure how deep the pond is, but I suspect around eight feet or so.

I have one area that is lower than most parts of the yard stays wet longer than every place else. The whole yard is dry now – it has been for several weeks. But the other day I went out there with a shovel and post hole digger and I dug…and I found water at around two feet. I then picked up my phone and rented a small excavator. Yes! It is coming on Tuesday and I have it for a week. My plan is to dig a pond – a frog pond – with it. I figure that since the water is there anyway, this would make an awesome addition to the yard and the grandkids will love it. I will let the land determine the final size and shape, but form what I see, I expect it to be twenty-something feet long and across, give or take a few feet, roughly rectangular, I think. I hope to get down around six feet, maybe eight. Part of that decision is premised on the final surface size. Unlike a pool, a pond does not have, or should not have anyway, vertical walls. It should slope from the surface down to the deepest part, similar to a wide bowl, the deepest point in the center. So as the water level drops through the seasons, you don’t have to lie down and try to reach the water, you can walk the bank to reach the water level.

And no, before you ask – I have never run an excavator before. That’s why I rented it for a week instead of a couple of days. I figure I need a day or to just to get comfortable running it. I may adapt quickly, I’ve run a Bobcats, forklifts, and aerial lifts, so I feel I will pick it up within a reasonable amount of time. I have other tasks that could use an excavator in the yard, such as digging out tree stumps, so if I finish it early, it will still get used.

The area I selected is, as I mentioned, the lowest in the yard and the last to dry up. And drainage from the top part of the yard runs down between my lot and my neighbor’s lot (opposite side as the pond side) in a sort of gully or channel and then spreads out in this spot. I plan to take the dirt I remove from the hole and place it between this new pond and the gully along the fence line. It will provide a nice mound of higher ground between the gully and the pond upon which I plan to plant broad leaf bamboo and other evergreen plants. It should attract and maintain even more wildlife in our yard than we have now – I am highly enthused over this project! Pictures will follow in subsequent posts!

Throughout all of this, riots across the country and my little pond, the virus seems to have fallen out of favor for a topic of conversation. People, including our own governor, who has been sharply critical of residents not following her guidelines for sheltering in place, wearing masks, social distancing, etc., appeared at a rally Friday night. She appeared without a mask, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of people, holding hands, and chanting along with everyone else. Purely a photo op; very similar to Trump posing in front of the church – an opportunity to pose and be seen by the public. Another shining example of the double standard all too often imposed by our government, our politicians, our “leaders”. Do as I say, not as I do!

People have basically returned to life as usual, excepting those few things still under the governor’s arbitrary control such as indoor dining, movies, etc. (Although as I just mentioned, rallies of thousands are OK as long as they are politically correct.) Despite my hope and expectation that this experience would draw us together, bond us as so often a national crisis often will, we are just as divided, judgmental, and derisive as ever – maybe even more so. We, as a society, emerged from this crisis bitter and angry and frustrated with zero tolerance or patience for much of anything. We are, collectively, a giant patch of brittle dry grass and social media is a lit match. The riots are really no surprise to me. But the summer has arrived and people have emerged from hibernation hungry for a return to the life they had before the virus as well as ready and anxious to fight anyone who holds a differing opinion than theirs. Sad.

There is still a potent virus out there and areas of the country and the world that have not yet seen the full force of; it will continue to accumulate illnesses and deaths. But in the US, those areas are mostly rural, isolated, less populated places and the numbers will not be as shocking and devastating as we saw in the big cities along the east and west coasts. That is not to say the victims count any less, but their numbers will pale by comparison to NYC or LA. And society has moved on; our patience with the virus has been exhausted, summer is here, we are done with it. And so it will become secondary news; riots, protests, political maneuvering for the November election will all supplant the virus. At least unless and until it makes its forecasted return with the autumnal flu season. By then, the riots will be over the anger will have subsided, the election will be over, and it will likely take the front page once again. Let’s just hope that the scientists and researchers can maintain their focus through all this and can develop both a vaccine and some sort of antidote before then. And that maybe, the second time around, we manage it more effectively than the media driven panic of the first.

And in between all of this, my disjointed thoughts in this post aside, please don’t forget to step outside and find a way to enjoy late spring and the path into summer. The irises are in bloom now, as are the rhododendrons. The night peeps and the birds of the day are in full voice. The greenery is bursting forth everywhere and is fresh, new, and vibrant. Days are warm, nights are cool – a wonderful and wondrous time to be alive; don’t let the distractions of the world cause you to miss it. It’s OK to mourn a case of police brutality and to marvel at a butterfly floating on the soft breath of a summer breeze. Stay well dear reader.

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