Country and Country: People of the Land and Those Who Seek to Rule Them

Probably no division matters more in this election year than that between aristocrats  who have not earned their wealth and the common folk who live by their own labor.  History has a helpful perspective.  After living for almost a decade in a sharing community, I spent some years researching what makes community hard to keep.  One of my discoveries was Henry Banford Parkes, who wrote The American Experience.  His look at the founding of the United States helped me in writing The Farm That Tried to Feed the World, a book about community.  Note: the terms leavers and takers are from Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael.  Leavers leave the flowers for others to enjoy.  Takers grab all they can get and store them in banks.

Here is a section from my book:

Henry Bamford Parkes.  The United States at its founding could be considered a new community meant to get back to the ideals of fairness and equality.  If you live in the United States, you may find this next section as surprising as I did.  If you live in another country, you will perhaps see why we Americans are so at odds with our government.  It isn’t ours.  Parkes’ book, The American Experience: An Interpretation of the History and Civilization of the American People, shows the United States in infancy when everything good seemed possible.  The distinction he makes between the early agrarian democrats and the aristocrats falls into the leavers/ takers or partnership/patriarchy divide.  What is instructive about reading this fascinating and sad account of our nation’s birth is that, as Parkes shows, we lost the new nation almost from the start.  Here are some of his statements:

Respect for the freedom of each individual and confidence that he would use his freedom wisely and constructively became the formative principles of the new American nationality…. (page 9)

The conflict between the aristocratic principle and the rising spirit of democracy may be considered as the main theme in the early political history of the Americans….  The methods by which America had been settled and the freedom and fluidity of American life made it obvious that the state… should be regarded as an instrument for the service of its citizens…. (page 57)

Parkes is talking about people who are in remarkably good condition of body and mind.  “The proportion of the population, especially in New England, who could be considered literate, and who had some knowledge of the classics and of the more important contemporary European writers, was probably larger than in any other country.  Jefferson once remarked that the modern wagon wheel, with the circumference made from a single piece of wood, had been invented by a New Jersey farmer who had found it described in Homer.”  (page 59)  My father was such a man.  He had studied Latin and the classics in the little school on Oak Hill.  He sang opera to the chickens, exhorting them as Faust to Margarita to always remain chaste and pure, though we can chuckle, since the last thing Dad needed was a chaste hen.

In a chapter called “The Revolution” Parkes notes that, “Living in an agrarian economy of small property owners, the average American of that epoch had acquired a habit of acting independently and a hostility to coercion and regimentation that made any kind of authoritarian regime impossible.” (pages 100-101)

Hmm.  Where are those guys today?

But there were those who came to America hoping for the kind of control over the masses they had had in Europe.  Americans worried them.  “A new type of man was achieving power in America; and for lovers of the old regime it meant the end of civilization.” (page 102)  Yup.  The end of unfair civilization, right?  I suppose if you were used to leisure, you would think you could not survive without servants and laborers.  It is a stretch for most of us, but we can imagine a life where work is unthinkable—for oneself.  Here, from the chapter called “The Constitution,” is the crux of the matter:

The difference between the property that had originated in the mixing of human labor with the wilderness and the property that had been acquired by means of a contract…is the clue to much of the political controversy of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America.

The moneyed classes whose property was derived from contracts were a small minority of the total population, and they believed that their rights would be endangered by any democratic system of government based on outright majority rule.  Their chief political objective, as Madison expressed it in 1787, was therefore “to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.”  (pages 112-114)

Parkes speaks of “those classes, comprising the vast majority of the population, who had acquired property not through contracts but by labor—in other words, of the farmers, the mechanics, and those planters who were interested solely in agriculture and not also in land speculation, whose purpose was to perpetuate those features of colonial society which had made America so markedly different from Europe…. (page 114)  The agrarians’ “primary objectives were to maintain a genuine equality of economic opportunity and to make it impossible for men to acquire wealth by any methods except their own industry and talent.” (page 116)  Don’t be thinking that by mechanics Parkes means auto-mechanics.  They hadn’t come along yet.  Webster’s Dictionary defines mechanic as “of or relating to manual work or skill.” Parkes goes on:

The struggle between agrarian and capitalistic principles lasted through the nineteenth century.  Yet it can be argued that the decisive engagement occurred at the very outset, and that the agrarians were defeated when they had scarcely begun to fight.  For the American Constitution, drafted by the Philadelphia Convention of 1987, was based on aristocratic and capitalistic principles.  The importance of this convention in determining the future development of America can scarcely be overestimated.  By accepting the Constitution, the people of the United States were virtually deciding that they should not remain a nation of small property owners, but that they should become a capitalistic people, possessed of the greatest wealth and power and of a high standard of living, but divided by the most extreme economic inequalities. (page 121)

For more about capitalism today, see Michael Moore’s film, “Capitalism: A Love Story.”

