Musings For A Cozy Saturday with Sleet Outside

by And the White Lion Roars!

We just moved into a new house. Not only is our house new, our subdivision is new. Many of the houses on our block aren’t finished, or even started yet. But there are some touches that the builder has put around the homes, including ornamental trees in the front yards. The same type of trees in each front yard, Live Oak. Oaks are very popular in Texas, which is semi-okay because they are such gorgeous colors in the fall-what with their burnt red and orange leaves. I am not a fan of monoculture, but I do like oaks. I wondered the other day about one thing though; if a live oak dies, does it become a dead oak? Or just a dead live oak? I guess there’s always word play for us oxymorons.

Driving to work on Thursday, the day before they great ice storm of 2013 hit, there was a teeny-tiny spider on my windshield. I remembered the times that I took a walk in the woods, fascinated by the natural way, watching a large spider whose web stretched between two trees. It was big enough for us to see, but apparently invisible to the other insects flying around. They would become trapped, and we would watch the spider go to work. I couldn’t help wondering what the poor teensy spider ate. He was well attached to my windshield, but I couldn’t see a web in which to catch ever teensier insects. So what do they eat?

I’m a huge fan of the Texas drink, Margarita. And, if I say so myself, I make a damned good one. So last week I bought a bag of limes. Used a few last weekend, but haven’t had time since. So I looked in the bowl of limes this morning, and several of them had lost their green color. Now, I remember the George Burns/John Denver movie in which John Denver, a manager in a grocery store, had a moral conflict about waxing cucumbers and apples to make them look more appetizing to shoppers. I also remember my husband buying me some sunflowers when I was recovering from surgery; they were very unusually colored for sunflowers, but within a week those colors had drained into the water, and the sunflowers were just sort of whitewashed-looking. Did someone do that to those limes? Were they just colored bright green to make me buy them, only to fade within a week? I see so many home decor photos and TV programs that show glass jars of lemons and/or limes set out for decoration. Are they too just very fresh, and in a few days they will have no color?

I am an atheist. I was raised to be a fundamentalist Christian, but I am not. I try very hard to respect those who do believe, especially since that group includes so many people whom I love and greatly respect. I realize that there are times we all need some comfort to get us through a hard time, and for many people, that comfort comes from believing that there is a higher power who has a purpose for whatever we may go through while we are here. I was listening to music when I was getting ready for work one day last week, and heard a song by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Amos Lee. The song is called “Cup of Sorrow,” from his album Mission Bell. As I listened to the song, I realized that not only do people of faith believe that Jesus understands what they are going through, they take comfort in the belief that, no matter how hard their lives are, they aren’t suffering as much as Jesus did. I guess for them, there is comfort in that as well. At the same time, I recently met someone who held those kind of deep beliefs, but she had recently lost her boyfriend to pancreatic cancer, and she was having a very, very hard time overcoming her grief. She said to me, “We believed for a miracle, but he died anyway…” and I realized that this may be part of why she was having such a hard time with his death. To me, people die of pancreatic cancer. Period. But to her, her god let her down. I don’t hold out the unrealistic hope that miracles occur for those with deadly diseases; people die. People suffer. Life is suffering, as the Buddha said, and there are no protective miracles against that. So if it makes a person feel better to think that his suffering is less than what Jesus experienced, I guess…whatever gives you peace.

Lastly, I was watching a television program online yesterday which showed a scene of the main character in a restaurant on his 52nd birthday. The waitress was very friendly despite the character’s preoccupation with his destination. And it occurred to me that one of the arguments that the right uses against paying waiters/service workers a living wage just doesn’t fly. They love to say that these jobs are not meant to be “long term.” They are meant to be temporary, during school or youth. They subscribe to the notion that these are “unskilled” jobs, and once higher-value skills can be acquired, they should be, and then the person won’t need to work in such a low skill, low wage job. But this is another conservative straw man. There are many reasons that a person may need to work long term in a restaurant or retail establishment. Some people are just very good at that sort of work, and do it very well. They are the ones who make super tips in the dining room. They are the ones who get wonderful comments to the manager for giving good service at the retail store. They deserve a living wage. I’m guessing that some of the folks arguing against giving them that living wage are the most difficult to deal with getting their meals, or wanting a discount they aren’t entitled to. (See last week’s post.) Being a waiter or service worker is very hard work. Just like being a mechanic, or garbage man is very hard work. It is work that some people see themselves as superior to, but those people use these services regularly.  Since all the economic arguments proving that paying a higher wage to service workers would be the best stimulus our economy could hope for haven’t worked, this one may not either. But can I call bullshit on the argument that waiting tables is not skilled labor?