This week, I return to prose.  I suppose like most Americans, my past week has been occupied with less poetic matters: 1) heat, 2) our dependence on electricity, and 3) the state of our democracy.

The heat.  The heat.  The heat.  Even in normally cooler Mountain Maryland, the heat this week approached a humid and stifling 90 degrees.  It wrapped everything like a blanket, and seemed to dull my other senses.  We have no air conditioning at the farmhouse.  During the day, we closed the windows against the heat; at night, we opened them hoping for a bit of breeze that might make sleep possible.  We wondered whether it might be time for central air conditioning.  Just east of us, in Washington, the heat was even more intense: 105 degrees on Friday; 102 degrees as we packed our supplies and left the FRESHFARM Market at Dupont Circle this morning.  Four hours of cheese mongering in the heat left us listless and dehydrated – running inside; seeking a darkened and air-conditioned room.

Power.  Power to cool.  Power to live.  We dodged the proverbial bullet this round; we did not loose electrical power.  Millions of Americans across the mid-Atlantic weren’t so lucky.  Some still have not had power restored.  I have been compelled by the irony – is it irony or pathos? – of the circular dance we find ourselves in with the planet: we need electricity; our electrical grid is largely powered by ancient and non-renewable carbon-based fossil fuels; our carbon emissions are heating our planet like a greenhouse; the heat sends us rushing into electrically-cooled artificial environments of our making.  The circle begins again.  This spinning; this circle dance with the planet – mother nature, call her what you like – being literally manifest in the weather she brings: destructive, tornado-like spinning and blowing that renders our power grid useless.  I have found myself musing about the FireFly Farms’ producers – the farmers who tend the goatherds and raise the crops to feed them.  Four of our now five family farming partners are old-order Amish families; families that have made the choice to live without electrical power that they cannot generate on their own.  I am humbled by the bravery of this choice, and muse about the lives my great grandparents lived.

Blue state; red state; donkey; elephant – this week we celebrated the 236th anniversary of our democracy.  Here too I have mused: mused about the other circular, angry and destructive dance in which we seemed to be locked.  Recently, I heard Krista Tippett’s On Being interview with Jacob Needleman, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at San Francisco State University and author of The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the American Founders.  I recommend it to you.  It made me muse about the nature of this second, this political dance: its importance and my own obligations to our collective.  I am reading Needleman’s book and have no desire to reduce it in this blog.  What struck me, what set me thinking, was the manner in which Professor Needleman talked about our American rights and freedoms: that they are manifest most in their giving not their taking.  As an example:  our right to free speech is manifest most in the ceding of that right to the other participants in our democracy.  Easy to demand your voice be heard; not so easy to make the space for another’s voice.  Easy to demand your right to pursue the convictions of your religion, not so easy to allow another to pursue the convictions of theirs.  The velocity of our political dance could, I believe, be slowed dramatically if we were all more practiced in this ceding of rights to others – if we resisted the urge to run into the cooling air of like-minded opinion.
For the first year in its new location, FireFly Farms Creamery & Market was at the center of the Accident, Maryland Annual 4th of July Homecoming Parade.  Hundreds lined Main Street and watched.  Politicians, businessmen, civil servants, club and church members, musicians and marching bands suffered the heat to join the parade.  It made me proud.  And, when the confederate flag – flying behind a bright yellow souped-up truck – went past, my breath caught.  I ceded the right to free speech; I found myself wondering what the flag was meant to “say;”  I found the afternoon even hotter.


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