Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Sun-gall some fifteen degrees to the right of the sun, this morning, which meant, since the sun rises north of east these days, that the gall hung due east. The solar system dreaming of a tidy house with no eccentricities, I suppose: of all its planets' axes neatly perpendicular to their orbits.

House hunting. Many observers would find it comical that we discuss the trees as one of the two or three major features of the house. The disappointment of finding that the lovely tree out back is a tree of heaven – ailanthus altissima, a pain-in-the-neck invasive that does not age gracefully – is equivalent to finding out that a basement is perpetually wet. We want real trees, big trees that will comfortably outlive us. As we pull up in front of a house, in one of our scouting expeditions, we're often craning our necks to see if that maple in back is on the sale property or on the neighbor's. (Can't trust neighbors, you know: they cut trees down, for any reason or none.)

Paradoxically, this one of the main reasons we want to live in the city. To live out in the countryside, in western Oregon, is to live in the shambles. People are slaughtering trees left and right. The depression has slowed the pace of development, but not stopped it. To live out somewhere where there were woods and fields would almost certainly be to live in a place that was being steadily plundered and destroyed. Neither of us is a good enough Buddhist to face that prospect with equanimity.

Archeology of depression: “I was seeing how there are all these houses built from the turn of the century into the twenties,” said Martha, “and then all these houses from the forties and fifties, but nothing built in the thirties, that's odd... and then I went, 'Oh. Duh.'”

Wondering how long the free-market zealots are going to hold sway: how long we're going to be solemnly told that the only way we can compete with the highly unfree, market-interventionist, planned economies of the Far East is to give capital here at home a free hand to be just as irresponsible, short-sighted, and self-destructive as it likes. In the long run I don't believe American governments that supinely accept ten percent unemployment, declining wages, and worsening job benefits will survive: but whether we'll veer to the left or to the right remains to be seen. A massive jobs program is the solution, but the only massive jobs program that the Right will support is some huge war, like the one that lifted us out of the last depression. We came out of that huge government intervention into the economy with 40% of the world's GDP – since we were building our industrial and manufacturing capacity at a fever pitch, while the rest of the industrialized world was just as feverishly destroying its own – but it's not likely to happen that way again. Neither Europe nor the Far East seems inclined to play along, this time.

And that's not the solution I want, anyway. I want an egalitarian country, in which the very richest people have maybe ten or twenty times what the poorest people have, not a million times. I want an economy that's stable and dependable, not wildly fluctuating. I'd like to see a country that's simply and sustainably prosperous and unafraid. One in which military expenditure bears some rational relationship to the real risks of the world. (Which are – whatever the Left may say – considerable, but nothing like a justification for maintaining perpetual world-war levels.) One in which everyone willing to work could find a decent job.

We could do all this. We have the economic wherewithal. We may have, for a generation or two, anyway, an environment and economy that has not been irretrievably wrecked. We just don't have the will, and I don't know where we're going to find it.


Zhoen said...


The will is all coming from the people who make obscene amounts of money, and don't want to let go of a penny of it. And they can buy people.

Tree of heaven, had one of those across the fence in my childhood backyard. Nasty, smelly weed, unkillable. Even after it eventually got cut down, the seedlings proliferated.

Still, in OR, surely it wouldn't take that long to have a respectable maple from a sapling, would it?

Dale said...

Yeah, we'll at least get some started. We've been spoiled by the two grand trees in our front yard -- probably as old as the house, about a century. Extraordinarily beautiful, and -- standing to the south, and shading the whole house -- providing all the air conditioning you ever need in the maritime Northwest. Sigh.

marly youmans said...

I had a house with beautiful old post oaks in the front and back. With a ramshackle but beautiful writing room with 22 lattice-paned window up inside the canopy. When we sold it to move north, the buyer (a realtor) cut my writing room oak down.

Meanwhile my neighbors allowed a gorgeous one to lift their kitchen off its foundations--decided they'd rather lose the kitchen than the tree.

And...if we keep having stories like the ones about the Chinese computer chips with "back doors," maybe the government will start to see reasons to have have more homegrown industry.