In addition to this theft of the new nation, there were the cultural assumptions which even the agrarians had brought with them.  None of the people who adopted the Constitution were women.  As Oren Lyons said, the founders “left out the women’s counsel.”  We have forefathers but no foremothers.  Jefferson, Franklin, even John Adams, had been so thoroughly imbued with, or head-copped by, European patriarchy that they could not see women—or blacks or poor white men—participating in government as equals with privileged white men.  They took their privileged status as God-given.  Yet they wanted with all their hearts to get away from European hierarchies.  It was a blindness that would cost them the vision of freedom for which they had fought the Revolution.

As noted earlier, the people of the Six Nations had learned not to use hierarchy.  It was a key point.  But men like Hamilton could not give up the power of a social structure where a leisured class was in charge while others worked without hope of advancement.  So, dang.  They wrote hierarchy in into the Constitution by making contracts legally binding, which had the effect of making corporations into persons with all the rights and none of the responsibilities of persons.  That is why the Supreme Court cannot stop the corporations.  No matter how destructive their activities, those activities are Constitutional.

Too Big to Be Carried

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We can learn patience from animal mothers.  I happened upon a You Tube clip of a mother lion moving her two cubs to a new location.  When she had carried the first cub to the new place and had carried the second cub a ways and needed a rest, she put him down, standing over him to pant and catch her breath.  After a while she tried to pick him up again but he wasn’t having it.  He turned on his back and batted at her mouth, giving a little snarl to let her know he didn’t want to ride any further.

She tried several times to get his head into her mouth, but the little cub squirmed away and refused to present his back to her.  Lying flat on his back, he prevented her from grasping the back of his head and neck.  Finally she walked away and the cub followed.  He walked the rest of the way to his new home.

What she did not do was snarl or bat him back when he batted her.  Nor did she get rough or try to force him.  He was utterly safe with her while telling her he had outgrown riding.

My own experience as a mother taught me that young children need to grow up at their own pace, a day at a time.  One day they need help and the next they can do it themselves.  They want up and pretty soon they want down.  The parent protects the child from the wider world and also from her own impatience.

My grown son recently said to me, “I figure the most important part of being a father is kindness.”  He is not the only one.  Lots of dads today as well as moms are aware of the need for kindness.  They have discovered something our ancestors didn’t know, they you don’t have to be unkind to be firm–and they you can allow children to be themselves because they are essentially good and capable.

Sleeping with the Enemy

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No, the enemy I sleep with is not a dangerous husband.  My enemy is only doing what it was designed to do.  These enemy troops are likely the mold under my carpet in a senior housing apartment.  The management has agreed to replace the carpet with vinyl plank flooring.  Yeah!  (This was done quickly.  The picture above shows the new floor.)

Now here’s my story and a bit about allergies, the body’s immune system, and the national trend in flooring

Took me several years to see the pattern.  I’d go away and get over my symptoms.  Then I’d come home and they’d all start up again.  But I didn’t want to believe I was allergic to my home.  After all, I’m also allergic to tree pollen and weed pollen.  It wasn’t simple.

I’ll start when allergies first started to bother me.  I was in my sixties, had never had allergies.  Something had changed in my body and I didn’t know what.

First, though, I want to be fair to the pollen and mold and dust and mites.  They are only doing what they are supposed to do.  Along with bacteria and fungus and viruses, they are the cleanup crew nature sends to turn our used up bodies back into usable particles.  Life goes on.

Still, I wasn’t ready to have my body recycled.  I needed to know what had happened inside this body.  I didn’t want to die in mystery.

I found a doctor who put his finger on two problems that were now becoming severe.  One was that my birth only 14 months after my sister’s probably meant my mother’s body wasn’t ready to fully support the second pregnancy.  I was born skinny and screaming, she said, and only stopped when she gave me cow’s milk.  Her breast milk lacked the flora and fauna infants get from nursing.  The other source of my trouble was that my adrenals, stunted during an illness at age six, were becoming very tired and doing less and less of what adrenals do.  You need both digestive power and adrenal power for a powerful immune system.

When the flooring guy came to show me the samples and measure my apartment, he said that carpet sales are expected to drop 40% by the end of 2020.  He explained that the structure of the carpet prevents even the strongest vacuum from getting at all the dust and mold.  Looks like lots of people are finding themselves sleeping with the enemy.

Well, by the middle of this week, most of the enemy troops at my place will be carried out with the old carpet.  The new floor comes with a cushion that seals out moisture and dust and mold.  After that, I recover from my reactions, including a two-year chronic bronchial congestion.  I’ll feel well.  And you can, too.*

*Note:  I’m not a health professional.  Any statements I make here about health and the workings of the body are from a layman’s perspective.  But I have done a lot of research, something anyone can do now that we have resources at our fingertips.

