There’s a song that’s been stuck in my head for a while. It’s a song about betrayal, sung by a dead man (and sometimes Willie Nelson). It’s not a song about a cheating lover; it’s a song about the betrayal of a friend. It tells the tale of a blatant, in-your-face sell-out, neither clever nor sneaky. Worse than an outright fight, more heartbreaking than angry insults, it’s a betrayal that destroys lives.
The song is set in a brightly-colored tropical country, a country of peasants with mind-your-own sorrows attitudes. There’s crime and virtue in the song and, of course, disappointment. There is heat and dust.
The one betrayed dies and becomes legend. The betrayer lives on in obscurity and regret.
The first time I was betrayed I was a fourth-grader. I never spoke to the offender again. I was angry and hurt, but it wasn’t hard to move on. I knew I could do without a friend like that.
Adult betrayals are not always so simple. Sometimes necessity overrides treachery. Sometimes affection gets in the way especially if the betrayer betrays themselves as well. Forgiveness is in order, though it may not be easy to forget.
Sometimes the betrayal overrides any chance of forgiveness. What are we to do when we’re being betrayed at an unparalleled level of treachery by people in power? Confrontation does no good. Criticism has no effect. The devil has no shame.
Perhaps this epic double-cross can’t be sung…or perhaps it just hasn’t been sung yet. Perhaps there is someone out there who can sing the truth of it. To catch on, it will need a strong voice and a loud guitar. It will need an earthy base, a soulful drummer, and a honky tonk keyboard player so as not to frighten the innocent. It will need words like “dust” and “destiny.” It will need courage, dedication and sleepless nights. It might need horses.
There are some people voicing solemn refrains but often their voices fall flat, are discordant or masked by shrill duplicity. But time and determination have a way of airing treachery and sounding out revelation. Resonance is eminent.
Then for us to move on, cells with strong bars will be needed.

Happy New Year, Iris Davis–whoever you are


My American grandmother’s journal is tiny (3” X 2”), her writing small, mostly household accounts and a record of her work days. I have three of these. One is from the year I was born but there is no mention of my birth. For a woman who had six children and, by this time, nine or ten grandchildren, I suppose birth was a routine event.
It’s been repaired with ancient tape and filled with tiny writing chronicling much of one year in a life that lasted 103 years. There is, however, scrawled across the page of March 25-30th,
“Dad had stroke
age 43—
died age 56, 1935”
The dates and ages don’t match but the numbers, originally written in pencil, are reinforced with pen. I take “dad” to be her husband as she was born in 1888 and I doubt her own father would have lived this long. 1888 was undoubtedly a lucky year for the Chinese because of the three 8’s. Alas, Gram was not Chinese and she was not lucky. Her ancestors came from cold northern European countries and she had a father so strict that she married at 18 to get out of the house. Women like her (poor, uneducated and guileless) had little recourse in those days. She raised six children on a tenant farm without modern conveniences, and baked bread to supplement their income. Her husband died when her three youngest children were still home and my mother, oldest of the three, had to quit school to help support the family.
On the page before (March 24-27), she wrote,
“Went to work Friday and resigned. drew my last pay. What a grand and glorious feeling—“
I believe this job was doing woman’s hair as she and my mother worked in a “beauty parlor” after her husband died and they had to leave the farm.
She didn’t stay retired, however. I remember her working until I was nearly a teenager. I thought it odd that she was a “companion to an old woman” as she herself was an old woman.
There’s a great deal of writing in the first part of the journal, work days recorded, men coming home from war (my father, neighbors, her youngest son), money loaned (mostly to Francis who is consistent in paying her back). There’s not much after March until the very end where she enters some addresses including “US Navy hospital, ward 14 in Portsmouth, VA.” Women are listed as Mrs…except for an Iris Davis (?).
Some of the days are only checked off (as in, got through it, on to the next).
I look for something revealing, shocking, inspiring. I find, “letter from Asa.” “7 dollars on food.” “Mrs. Worheim EM-9499.”
It’s my hope that we all find something revealing, shocking, and inspiring in 2019, and that we check off days only because they are the peaceful quiet ones that we savor for ourselves.

Dark Matters

A few weeks ago the subject of Dark Matter came up in a conversation among people who are much more intelligent than I am. I admitted that I didn’t understand what Dark Matter is and, because they’re very kind people, they assured me that I shouldn’t worry because no one knows. (I’ve wormed my way into the company of these people in the hope that their genius and creativity will rub off on me. Results pending.)
This weekend I took two of my grandchildren to the planetarium to see the show “Dark Universe.” I was excited to learn what science knows of this mysterious Dark component. Landon, who is eight, was entranced. However, I sat next to Nola who is six and had many burning questions: “Is that really the sky?” “Can we go back to the American Doll store?” “What are we going to have for lunch?” She complained that her neck hurt, her brother woke her up by pulling her hair, and she didn’t want to eat any more of the chicken soup I’d made for their visit. So I missed a bit of the lecture.
What I did learn was that Neil DeGrasse Tyson can express the most shocking concepts with complete dispassion. Examples: It’s Dark Energy that holds the universe together even though we don’t know how or what it is. Scientists have mapped the stars despite the fact that that what they’re seeing is distorted by gravitational lenses. And the ultimate appalling fact: the universe is expanding in an increasingly rapid rate. (This is one thing I can actually feel as I find it harder and harder to keep up.)
Various maps were projected on the ceiling in order to illustrate the prominence of Dark Matter and our place in the universe. Nola was not impressed. She prefers the “map” that came with a box of chocolates given to me the day before, a map that explains what’s in the chocolates without actually having to bite into them. (ie. the square with a spiral imprint is white chocolate with spicy cinnamon ganache, not a Nola recommendation)
Simple conclusion: Dark Matter and Dark Energy may be what holds the universe together but dark chocolate is infinitely easier to understand. Nola is not a fan of darkness in general (with the exception of chocolate). She chooses to defuse it with whimsical nightlights. Her universe is expanding rapidly but so far she is enjoying the ride.
I may never understand the concepts Neil DeGrasse Tyson is trying to explain, nor the dark turn the world has taken lately, as displayed in the daily bombardment of disheartening events. But I’m pleased to report that there are people and chocolate to provide light and the occasional whimsey in my corner of the universe.