Connecticut

CHRISTMAS – 2012 – AND THE NEWTOWN MASSACRE

Lest we forget – Just a little more than a year ago, there was a massacre of children in Newtown, Connecticut.

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I was shocked to realize that Monday is Christmas Eve. I admit that it’s pretty weird at this time of year to not know what day is Christmas, but I am a disaster in every possible way. Trying to do everything is not merely difficult, it’s impossible. I’m stretched thin enough to be transparent. I’m sure the massacre in Connecticut contributed hugely to my fugue state.

For about a week, we couldn’t even think about holidays. I’m not sure we were thinking about anything. Psychic overload. Plus, there are other issues, stuff I had to deal with that falls under my purview because the end of the year is not only a time for holidays, but the period when we wrap up the business of the old year and get everything in place for the next.

Unless the world ends later today, in which case all I can say is “oops.”

Christmas Cactus

I am changing health care insurance carriers as of January because I can’t afford the program I’ve been using, much as I like it. Changing medical insurance is always hard, but when you are older and have a variety of physical conditions and work with a lot of specialists, it gets wildly complicated and a bit scary.  Moreover, I have a project to which I committed last summer that has a hard deadline just after the New Year.

And at the beginning of last week, I realized my husband needs a new cell phone. It never crossed my mind that upgrading a mobile phone could entail endless hours of calls to AT&T and turn into a Cecil B. DeMille production with thousands of extras and a full orchestra. Getting the phone ate most of a week … and I fear it’s not over yet. We don’t actually have a phone yet. Anything could happen.

When I have a little time and am over the hump of holidays, I’ll tell you all about it. You can’t make this stuff up.

My deadline isn’t flexible. I’ve never missed a deadline and I won’t this time either. I will meet it or die trying. But it leaves Garry to take care of everything I haven’t already done. It’s nothing outside his capabilities … it’s just that he too had lost track of time.

When I told him Christmas Eve is Monday, he didn’t believe me. We had to stand in front of the calendar, proving beyond doubt that somewhere along the way, we lost a week.

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What happened to December? In all the years I can remember, I have never been so completely unready for the holidays as I am this year and what’s weird is that so many other people I know seems to be caught short.

My theory is that the Newtown Connecticut mass shooting affected many of us the same way. Vietnam vets started having flashbacks again. It made my husband remember too many similar things he had to cover during his years as a reporter … and had the same effect on his colleagues, both those still working and those now retired. For a while, it seemed somehow wrong … inappropriate … to be worrying about gifts and wrapping paper.

We didn’t feel festive. We didn’t even feel like we should feel festive. Between events outside our control and a lot of things that just came together to eat our time, Christmas seems to have appeared, popping up like a jack-in-the-box. Friends who normally go all out for the holidays haven’t even bought a tree, much less put it up or decorated their home and property. A strange Christmas, this one. Somehow, it has happened, though with less ceremony than usual.

While I spent the afternoon at the oncologist, my daughter-in-law and granddaughter put up and decorated the tree. They acquired wrapping paper and the appropriate stuff to go with it … ribbon and bows and tape and labels and all. Meals are planned, though groceries remain to be purchased.

In the middle of all of this, my two Christmas cacti are blooming. They, at least, are in tune with the season. The tree is lit. There won’t be wreathes this year because I forgot to buy them and now, it seems too late.

Next year I’ll try to make up for it. I did take pictures this morning to prove, despite obstacles, we shall have Christmas. We may not deck the halls, but it’s still Christmas.

1771 – The First Quaker Meeting House

Conveniently located at the corner of our street and that other road, just short of a mile from our front door, you can see the historic first Quaker Meetinghouse in Massachusetts, built in 1771. It’s right on the Rhode Island border (as are we) and only the happenstance of the way the lines were drawn prevented it from being in Rhode Island like most of the historic Quaker Meeting Houses are in New England.