 

 

 

 

Why Some Babies Fail to Thrive on Both Breast Milk and Formulas

1943 Winky and Trish

This is my big sister and me sometime after I stopped screaming.

I’m writing this post for those caught up in failure to thrive on milk or formulas and for those who have been told they were failure to thrive babies.

I don’t know much about babies who fail to thrive.  The reasons could be many, including living in a household in such turmoil that the baby couldn’t relax and take her bottle.  One young mother had to be taught to stop fighting with her boyfriend around the baby.

I have heard the story from time to time of a baby that didn’t do well on any formula and only gradually stopped crying and began to get some nourishment from whatever was tried last.  Sometimes there were months of pain and frustration for mother and baby.

My three boys each nursed for more than a year and smiled and grew.  I lived in a village in which most mothers breastfed and I watched a hundred or more children thrive with that good start.

Still, breastfeeding can fail if the mother is nervous or sick or malnourished.  Or if she had her children so close together that her body was not ready to support the second pregnancy and nursing baby.  That is apparently what happened to me.

My mother married and began her family at a time when much of the wisdom of women was abandoned for the guidance of medical doctors.  She didn’t know why I was born skinny and crying or why nursing didn’t help.  She only knew she had a screaming infant on her hands.  I can’t blame her for what she didn’t know.  Her generation lost the village needed to raise each child along with all the knowledge and support such a village  would provide.  She loved being pregnant and she loved caring for babies.  She almost never ran out of energy for family life.

None of what happened to me was her fault.  Nor were we alone.  Across our land many mothers and babies were having a hard time in a way that was traceable to over-civilization as compared to indigenous living.

Took a lot of years and and, at last, an excellent doctor for me to understand that I was skinny because my mother’s body wasn’t ready for another pregnancy and that I was screaming because her breast milk lacked the usual healthy biotics that help a baby digest.  Babies are not born with intestinal probiotics, my doctor told me.  They get the good bugs from the birth canal and from nursing.

After six weeks of frustration, Mom put me on raw cow’s milk with Karo syrup in it and I stopped screaming.  The raw cow’s milk would have had the probiotics I needed for digestion.  But for the first six weeks of my life I was my mother’s enemy.  That part of our story did not end with the cow’s milk.  We had by then been deprived of the early bonding that comes with successful breastfeeding or bottle feeding.  Let’s not let this keep happening to our families.

I’m not a doctor and I don’t give medical advice.  In everything you do for your child, use your own best judgment.  I simply suggest retrieving the old wisdom that kept humankind on track for many generations.  If your infant has trouble with both breast milk and formula, you could supply the needed probiotics, or, you could try raw goat’s milk or cow’s milk, only making sure the farm is clean.  (I don’t recommend Karo syrup or any form of corn syrup, a story for another day.)

Here I am with Benjamin, who was breastfed and content.

At five days he is almost smiling in his sleep.

1972 with Benjamin

The Cave House Stories, a novel

 

The Cave House Stories, a novel, is available on amazon.  It begins,

When Ollie first saw the Cave House he wanted to move in, keeping its two shy occupants, a field mouse and a woman with waves of auburn hair falling down her back like the pelt of a red squirrel.  A streak of white flowed from her widow’s peak over her right shoulder, the squirrel’s tender belly.

He didn’t know what part of the house captivated him the most, the weathered vertical wood siding, the large front windows that looked out like kind eyes, or the way the house backed into the hillside as if there must be secret passageways deep within.  Maybe it was the simple beauty of a roof decorated with moss and ferns.

He saw the Cave House only after he’d won the shy woman’s trust in a most unusual way, by telling her a story he’d never dared tell anyone.  Even after that first story he knew, with a Zen-like acceptance, that neither the dwelling nor the woman would ever be his, any more than he could possess the wild mouse.

And then, winging acceptance back at whoever had decided Zen living meant passive living, he vowed they would all be his, the mouse that crept in from the meadow, the cardinal that sang in the lilacs, the squirrel that chattered from the trees above the Cave House, and the woman who wanted nothing to do with love.

 

https://www.amazon.com/House-Stories-Patricia-Mitchell-Lapidus/dp/1075036062/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=The+Cave+House+Stories+by+Patricia+Lapidus&qid=1568399048&sr=8-1

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Bits and Pieces: for the writer in each of us

I have a folder where I used to collect bits and pieces of thought or a phrase I might use in some later poem or essay.  I have allowed the folder to grow stale, no recent additions.  The words in there are from more than twenty years ago.  And I can’t help wondering what I thought back then that could have been so compelling that I couldn’t let it get lost but not as important as what I was writing about then.  Time I pulled the folder out for a look.

