A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Monday, May 29, 2017

Real Life

Apparently Instagram is the worst social media platform for your mental health. Who knows if that's true, but on a personal level, I do think social media exacerbates some of my worst impulses. Namely, the ability to present a picture-perfect version of my life. It also allows me to compare myself to others, who have the perfect boyfriend/husband, lovely children, cute pets, exciting jobs, etc. Underneath the surface of both my life and my friend's lives, however, the reality is less clear cut - health challenges, despair, and general messiness.

Friday night I "carpe-diem"-ed and drove several hours to my favorite theater to see the play "Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet" by Ann-Marie MacDonald. It was a mashup of Othello and Romeo & Juliet, but thankfully with more comedy. A professor, Constance Ledbelly, gets sucked into the world of those plays and tries to prevent tragedy from occurring. One of the themes of the play is summed up in Constance's closing monologue.

Life, real life, is a big mess. And thank goodness!
Every answer spawns another question.
And every answer blossoms with a hundred different questions.
If you're lucky, you'll always feel somewhat confused.
Life is a harmony of polar opposites, with gorgeous mixed up places in between.
Where inspiration steams up from an odd Sargasso stew 
That's odd and flawed and full of gems and worn-out boots and sunken ships. 

I liked that soliloquy, because I feel like it expresses the messiness and gorgeousness of real life. Things aren't always tied up in a neat, pretty, and perfect bow. Unfortunately, it takes our willingness to be vulnerable to share that craziness with others. I don't know if social media is the right venue for that. Is there a way to do it that doesn't descend into self-pity and wallowing? Plus, there are all kinds of people that I'm friends with on social media who I don't really want to bear my soul to.

Ultimately, the play also teaches that our worst demons (along with the means of defeating them) are within us - I think that's true of social media too. If you don't already have a complex about comparison, social media probably won't create one. The mind is full of "alchemy" as the play's closing lines put it. It can turn the grey matter in our heads to gold, or to junk.

The alchemy of ancient hieroglyphs has permeated the unconscious mind of Constance L.
And manifested form where there was once subconscious dreamy thought. 
The best of friends and foes exist within, where archetypal shadows come to light.
And doff their monster masks when we say "Boo." 
Where mingling and unmingling opposites performs a wondrous feat of alchemy. 
And spins grey matter into precious gold.

So, as usual, no solutions to an insoluble problem, just my random thoughts. Politics is unbearable to blog about, so I'll try to do some posts on recent travels to NYC, Iceland, and Seattle.

(Note: All quotes based on a middle school version of the play on YouTube)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

WWJD? When Prioritizing Christians Isn't Christian

Note: I'm aware that this post falls into the category of conflating my personal views with the gospel, something I don't like when my Republican Mormon friends do it with other issues. As always, I speak for myself and my own personal interpretation of the scriptures. If you have a different view, I welcome a rational and reasoned debate about it.

So, unless you've been on a social media/news media blackout, you know that President Donald Trump (ugh, sorry. First time I've typed those words. Give me a minute...).

Ahem, as I was saying: President Trump recently signed an executive order temporarily banning people from 7 Muslim-majority countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) from entering the United States and prioritizing minority religious groups in future admissions to the U.S. President Trump has made clear that his reasons for doing this are to limit the number of Muslim immigrants to the country and increase the number of persecuted Christians who can enter the U.S.

Now, can helping Christians ever be un-Christian? In my view, yes, this currently policy is against the tenants of the Bible, Book of Mormon, and my personal religious views as Christian.

Let's start out by taking it as a given that there are many persecuted Christians whose plight is frightful. I don't in any way diminish the very real (and very horrible) suffering of my Christian brothers and sisters. They deserve our assistance and aid. However, I think in saying that they have suffered more and are more deserving than our Muslim brothers and sisters, we risk our American belief that "all men are created equal" and our Christian belief in the equality of all before God. Just because someone is Christian doesn't mean that they have suffered more than a Muslim refugee fleeing the terrors of ISIS in Syria or Al-queda in Iraq.

The Bible has numerous calls to care for the stranger among us. These calls don't excuse us from this responsibility if the stranger has a different religious view than us. In fact, Jesus explicitly taught that Jews and Samaritans, heirs to a bitter religious conflict, were neighbors and should help each other (see Luke 10:25-37).

I'd like to discuss some of the pro- and anti- immigration ban arguments and why I find them problematic, below.

