Birding on Block Island a few years back, a fellow birder, but someone I know only slightly, said to me something like “good thing you got your bulb fixed.”
Our little flock of birders had reached the point at the end of the Island where we would turn around. We were taking a break from birding to marvel at the vista of the Block Island Sound from atop a bluff. It was a picture perfect day.
“Bulb fixed?” What in heavens name was he talking about? Was he even talking to me? I turned from taking in the view of the Sound to look at him just to check. Yes, he was talking to me.
It seems he had read a recent blog post of mine about confounding — much the way he had just confounded me — my car repair man as I paid the bill for replacing a car light bulb with an out-of-context comment. “Good thing I am not a black man…I might be dead,” I had said to the repair man. You can read the post from 2017-07-24 here.
in July 2016, Philando Castile, a Black 32-year old had been fatally shot by a Minnesota police officer after being pulled over for a broken tail light. Castile’s girl friend was in the car with him. In June 2017, a jury acquitted the police officer. That brought back memories for me of the case of Walter Scott who had been killed by a police officer in Charleston after a traffic stop for a broken tail light. Black men frequently die for burned out car light bulbs.
As I paid the very small bill for my own tail light replacement, I could hear Joan Baez singing “There but for fortune go you or I.” That night I wrote a blog about broken car lights.
George, my Block Island birding friend, brought all this back when he posted a note on my most recent blog. I write my blogs for me, but of course posting makes them public. People’s comments often take me by surprise. Somebody’s reading these?
Just as I was thinking again about George, Philando, Walter, Joan and my privilege as a white person able to be fearless even should I neglect a broken car light bulb, I got an email via WordPress with another comment on Meadow Restoration to approve.
This one was tied to a post called August 4th from 2015. Why now? August 4th is approaching but this reader, a person I don’t know, already contacted me when I posted that blog five years ago. She’s a friend of the Crowell Hilaka Preserve in Richfield Ohio that used to be a Girl Scout camp where my friend Sallie Parker was struck and killed by lightning on August 4th 1959. Remembering Sallie was the subject of the blog. The woman from the preserve sent me a pdf of the plaque commemorating Sallie’s death. How did she find my small press blog?
“There but for fortune go you or I” often plays in my head when I think about Sallie. Maybe this is my theme song. As the lightning struck her, Sallie fell on the little girl sharing her pup tent. That little girl would have been me had my parents agreed that I could go from DC back to Ohio to join Sallie for another year at camp.
Blogging for me is largely an exercise in record keeping. When did the monarchs return this year versus last is the customary fodder for my posts. My sister thinks I should hew to the theme of meadow restoration when I post, avoiding light bulbs and death anniversaries. Maybe she’s right, although I feel I can write whatever I want since this is such a personal exercise.
Particularly in these pandemic days I have realized how lucky I am to have a big old field in which to putter and about which to blog. The restoration is as much of me as it is of the meadow. Any reader is taking his chances with my posts.