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May 26, 2003

Memorial Memo

I've talked about how we typically celebrate this day as the beginning of Summer, rather than as a martial requiescat, but this is a different sort of Memorial Day. The Spring has been slow and cool; it hardly feels like May, let alone Summer. And this year we have fresh war dead to memorialize, so the Holiday is not merely nominal. I hope we will remember all those who have died, not just our soldiers, but the journalists, and thousands of "the enemy" as well: soldiers and civilians, most of whom I personally had no argument with. The victors may presume their own virtue, but I will not judge the dead. I will only remember.

Today is a gateway, looking forward and looking back. I fear we will find war and death in either direction, and I wonder if we will ever find the Summer.

It will come, no doubt.
Despite a seemingly interminable string of gray and chilly days, the green tide rises. The trees leaf-out, the grasses wax, and the underbrush grows bosky. The worn and naked surface of the land is finally obscured by verdure. The yearly change is wrought again, but ever so slowly. Last year I saw a flame-bright Blackburnian Warbler (one of our more striking birds) in a blooming Hickory tree on the Great Hill. This year the same, but it was more than two weeks later, and the Hickories are only now flowering, while the birds are nearly spent. Last year's was seen on the first day the Blackburnians arrived; this time I was pleased to find a bright male bird as the migration wanes, trailing off with the later moving female birds, duller in color, but no less in worth.

Summer will come, but what will it bring with it?
For me, this is now the question, for here, in the midst of Spring, Iíve learned that I am to lose my job. Iíve never seen fit to say much here about my work; this page represents a different part of my life. I suppose a more fully achieved life would find a way to better integrate these things, but Iíve been a working stiff since I got out of college. For better or worse, itís only been one job, at the US Government Printing Office Bookstore. I first got involved with GPO through a summer jobs program while I was in school. I started out in Detroit, then managed to get myself transferred to New York, where I ultimately became the Bookstore Manager, a post Iíve held for the last fifteen years. Iíve never considered it ideal, but itís supported me in relative comfort, and one does come to identify with oneís job.

Now the Bookstore is to be closed.
This is sad, and problematic for me personally, but I canít really mount much of an argument at this point. Our business has eroded badly in the last few years. The advent of the internet and other computer technologies has perhaps been the biggest factor. A little irony for me, as these things have also enriched my life, even as they cost me my livelihood. A great deal of governmental information is now available free online, which is perfectly fitting, since it belongs to the public as much as to the government. Free information is an ethos I endorse, but it does change the retail environment for our books. The agency is going through one of its periodic regroupings, and is struggling to adjust to a changing environment for publishing and printing. Of course the usual bureaucratic in-fighting, inter-agency turf wars, and simple incompetence have taken their toll, but to lament such things is a familiar plaint, and as I said, the Arboretum is not the place for such rants. At least if they donít involve thousands of deaths.
I am not dying.
Although it does feel a little bit like that.

I really donít quite know what I will do.
Iím thinking back now to those Vultures, and Maydayís denial of symbolism. Iíve had my chance at May and its abandon. In fact, Iíve enjoyed it, and seen many wonderful things, but for me, this yearís May has not exactly been the Merry Month. If the symbol is obvious, one cannot ignore it. The Vultures that cast a shadow over the Springtide were no illusion, and it may be that a whole way of life I have enjoyed is coming to an end; dying.

As a symbol of death, the Vulture is unmistakable. But it is only a symbol. Like the Death Card in the Tarot deck, it does not signal imminent literal death, but change, realignment, and ultimately, Rebirth.
Or so I trust.
Iím sure I am much in need of rebirth, but as Iíve noted, it has a way of taking one by surprise. And itís scary.

The promise and the possibility must suffice.
And why not? It beats fear, and Iíve observed at least a little veracity in the symbols Iíve pursued and deployed hereabouts. But we live in a World so rich in meaning that most of it goes unknown. On this Holiday Weekend, Iíll take my binocular to the Park and try to figure out a little bit of it. Then Iíll go home and try to figure out the rest of my Life.