Pro-immigration ban argument #1: This is temporary, and necessary for our safety while we put additional screening measures in place to ensure immigrants are not terrorists in disguise.
My Response: Refugees already undergo a rigorous screening process. In can take 2-3 years for someone to get to the U.S. as a refugee, and we can choose who we accept and reject. Further, I would argue that we can never remove all risk from the equation. Yes, we may inadvertently let in someone who may be dangerous, but this is not sufficient reason to turn away from many millions of innocent people who are suffering. A free multi-cultural society will always have risks, but the benefits of loving and helping others outweigh these risks. I would also argue that this ban is likely to play into terrorists' hands by giving them propaganda that the U.S. does hate Muslims - thus, this ban is likely to make America less safe.

Pro-immigration ban argument #2: We have already admitted too many immigrants/refugees, and we can't be a dumping ground for the world - even if I admit that we have a responsibility to help, there are limits and we can't help everyone.
My Response: Last year we admitted only 82,000 refugees (12,000 of them from Syria). This is in a population of over 300 million in the U.S., which works out to a very small percentage of our society. Germany has accepted over 1 million refugees out of a population of 80 million. Yes, there are limits to what we can do, but I would argue that we have not yet exhausted our resources of compassion and kindness by admitting only 80,000 refugees.

Anti-immigration ban argument #1: This ban does not target countries whose citizens have actually committed terror attacks against U.S. citizens (Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.).
My Response: Even if it did target those countries instead of the countries Trump has banned, it would still be wrong. Unilaterally saying that all citizens of a certain nation are banned because of the actions of a few is morally repugnant. We cannot blame innocent people for the actions of people who kill them as often as they kill us (for that matter, "us vs. them" is not a good construct).

Anti-immigration ban argument #2: This ban is un-American and not consistent with our history.
My Response: Actually, this ban *is* consistent with our history - we limited Chinese immigration during the railroad expansion of the 19th century, interned Japanese during WWII, and turned away Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust. This argument doesn't acknowledge that, at various times in our past, we have not been true to the inscription on Lady Liberty to give us your poor, tired, hungry masses yearning to breathe free. We must acknowledge that our current call to open our doors to refugees *is* different than our history - we are hopefully progressing and becoming a more open and compassionate society.

Ultimately this ban will keep out translators who assisted U.S. forces in Iraq. It will keep out Syrians who fled Isis. It will keep out Yazidis who fled persecution and torture. This ban is immoral and wrong, and against what I believe this country should stand for. If Jesus were here, I can't believe he would turn away from the suffering refugees. He was one, who fled to Egypt to escape Harrod's slaughter of children.

I couldn't cover every argument, but here are some more well-written posts on this topic:
On Moral Issues and Trump and This is Not Us - By Common Consent Blog
Interfaith Letter to President Trump - Interfaith Immigration Coalition
Trump's Refugee Ban Clashes with Faith-Based Groups' Religious Mission - NPR

If you're wondering what you can do, here are my suggestions:
- Speak to your friends about this. Listen to them, and try to convince them that this ban is wrong.
- Write and call your congressman, Senators, and other representatives. Let your voice be heard in standing up to this policy. Hold them accountable if they don't act against it.
- Volunteer your time (and contribute your money if you can) to a local organization helping refugees in your community.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Thanks, Obama

At Obama's final rally before the election in 2008.
For the people reading this in the year 2050 (assuming America still exists), "Thanks, Obama" was a sarcastic meme that people used to blame Obama for everything wrong in the world. But I'd like to reclaim it and offer a sincere Thank You to the man who led us for 8 years.

I'd be the first to recognize that Obama failed on a lot of fronts. He did not succeed in uniting us, and left us in many senses divided. He was not able to get a lot of his policy ideas through Congress, due partly to Republican obstructionism but also I think partly to a lack of relationships and ability to work with others. He also presided over the loss of over 7,000 state/local level Democratic seats over the past 8 years, which means the Democratic Party has some rebuilding to do. Syria is one of the worst vacuums of foreign policy in recent years and is a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions. Obama may have excelled at the poetry and vision of campaigning, but he was not always great at the prose of governing.
Me, voting live for the first time, for Obama in 2008
Despite this, I honor his accomplishments and dignity. He never descended to personal insults with those who disagreed with him. He did work hard to make this country better, and was able to accomplish much. The Affordable Care Act expanded access healthcare to millions and likely saved lives. He worked with other countries to address the global challenges of climate change. The Obama administration was also able to reach a historic deal with Iran to dismantle their nuclear weapons program. We repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," allowing all to serve with honor in our military, regardless of sexual orientation. He appointed two able Supreme Court justices, both women. He worked to keep our country safe from terrorist attacks. Ultimately he spoke eloquently of the need for racial justice and gun control, despite not being able to accomplish much in the way of legislation to address these issues.
It's easy to forget how historic Obama's win in 2008 was!