It isn’t in weekly use any more, but services are held there on Thanksgiving morning and many people arrange for weddings and other important celebrations to take place there. I think we will have our 25th anniversary vow renewal there. It will be our 3rd renewal. Just 2 years to go! If we all stay healthy, come on down!

The church is unheated. They’ve rigged up a sort of warm air blower to take the worst of the chill off, but even at Thanksgiving when deep winter hasn’t arrived, it’s cold inside. You need an overcoat.

It’s spare, plain, and simple inside, as you would expect. And beautiful, as you would also expect.

Located at the intersection of Rt. 146A and Rt. 98, if you find it, you've almost found us. Let me know if you'll be in town!

Located at the intersection of Rt. 146A and Rt. 98, if you find it, you’ve almost found us. Let me know if you’ll be in town!

It is a registered national landmark and is well maintained. You cannot get inside unless it’s one of the special occasions when it’s open to the public, but you are always welcome on the grounds. Hard to get a good angle on it since it’s awkwardly placed on top of a hill, surrounded by trees, its own road, and the intersection of Rt. 146A and Rt. 98, but I’m going to try it again with the widest lens I have and some close-ups of windows and doors … if it ever stops raining here.

Off to Connecticut today to pick up a car that friends are passing along to us as they got something ever so much spiffier. It will be good for us as it’s an all-wheel vehicle that will serve us well in the upcoming winter.

Funny about living here. It’s not yet the 4th of July, full air conditioning season. But thoughts are already turning to winter. Warm weather is brief in New England. This year, as soon as May ended, it turned into the monsoon season, nothing but torrential downpours, 100+ temperatures, followed by more rain. Interspersed with tornadoes, thunder and lightning. It’s the green time of year. Not just leaves. Everything is green with mold from dampness.

My gardens are drowned. My two baskets of fuchsia are still doing okay and one begonia is trying to hold on to life, but there’s been no sun. Plants can’t live in mud. There’s no air in mud and our soil is clay and hard. It doesn’t drain. So summer’s been a washout. Literally.

I hope we manage to squeeze in a few glorious weeks of autumn between season and season. It’s our reward for surviving the rest of the year and maybe it will stop raining long enough for the leaves to change color before they are washed away!

Around a curve and down the hill

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February 26, 2013 – Easton Connecticut – Canon Powershot S100

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Snowy Woods and Stream

Late winter snow in a Connecticut woods. The frozen stream waits for a bit of sunshine. 

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melting snow

Melting snow runs down from high peaks, into creeks,
over flowing waters, carry off layers of the forest floor,
nutrients, twigs, leafs and insects are all swept clean,
little creeks bulge into violent streams, and mighty rivers
churning, tumbling, and roaring down waves, into the ocean’s mouth.

Melting snow on the forest floor uncovers chains of small islands,
spreading under pines and oaks and elms, low lands and high lands,
contrasting, the dark colored ground against the white melting snow,
the season of change calls to awaken the forest floor,
with a splash of melting snow, and a degree of heat,
natures cycle is complete.

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A few hours later, the stream is flowing. Sluggishly, still a bit icy but moving, the little waterfall flows down the rocks between still snowy banks.

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Melting

The big snow from early this month is melting. It’s good because that’s what has to happen, especially is the weather is not finished with us. If more snow is to come, better there be less snow and ice on the ground when if does.

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Melt-off is messy. It seeps into foundations and basements, makes the rivers and streams overflow. Everything and everyone feels damp. Old bones ache in sympathy. The world is sodden and chilly.

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Today, though the rain is falling heavily accompanied by wind and occasional dollops of sleet, we have to drive home. Like it or not, we’ve been away longer than we intended and it’s time to go home. Here in central Connecticut, the stream that was frozen when we arrived last Sunday has broken free of winter’s grip.

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It’s flowing enthusiastically … more so with each passing hour as I watch it from the windows here in the kitchen. Spring will come. Soon or sooner, but it will come.

All taken with the Canon Powershot S100. It’s the only camera I brought with me and it has done the job splendidly.