It wouldn’t be possible even if constantly writing to put down all the thoughts that travel the mind.  And the years will change the mind.  So I expect that maybe I will enjoy an old turn of phrase, marveling that I could have been so smart when scarcely fifty years old.  I’ll be prompted to go brush my hair in case an admirer should knock on my door.  Then, at some of the scribbles I’ll think, Yikes!  Whoever wrote that nonsense had smoke in her eyes.

Now, I’m about to open the folder and see what I saved.  I’m reminded of a small child whose mother brought him to a meeting equipped with paper and crayons in a paper bag.  As we were getting started, he said, “I’m just going to reach in the bag and surprise myself.”  He got several smiles for that, and he was no trouble during the meeting.  I enjoyed knowing that according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a system of explanations about personality preferences, roughly half of all people enjoy surprises while the other half prefer knowing ahead of time what will happen.  This guy was in the surprise camp.

So am I.  Ready for surprises.  A little tingly with anticipation.

[Here there is a break while I look into the folder.]

I’m back.  I didn’t find any Yikes!  Nor any thing to set me brushing my hair for company.

I found a short poem about feeling as big as where the sight and mind can travel.  The poem is mediocre, hardly a poem at all, but the thought can be treasured.

I found a list of phrases ending in up: butter up, hold up, mess up, put up, buck up, cook up, and so on.  I may have thought the list useful.  More likely I was just having fun.

         

Some notes I puzzled over.  I think this one alludes to the burning of witches and the surrender of Christ to patriarchal Rome–with, however, the promise of a lifting of cruel social domination some day.  What I remember clearly is that when women were burned as witches it was likely that their children were fostered by parents who would teach them obedience to cruel power.  I’d try to capture this huge chapter of history in a few words.

Here’s another list of words.  Like many another writer, I have been in love with words–word sounds, word meanings, word histories, collections of similar words, words that rhyme and alliterate, words that carry a punch.

I also love color, though I can’t tell you now what the colors here signified.

Although most of my notes over time include doodles, I found only this curve in the bits and pieces folder.  (I had another folder for doodles.)  I like the last sentence here, one I seem to have addressed to all: you live by will and curious mind.

The book that Isobel Myers and Katherine Briggs wrote about personality preferences they called Gifts Differing.  The differences in our gifts is a core value and a wonderful perspective for accepting others.

I’m thankful for my interest in words and in writing.  I have a brown thumb, mostly because my attention is not on plants or anything down to earth.  I was once given a chance to learn to fly a small airplane and turned it down with a shiver.  I have little physical courage.  Writing is what I do best, or, at least, most happily.  I sometimes think there is a writer in all of us.  For whatever you care to do, I encourage your work–and play.

Tell me about your gifts.

Wild Berries Today and Long Ago

Picking berries that grow wild has obvious pleasures–and, these days, some hazards.  I’ll mention the hazards and then side with the pleasures for the rest of this blog.

The first and most obvious hazard to people in the northeast is disease-bearing ticks.  This is something new.  When I was a child we didn’t have in the woods ticks that worried us.

Another hazard could be bears and other wild creatures that browse berry patches or even live in them.  In Connecticut we have a surging population of bears, enough of a problem to prompt us to stop feeding birds in our backyards during bear season.

Once when our family hiked a mountain trail northwest of Large George in New York, we found a large blueberry patch and saw on the ground lots of bear scat.  I’m sure that when we left they came back to finish their long summer’s day meal. Those were shy bears and presented no threat.

Our berry patch is at the edge of a stretch of woods beside a parking lot.  The raspberries are almost done and the black raspberries are at their peak.  I limit myself to half a cup each day, letting others enjoy the patch.

Pictured here are black raspberries, smaller and rounder than blackberries.  If you mistake the red ones for raspberries you’ll find they don’t pull off easily as berries do when they are ripe.

Picking berries reminds me of growing up on our farm.  We went in pairs or as a family down into the woods to our favorite berry patches carrying half-gallon buckets with slender ropes through the bails and around our necks.  That left both hands free for picking.  We wore light shirts but often long-sleeved to keep the canes with their thorns from snagging our skin.  We allowed ourselves to eat some at first, but after a reasonable snack, we devoted our efforts to bringing home buckets full of raspberries to Mom to put up for the winter, saving apart some to put on our morning cereal.  We picked blueberries for eating and for pies and for preserving to make Thanksgiving pies.

When my boys were little I loved to take them picking berries.  They only had small tin cups and their tummies to fill and it was fine when they ate all they picked.  It was a meal on blueberry hill.  When we got home we read Blueberries for Sal by Robert McClosky.

There is something elemental about eating berries in the patch, reaching for a juicy one and popping it onto the tongue, pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth to squeeze out the juices.  I feel I can remember doing the same many eons ago when the only way to get berries was to go pick them, no money, no stores.  I like the way our little patch gives me something to eat for my own labor in that time-honored tradition we call gathering.  Berries have not changed.  And neither have we.