I walked with a friend yesterday through a particularly pretty part of my town, on a street that runs along the river. There were roses nodding over low picket fences and mounds of flowering perennials filling the stretches between the houses, some of which are small and cottage-like and a half-century old. These were dwarfed by others that seem to have sprung up last week, oversized and imposing, with towering second-story balconies that afford a nice view of what was once called by French settlers La Belle Rivière.
In the evening, when the sun is low in the sky and the water is pinked with the last light of day, it’s easy to forget that we’re looking at one of the most polluted rivers in the country. Its sediments are a storehouse of legacy chemicals pre-dating the Clean Water Act, its waters a constant churn of fresh pollutants from the steel mill just upriver, not to mention mine runoff and fracking water and agricultural runoff and the discharge of urban wastewater from each of the seven states through which it flows.
I’m sure forgetting all that is even easier from a chaise lounge on one of those balconies.
In my own backyard the exuberant vines have been trimmed back one last time, the ivies and creepers and honeysuckle and grapevine that threaten to disappear my house every year. They’re all invasives, I know, but so am I, and I can’t help but admire their tenacity. Each spring I tell myself I’ll have some professionals come and remove them; at the end of every summer I look around and say, okay, maybe next year.
And so: autumn. But even as the cool evenings have replaced those sweltering nights when the temperatures never went below 75 degrees, let’s give one last salute to the passing of the hottest summer on record with Helena Fitzgerald’s incomplete taxonomy of air conditioning (and the “awkward mercies” of the window air conditioner.)
Let’s remember, too, this Season of the Worker, where some folks reminded us why we need labor unions and others showed us there are other ways to organize an economy. And while we’re at it, let’s hear from Lyz Lenz about the rejection of work as we once knew it, and why it’s so baffling to the rentier class:
“I wish there was something to explain why everyone is suddenly opting out of being a cog in the wheel of capitalism. It’s almost as if a mass-extinction event happened and took the lives of 6.53 million humans, leaving the rest of us contemplating our existence and realizing that there is much, much more to life than just being another turtle in a large turtle pile for Yertle the Turtle to sit on top of.”
Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn says, “Tennesseans don’t want socialism.” Wendell Potter says, tell it to your parents and grandparents, and the 10,000 people employed by the Tennessee Valley Association, a New Deal socialist program that saved the regions’ bacon in the Great Depression and is still going strong today.
Much was said about the British Monarchy, the commonwealth, and the legacy of colonialism, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. This piece broke through the noise for me.
Oliver Burkeman: You’ve got nothing to prove.
My month in books: I’ve been keeping a list of the books I’ve read this year — 43 so far — and when I look at that list the year feels expansive, not squished into the endless loop of same-shit-different-day that it otherwise seems. I’m also glad I’m writing them down. Without the list I might have forgotten how much I enjoyed Alison Bechdel’s The Secret to Superhuman Strength, a book I read back in January. Which was, if not a long time, then certainly a lot of books ago. Anyway, my two September books are among my favorites so far: Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility, which I mentioned briefly in a previous post, and Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land. Each one strange and poignant and time-twisty. Both highly recommended.
What’s keeping your year from squishing into that endless loop of ssdd?
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