 

Protecting your guns with your guns

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When I see a story about folks who’ve gotten busted for having an arsenal and because, as my husband puts it, “they have toys in the attic,” they consistently appear to live in squalor.

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They have guns, lots of them. If they didn’t spend all their money on guns, they might be able afford a decent place to live, maybe some comfortable furniture and food in the fridge.

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These are the people who are passionate about their right to protect their stuff. But the only thing they have that’s worth protecting are guns. They need the guns to protect themselves from people who might want to steal … what? Guns.

They have guns to protect their guns because everything else they have is trash.

I was pleased to see in L.A., the “guns for groceries program is going well. It is always nice when there’s a small outbreak of rationality. Or maybe it’s just a sign of a difficult economy and the realization that “eating lead” is not all that yummy. And there are so few good recipes for bullets.

I know there are plenty of people who hunt, own guns to a purpose, compete in gun-related sporting activities and don’t spend the equivalent of the food and electric bill on yet another gun. I’m talking about that special breed, the arsenal folks, the “you can’t have too many weapons at any cost” crowd who are as likely to turn up in the middle of an eastern city as the south, west or anywhere else. The nuts are everywhere and there are far too many of them for my comfort. Some of them even appear normal, which worries me more than those who are blatantly batty. If they look and act just like any regular person, I can’t even avoid them.

The song is ended but the melody lingers on …

Newtown is gradually fading from page one backwards into the newspapers and television reports. It’s only a few days, but it’s almost Christmas. People are busy, distracted … and no one wants to think about it now.

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There are the families, of course, and for them, Christmas is not coming this year … but the rest of the world is moving on. It would be nice if something more than a lot of hot air came from this awful event … but this is not the first and I fear it won’t be the last such massacre.

We have a kind of national ADHD about tragedy. We talk about nothing else for a few days, mention it in passing for a few more, then for most people, it’s over. Time to move on to the next new thing.

Throughout the United States, the flag is still flying at half mast. Just in case you’ve forgotten, our flag has not.

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Why? A question with no answer.

My husband wants to know why a kindergarten teacher in a quiet Connecticut suburb owned two 9-mm hand guns and a semi-automatic rifle. He wants to know why are there no checks for mental stability for gun owners or background checks in most states to make sure that the purchaser is not an outright criminal.

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I want to know how come a relatively small number of gun nuts are able to hold our entire nation hostage. I’m pretty sure the majority of Americans don’t believe that anyone who wants one should be allowed to own an arsenal. Most people have more sense that.

I don’t think people who hunt are the problem, either. I don’t hunt, but I don’t feel I can consume meat while simultaneously objecting to someone else shooting a deer. I am not sufficiently hypocritical for that. In any case, hunters usually respect weapons, were often raised in homes where hunting is a tradition and guns are not considered toys … and they don’t use semi-automatic rifles or assault weapons for deer hunting. Or any other kind of hunting.

So who are these people who have so much more power than their numbers or any commonsense, logic, or reason suggests? Why do they seem to own us? My gut tells me to follow the money because beneath and supporting every evil, somewhere  there’s money involved. Usually a lot of money.

Why do we allow private people to buy these weapons? Why are they not held liable for the damage their weapons do, regardless of who is pulling the trigger?

GUNS-1-popupWhy do we have less oversight of guns than of motorcycles? The odds of a motorcycle killing anyone but its owner are small compared to what a gun — any gun — can do.

Why? Anyone have an answer? Because my husband and I are pretty smart people, well-educated and reasonably sophisticated. He was a reporter for a lifetime and has seen more of these massacres than anyone should ever have to see. I read, research, and spend a lot of  time looking for answers.

But neither one of us has answers this time. We just have questions. There are a lot of questions going around. Maybe it’s time to start formulating a few answers.

Slaughter in a quiet suburb

Yesterday, while putting together awards, a too-long deferred project, I happened to click onto WBZ radio, Boston‘s CBS affiliate. The events in Newtown were just being broadcast. They didn’t know exactly how many children and adults had died. The massacre had just ended — to the degree that such tragedies really ever end. I’m sure that for all the families who lost loved ones, it will never end. There’s no “over” for the slaughter of innocents.