Obama was far from perfect, but I think he was a good and decent man and a faithful public servant. So, for all this, Thanks Obama. Even though I know you were constitutionally prohibited from staying, I will miss you.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2015, 2016, 2017 and Beyond

Last year I couldn't bring myself to write a New Year's post, because 2015 had seemed like a year of treading water. Nothing in my life had changed in any of the areas I had planned to improve on December 31, 2014. I felt like I wasn't progressing or moving forward. Maybe that's adulthood, because I feel like the next 30 years of my life could conceivably be pretty similar.

That was one year ago. Since then, I've changed a few things in my life, but I don't think I can escape the fact that there is still a lot I don't like about myself. I don't know whether I am more or less confident that the average person, but I do spend a lot of time second guessing myself and my abilities. To put it simply, I don't like myself very much.

But self-loathing doesn't really help in accomplishing goals, at least for me. I don't know how, but if I'm going to accomplish any of the daily, weekly, and monthly goals (in four categories) I set for myself in 2017, I need to be a bit kinder to myself. Being kind to myself doesn't mean I won't push myself to do and be better in 2017, but it does mean I need to be okay with however I turn out at the end of the year (hopefully married to a Hemsworth brother with a vacation home in Hawaii...what? stretch goal?).

One of my favorite quotes about charity, which is from Marvin J. Ashton, is this:

Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.

Forgive yourself for all the things you intended to do in 2016 but didn't. Be kind to others, and yourself, in 2017. Expect the best from yourself, but have patience with yourself too.

2017 is the year when I figure out how be at peace with who I am, because who I am is...pretty okay. I mean I'm not Mother Teresa, but I'm not Donald Trump either. And you know what, if you are reading this ridiculous excuse for a blog, you're pretty okay too. So, here's to giving yourself the benefit of the doubt in 2017. No hard feelings, 2016, but I'm okay to see you go.

"No Hard Feelings," The Avett Brothers

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Fear Not

I'm reading some of the old Christmas devotionals on lds.org, and I found this quote from Elder L. Whitney Clayton in his address "Fear Not" from the 2015 Christmas Devotional. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The angel perceived the shepherds’ fear when he appeared to them, telling them to “fear not.” The astonishing glory of God, which radiated from the unexpected heavenly messenger, had indeed struck fear in their hearts. But the news the angel had come to share was nothing to be afraid of. He had come to announce a miracle, to bring the ultimate good news, to tell them that the redemption of mankind literally had commenced. No other messenger before or since has brought happier greetings. The Only Begotten of the Father was beginning His mortal sojourn: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” These were indeed good tidings of great joy.

We each face moments in our lives when the great joy that the angel promised can seem elusive and distant. All of us are subject to the frailties and hardships of life—illness, failure, problems, disappointment, and, in the end, death. While many people are blessed to live in physical safety, others today do not. Many face great difficulty meeting the demands of life and the physical and emotional toll it can bring.

And yet, despite life’s hardships, the message of the Lord to each of us is the same today as it was to the shepherds keeping watch two thousand years ago: “Fear not.” Perhaps the angel’s injunction to fear not has more transcendent relevance to us today than it did in calming the shepherds’ fear that first Christmas night. Could he also have meant for us to understand that because of the Savior, fear will never triumph? to reinforce that ultimate fear is never justified? to remind us that no earthly problem need be lasting, that none of us is beyond redeeming?

The sweetest gift given at Christmas will always be the one our Savior Himself gave us: His perfect peace.

(One of my Favorite Christmas Songs - "When the Baby Grew Up" by Kathy Mattea

Monday, November 14, 2016


So, I'm not "at peace" with Trump's election, but I do see a way...well...forward (my fundamental Pollyanna-ish optimism has apparently re-asserted itself). One thing that helped was a thought experiment. 

