Now that some of the bad news is in — for example, the news about higher winter-heating costs — its time for me to start getting prepared for the winter ahead. Most of my friends would say I stay ready year-round and always have a sweater or jacket handy in case of a chill wind, even in July. Preparedness for me, though, is about more than just warm clothes and heavy blankets. It requires a mental, as well as a physical, adjustment.
When the weather is warm, the sun shining and I’m surrounded by blooming flowers, I can maintain a mellow mood. I can swallow the news stories with a grain of salt, drink a cold glass of water and commune with nature. I can lay down on the bank of a bubbling brook and, with a blink of the eye, make the world go away. I can enjoy a picnic with friends, play badminton and take photographs of the birds and beasts that come to visit.
As winter starts to approach, maintaining my comfort level takes planning and effort. Like the squirrels, I take more interest in gathering food. Cooking becomes a favorite activity as the weather grows cooler. I begin to sort through old, familiar recipes and select those that will be kitchen staples. Red beans and rice, chili and beef stew will undoubtedly head the list. Some of us begin to assemble care packages that we will hand out to family and friends throughout the cold months. Acts of friendship can be like a warm fire on frigid days.
The thing I have to guard against most at this time of year is the tendency to go underground and pull the blankets over my head. I’m always particularly glad that elections generally come around in the fall months. I’m grateful not to have the glorious summer spoiled by all that negative energy spewing out across the air waves. I was too busy making the transition to care, for example, about the California recall election. I don’t mind waiting until next year to determine the kind of governor Arnold Schwarzenegger makes. I’m just thrilled that I don’t have to be in a classroom when a teacher is trying to explain to elementary school pupils how people decided that an action-movie hero would make a good state leader. I find all this celebrity worship scary. Maybe, over the course of this autumn-winter season I’ll find some reason to believe that this republic can withstand this onslaught of outrageous fortune.
It’s probably going to take at least six months for me to adjust my attitude toward Missourians carrying concealed weapons. I was born and grew up in a small town where hunting was as common as Wednesday night choir practice and guns were as handy as tablespoons. As a young woman, I lived in the city where people checked their guns along with their coats at house parties. I know that guns are dangerous, and every year thousands of people are injured or killed by guns. Disagreements are never settled by the use of guns. You can’t kill ideas with firearms. The manufacture of guns is profitable, and people make money selling guns. The cost in human lives and suffering is beyond measure.
On the other hand, it’s easy to believe that if there were billions of dollars to be made in the area of conflict management, it is conceivable that the whole attitude toward guns could be effectively changed. Major advertising campaigns would be launched, national media debates would be engineered and all across the country automobiles would be sporting bumper stickers encouraging people to settle their differences amicably. Peace has always been hard to sell. I admit it’s hard for me to adjust to the fact that it seems that television has more influence on our lives than any other factor. Adults apparently are as easily impressed as children by what they view on the big screen.
I find it particularly frightening that people are so easily led and misled by television programs. While every now and then we hear that companies are penalized for falsely labeling their products, there apparently are no longer any penalties for false advertising. We usually have to wait for some investigative report by television reporters to blow the whistle on false advertisers.
But just because I have from now to next May to work on my attitude adjustment doesn’t mean that I can do what my great-grandmother called, “tarry in the way.” In other words, I can’t afford to sit around all winter in my easy chair, wearing my overcoat, fur boots, ear muffs and scarf to keep warm while I work crossword puzzles. I’ll need to keep tuned in to television news so I can be told everything I need to know about what’s going on in the world and what my attitude as an American ought to be. That way if one of the polling organizations should call, I’ll know what I’m supposed to say.
The responsibilities of citizenship are getting heavier all the time.
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