This is the kind of horror story that leaves you with questions that can’t be answered. Even if you know everything there is to know, you still couldn’t make sense of it because it doesn’t make sense and can’t make sense. There is nothing sane, sensible, reasonable or explicable about it. What could possibly make someone — anyone — think murdering children is an acceptable or sane response to anything? No matter what dark secrets or strange thoughts are tangled in the head of the kid who took all those lives … nothing makes it more understandable because our minds reject any answer. There is no reason good enough. Nothing makes it comprehensible nor should it.

I can and will say that had the shooter not had guns, this would NOT have happened.

I do not care how treasured our “rights to bear arms” is to Americans. This is exactly what is wrong with having guns, so many guns, in so many hands. However true it is that guns don’t shoot themselves, the fact is that if they were less accessible to everyone and there were more controls on them to make sure that those who own them understand the responsibility that comes with owning deadly weapons — like the need to keep them out of irresponsible hands — many deaths would not occur. If the same young man had to take whatever weird revenge he sought with a bat or even a knife, he would have been stopped long before the body count had grown so godawful huge.

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Morons at play

Guns don’t kill people all by themselves, but in the hands of people, guns do a lot more damage than the same person could do without guns. These were legal, registered guns.

Why a kindergarten teacher had an arsenal at home where she also had one (more?) mentally ill children is another one of those questions that can’t be answered. Personally I think if all guns disappeared tomorrow and we were reduced to throwing rocks at each other, it would be a better world. Since that’s not about to happen, at the very least, regulating guns so that those who own them are required to keep track of them (how many guns just “disappear” only to reappear as the weapon at a crime scene?), some degree of mental stability has to be established before being allowed to own them, anyone who owns guns has appropriate means to secure them and knows how to properly maintain them … these are minimal sensible requirements. Soldiers aren’t just handed weapons to use indiscriminately. They are taught how to use them, maintain them, and woe to any soldier who just happens to “lose” his weapon.

Yet in the private sector, most states have no requirements other than your ability to fill out a form and wait a few days. Most illegal guns didn’t start out that way, either. They were legal when they were bought … but they roamed to other pastures. If there are simply fewer guns and those who have them are required to account for their whereabouts on a regular basis, secure them when not in use … in short, to be at least as responsible with their guns as they are with their cars for which you are required to take a test, have a licence and registration, and maintain insurance … there would be fewer horrors like that which took place in a quiet Connecticut suburb.

How can we allow mass murder by deranged gunmen and then turn around and say we don’t need gun control? I actually saw posts on Facebook blaming it on not having enough guns. So, now we should arm children so they can shoot each other in schoolyard disputes? That’s your answer? I saw other posts pointing out that we’ve banned school prayer. And you figure that a prayer in the morning would have prevented this tragedy? Really? Has prayer prevented war? Genocide? Plague? Not that I’ve noticed.

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God gave us brains to use. God gave us a conscience to guide us.

In all ten of God’s commandments … nor in anything that Jesus said … is there anything indicating that good people should own weapons. Quite the opposite, actually. Our constitution says that our citizenry is allowed to maintain militia and guns to protect the population, not that ever Tom, Dick, and Jane can have a personal arsenal to use as he or she feels inclined, with no restrictions, no oversight, not even an insurance policy.

It’s outrageous and it’s wrong. If we don’t start to use brains instead of that knee jerk reaction that “Oh my God, the government won’t let me buy an assault weapon! That’s outrageous!” there will inevitably be more of these mornings where families are burying their dead and wondering how it happened. If you want to know how stupid people really are, check out this disgusting website. If you suspected we let insane idiots own arsenals, this website will confirm your worst fears.

It happened because a mentally ill kid was able to get his hands on guns and instead of acting out in a non-lethal way, he instead murdered his family and all those other people too. That’s what happened. Why did it happen? Because we didn’t stop him, that’s why.