Trump won Pennsylvania by less than 80,000 votes, he won Wisconsin by less than 30,000 votes, and he won Michigan by less than 20,000 votes (note that votes are still being counted, but these are margins as of this writing). If the tables were turned, and Clinton had won any two of those three states, she would be President-elect instead of Trump. Think about that - if only 50,000 people had changed their votes (out of 120 million votes cast!), the whole outcome of the election would change. But fundamentally, we would still be a very divided nation. Roughly half the people who voted would have voted for someone other than the President-elect. And some of those people would have been just as disappointed as I am now.

Somehow, that helps me. Despite the fact that I find Trump repugnant, it's incumbent upon me as a citizen to understand the hopes and fears of millions of my fellow citizens, and what motivated them to choose Trump. It's too easy to dismiss all Trump supporters, and I can't fall for the fallacy that they all are racist misogynists. I know good people, rational people, who voted for Trump. If I can't understand why they did that, I'm failing at empathy. That is hard for me.  

Here are a few things that have helped me over the past few days - I share them in the hope they will help you too. Except for the first one, they are in no particular order, and are interspersed with songs about moving forward. None of this changes the fact that I'm bummed out big time by this election, but it does help me move on a little bit.

If you don't read ANYTHING else, read this post at the Mormon blog By Common Consent: "Mystic Chords and Better Angels: Building Zion when we Disagree." Convince your friends at the other end of the political spectrum to read it too (and if you don't have any of those types of friends, make some).

Some wise counsel on being Instruments of the Lord's Peace in the world.

Stephen Colbert's end to his election special (also, check out additional comic takes on the election results by Seth Meyers and another great Stephen Colbert moment):

I don't think I can link to a friend's post on Facebook because it isn't public. But she shared some words of wisdom from a rhetoric teacher friend that touched my soul:

I teach an 8 am first-year rhetoric class. For most of my students, this is the first election they've been able to vote in. Our lesson? Not moving to Canada.

I mean this metaphorically, of course, because I don't think that many people are actually going to raise stakes, but "moving to Canada" is shorthand for disengaging and shutting up. "Moving to Canada" is about surrounding yourself with people who already agree with you and not taking seriously the concerns of people who have very different backgrounds, life experiences, and concerns. "Moving to Canada" is about saying, "Not my problem anymore." Don't move to Canada.

Our class is about civic dialogue, about employing a rhetoric that listens first, and about being unafraid and optimistic about speaking up. I hope my students engage in many conversations, even heated ones, with people who don't agree with them. I hope they open their mouths. I hope they stay here in America. We need them.

This podcast by Krista Tippet (who has one of the most soothing voices in radio). She interviews Eboo Patel, an interfaith activist, and he has some words of wisdom. If you don't have time to listen to the whole thing, here are my two favorite parts:

(Part 1)
So, if you add religion to a diverse democracy, and if you understand religion per Tillich as “ultimate concerns,” you have a society in which people are invited to make their personal convictions on matters of ultimate concern public, knowing that their neighbor has a different definition of “justice” than they do. Justice is another term that we assume everybody has the same definition of. My new line to 20-year-olds who look very chastised when I say this on campuses is, “If everybody in the room that you’re in has the same definition of ‘justice’ that you do — I don’t care how many colors, or genders, or sexual preferences, or religions are in that room — it’s not a diverse room.” Part of the definition of “diversity” is the recognition there are diverse understandings of justice.
So, in that situation, what does healthy look like? And my quick take on that is healthy is a society in which people who orient around religion differently can disagree on some fundamental things and work together on other fundamental things. And in my mind, the most dangerous trend in our society right now is what Andrew Sullivan calls the “scalping” trend, which is if you disagree with me on one fundamental thing — and I’m going to recognize that these things are fundamental — matters of the Middle East, same sex marriage, abortion — they are fundamental — let’s not say that they’re marginal at all — but if you disagree with me on that, I will neutralize our entire relationship, and I will take your scalp and hang it on my wall as a trophy to make sure that everybody else who has that opinion knows that I’m coming for them.
And I just — how do you have a society in which people who disagree on where to draw the line in the Middle East will perform heart surgery together, or serve on the PTA together? Isn’t that what a diverse democracy is? And it feels to me like the central thing that we do is nurture that ethic of a half-full cup of, “I will disagree with you on this set of things and continue to work with you on this other set of things.”
(Part 2)
William Raspberry writes a column in which he says, “The smartest people I know secretly believe both sides of the issue.” And that was so striking to me. Because I was — the way I viewed the world at that point was, “I’m the smart one. You all are the dumb ones. My job is to figure out how to make you smart.” And the definition of “smart” was you thought like me....And this notion of William Raspberry, who was, generally speaking, a progressive columnist was like — look, the smartest people I know choose the pro-life side and understand that there’s something else at stake. The smartest people I know are against the death penalty and understand that people who might be in favor aren’t crazy, that there’s a set of values, something at stake there.
I wanted to say one thing very briefly on this matter of justice. And I actually — my sense is actually justice and empathy, they’re in the Venn diagram. There’s a shaded area. But the more empathy one has and the more diversity one is in, the more one recognizes different definitions of justice. So, here’s my moment to this. Eight or 10 years ago, I’m speaking on a college campus, and I happened to be speaking with a man named Nechervan Barzani, who was introduced to me as an Iraqi leader
And as a good multicultural against the Bush administration progressive, my first instinct was to apologize to him for, quote, “the unjust war in Iraq.” And he looks at me, and he kind of shakes his head. And I think his English isn’t great, and so I repeat what I said. And I said...[laughter] This is a great insight into the mind of the Manichean, right? You don’t understand me because your English isn’t great, not because you disagree with me. I said, “I want to apologize on behalf of the American people.” All 320 million — for the unjust war in Iraq. And he looked at me, and he said, “I’m a Kurd. The only unjust thing about the war in Iraq is you didn’t do it 20 years ago.” And I thought to myself, how ridiculous that I didn’t even imagine that. And I mean, of course, this is over the next several years that I kind of unpacked this in my head. But how narrow a world did I live in that I thought that this was — now, I still believe the Iraq war was unjust, but I do I think that Nechirvan Barzani’s position, after having tens, hundreds of thousands of his people killed by Saddam Hussein’s chemical warfare, that his position is not a reasonable definition of justice?
And what strikes me in reflection is, how come I didn’t imagine that? How come I didn’t play with the figure of Nechirvan Barzani in my mind in the dialogue? How is it that I had such a black and white vision of justice in the world? And I find that — I think that that is a problem in the hyper-diverse, 325-million jazz of a nation in which we live.
In my mind, you don’t have a diverse democracy, you don’t have America, unless people are willing to say, “I am able to disagree with you on this set of things, and you will see me on the other side of the picket line on those things. And I will try to defeat your candidate at the polls. And we will find other things to do together.”
If you haven't read or watched Hillary Clinton's concession speech yet, you should - even if you didn't vote for her.

Of course, "Hillary Clinton" (aka comedienne Kate McKinnon) singing Hallelujah on Saturday Night Live:

Don't give up - I won't either!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Road Trip (Part 2)

I'll take refuge from political posts with Part 2 of my October road trip (see Part 1 here).

For part of the trip, my parents joined me. We started our first day at the cemetery where my grandparents are buried in western Massachusetts. I had never been there before when the leaves were changing, but it was a beautiful and peaceful place. Unfortunately I don't remember my grandma, because she died when I was really little, but it is nice to think of an remember her and my grandpa.

While on this road trip, I listened to a book on tape: "Lives Like Loaded Guns," which is about Emily Dickinson and her family. We visited her house in Amherst, Massachusetts which was lovely. While I don't always understand her poetry, I think some of it is profound and moving.

My parents had both lived in Western Massachusetts so they were both excited that the Hartford, Connecticut temple was being dedicated - we made it to the last day of the open house. The temple was simple, but peaceful.

The next day we visited Mark Twain's house (for some reason I didn't take many pictures here). Mark Twain was father of three girls, two of whom died before he did, which I think is so sad.

After another long drive, I spent the next day at Hyde Park, New York. I went to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Presidential Library and home, along with "Top Cottage" (where he planned to retire after his Presidency), and Eleanor Roosevelt's home after his death, Val-kill.

FDR's home, living room
I liked that FDR's home had a room called the "snuggery" - it was his mother's private parlor. I think I need one of those in my house.
View of the front of FDR's house (behind the house are gorgeous views of the Hudson Valley)

Outside the library - statutes of FDR, Churchill, and a sculpture carved from remains of the Berlin Wall. Franklin wrote Winston at one point: "It is fun to be in the same decade as you!"

The FDR Library had a lot of interesting exhibits regarding FDR's presidency - my favorite were some of the campaign buttons for and against Roosevelt's re-election bid in 1940. He was the only President to ever seek a third term and there was some vigourous debate about it. Some of the slogans on buttons:
- "I'm against the Third Term. Washington Wouldn't. Grant Couldn't. Roosevelt Shouldn't."
- "Better a Third Termer than a Third Rater."
- "Third Term Taboo. 23 Skidoo."
- "Two good terms deserve another."

A view of "Top Cottage," which FDR built up on a hill near the main house. He wanted to retire here after his Presidency was over. This cottage was where he hosted the King of England during the King's visit to the U.S. FDR's mom was scandalized when FDR served hot dogs at the picnic (there was plenty of other food too).

Above is the study in Eleanor Roosevelt's home, Val-Kill. She liked to read, can you tell?  She is one of my heroes and I love so much about her. After she was first lady, she worked tirelessly for human rights and helped draft the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This study was where she met with a young senator named John F. Kennedy when he sought her endorsement. She grilled him on civil rights and urged him to do more for this cause, but ultimately did endorse him. The Presidential library also had an exhibit of the contents of her wallet when she passed away in 1962. It had this prayer:

For All Those Who Work or Fight in the Air
Lord have pity upon all men.
To those who are in darkness
Be their light.
To those who are in despair
Be their Hope.
To those who are suffering
Be their Healing.
To those who are fearful
Be their Courage.
To those who are defeated
Be their Victory.
To those who are dying
Be their Life.

After learning a lot about both Roosevelts, I took a walk across the Hudson river. "Walkway Over the Hudson" is an old railroad bridge that has been converted into a public walkway over a mile long. It was a lovely jaunt and very scenic with the changing leaves.

The next day brought art from the Hudson River school of American painting, and lots of it. I stopped first at Cedar Grove, the home of Thomas Cole, who was the father of this school of painting. He spent a lot of time in upstate New York, hiking and sketching, eventually moving here after marrying a local girl.

Painting by Thomas Cole - forget the name of it, but I loved the light of the sun in this painting.

Cedar Grove - they had SO MANY of Cole's paintings, it was amazing.
Next, I crossed the river and visited Olana, a home designed by Cole's fellow painter and artist, Frederic Church. Church had bad arthritis for the last few years of his life, so he spent his time being an artist on a grand scale - designing the house and grounds.

A lot of the windows at Olana have beautiful frames to create "living pictures" from the outdoor scenery.

Loved this pastoral scene, with cows, by Church
 I thoroughly enjoyed a tour of the inside of the house, which was full of Church paintings and artifacts, but the best part was the landscape tour of the grounds that I also did - the fall colors were, quite simply, perfect and it was a beautiful fall day.
View of Olana from the grounds - it's a beautiful house with a lot of Arab design touches.

One of the views on the Olana grounds.
 After a day of art, I headed (where else?) to a cemetery. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, to be exact. It's the final resting place of Washington Irving, writer of the short story "Legend of Sleepy Hollow." A few other famous New Yorkers are also buried there, including Dale Carnegie and Samuel Gompers, along with some Rockerfellers.

My last day was a stop in New York City to see the 9/11 memorial and museum there. It was sobering to reflect on my memories of that day so long ago.

An art exhibit - the artist asked people to recall the color of the sky on 9/11.
 My last stop was the Morgan Library and Museum, which had an exhibit honoring Charlotte Bronte, one of my favorite writers. They had the manuscript to Jane Eyre, which was open to the famous scene between Jane and Mr. Rochester where he proposes. Before realizing that Mr. Rochester intends to marry her, Jane says: "I am no bird, and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will." Jane Eyre is one of my favorite characters because she is so strong willed. Charlotte Bronte took great pride in the fact that contemporary critics couldn't tell if she was a man or a woman, and she wrote that she wanted to be judged as a writer, so it didn't matter whether she was man or woman.

Only professional portrait of Charlotte Bronte done during her lifetime (other than a portrait by her brother)
I really enjoyed the trip (not all the driving, though). It seems somehow appropriate to close with these words from FDR's prayer address on June 6, 1944 (D Day):

And, O Lord, Give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impact of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment -- let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

Keep the faith, be brave and be bold. There is so much to enjoy in life.