FOOLED

We could say we are looking for sea glass, but we never do. We could say we are looking for agates, which is also true, but what Gary tells people is: “Rocks.” This is also true, though not completely true.

This posting concerns gathering treasure from the beach, reviewing promises and lies, and a fictional story about “abused” kittens—no animals harmed in that story. Oh! And I will be selling my weaving at an event sponsored by the Cannon Beach Art Gallery. Note that I say “selling” but actually mean “offering for sale,” which is not the same thing. About ten skeins of hand dyed wool in each length…


We should be in Portland today, but the forecasts promise three days ahead of 90°-plus weather, so we rescued the streptocarpus from Portland. They are rumored not to like temperatures over 80°. We don’t like temperatures over 70°. The weavings above all came from the same warp. The ones below are more recent.
Twelve, folded and stacked

I will have these and other weavings at the CB Art Gallery Summer Night Market Sale, thirty-two weavings in all. They are mostly merino wool with some silk and alpaca fiber, all hand-dyed and some hand spun in the U.S. and Canada. The “log cabin” pattern is woven, not merely the yarn. These shawls, baby blankets, wraps, and afghans come from a smoke-free, no-pet home and have been washed gently in cold water and organic shampoo after coming off the loom.
[I hope to use sales to fund yarn purchases—ha!
Truth. My stash is shrinking fast.]


About those rocks: We are not deliberately deceptive about what we’re searching for as we beach comb. What we gather is mostly rocks of certain shapes or colors or clarity. We pick up the occasional shell—at least six species of limpet, whole scallops, “ugly clams,” but almost never sanddollars, and the rare long slender stick. These drifted “bird sticks” go into the hedge to serve as perches for robins, sparrows, our morning jay. Two cedar waxwings perched on Gary’s bird sticks earlier this week. He had never seen the species in life before.

As we search for our rare sea glass, but we are often fooled. The brown (dark orange) beer bottle glass is nearly impossible to see and most often turns into wood or brown rock or rust when we reach for it. Blue glass almost always turns into mussel shell. Green glass turns into leaves or seaweed or a bit of plastic. Colorless glass turns into plastic or shell. We are fooled every day when what we desire turns into something else when we lean close. We’re used to examining quickly, to our eyes being fooled. At first glance.

My schizophrenic brother-in-law and one of my sisters-in-law, who has no excuse, accept as gospel the most bizarre notions. Paul McCartney died decades ago and has been impersonated since. Queen Elizabeth is part lizard. Sandyhook never happened. Uvalde is another invented story. Covid vaccines magnetize your arm, or inject a micro-computers into your body, or do nothing at all because the pandemic is a “witch hoax.” There are other silly stories they believe but I won’t detail here.

This is not merely being fooled but ridiculous. And I have spent a lot of time as I walk the shore looking for my simple treasures trying to understand why people believe in ridiculous stories. Why do people choose to believe in threats where none exist? Why do they distrust warnings of genuine dangers? It’s not as if they feel safer believing in their fantasies than the real stuff. Why not be concerned about actual danger—they might at least take steps to avoid contributing to climate change, write to leaders about gun violence, oppose the threats of aggressive nations preying on weaker ones. Instead they choose our own government coming into our homes, taking our guns and putting us in depth camps? Remember that one? And it never happened, yet they go on to the next terrifying and irrational conspiracy theory and cling to it.

One theory about the inability of people to trust our government, or any government, or regulation at any level, is that as individuals we tend to establish our bias early in life. People raised in a strict top-down family with, for example, an abusive and dictatorial parent most often develop a distrust of authority. Their first experience with government was bad and so all authority is bad. Studies have shown this to be true. My own experience confirms it. (Though, to be entirely honest, my personal experience does not always get the last word.)

When I used to teach Huck Finn, one of the side-issues I discussed was how many characters in little Hannibal, Missouri in the 1830s wanted to protect Huck from his abusive, drunkard pap. Pap beat Huck bloody, but the local “respectable” people and even a judge could not deprive the father of his son. In Sweden, striking a child at all was illegal a hundred and fifty years later. I had foster kids in my classes and children still living with an abusive parent. These teens were clear about what would have happened to pap in our time and place. “Social Services would have… ” But further discussion lead to a revealing range of attitudes about corporal punishment. Teens who had been struck believed it was the only way to impose discipline. Those who had never been struck were mystified by that notion. They had learned that government was trustworthy through a different introduction to discipline and government.

I suppose this is my way of explaining that my parents were kind people who did their best to explain why I could not have a pony, why doing my share of chores was necessary, and good grades were required. I believe that to have a good society, we must be good ourselves, and we must pay attention. I pay attention to current events. I do not hate politics, because politics is just people negotiating how to live together. I dislike some politicians I could name and love others, but we are political animals who want our community to function. We are not solitary animals like… leopards? We are herd animals, collective, biologically dependent on one another. We have offspring that require tending and feeding for years, but we are not elephants living in all-female communities. We need a community.

What we do and say influences and affects others.

At the start of the invasion of Ukraine, I said to Gary, “If we do not stop Russia, they will not stop until they become the USSR again, and China will be emboldened to take Taiwan.” The news has caught up to me. I read a story just the other day about China making aggressive moves on that island nation. This is, after all, how World War Two began. Germany took, and then took and took and took, until half the world was blown to bits.

And most of the world recognizes that climate change is not only making the weather less predictable and inconvenient with historic heat waves and drought in some places, torrential rainfall somewhere else. Climate change is killing natural forests and making the growing of some crops that were successful in some areas for centuries, now impossible. This is already happening. Climate is already changing, and “not in a good way.”

“A well regulated” begins the infamous 2nd Amendment. Where is that regulation? Though I was raised with guns, to respect and handle them safely, I have pretty much arrived at the place where I wish the fears about “taking our guns” were justified. I wish someone would go house to house and clear the military weapons and ammo out of where they are hidden in closets and attics and on men determined to feel safe at any cost to the rest of us. I wish the “well-regulated” part of that amendment were taken more seriously. Freedom to live trumps everything else. There’s a famous American document that says so.

I wish when people decided to worry, they would choose something real to worry about. I wish we were not such fools. I wish we paid more attention to real news, enough to reasonably evaluate what we hear, to know immediately when a journalist leaves out a critical detail or that the story about Bonsai Kittens is a foolish worry. (Go ahead, google it.)

So here is that story:

When my niece, now the mother of three, was a barely teenager in the early 2000s, she asked to use her father’s email to send out a message. He said okay. And that is how about 150 friends of her father received her frantic warning about Bonsai Kittens. This was trending, she wrote, a cruel abuse of tiny baby kitties forced into jars and artificially kept tiny throughout their miserable lives. She shared a link. The website had “documentation” and even photos of the abused kitties, news of where the tortured animals were most popular (Milan, Lima, Paris), and investigation into this cruel practice.

Except. I looked at the photo of the kitten in the glass jar. Yes, a real kitten in a glass jar. No lid. Not particularly cramped in the jar, the sort of space cats like to fit into and then hop out of. And anyway, cats do not limit their growth to their immediate enclosure. A starved cat might fail to thrive and remain smaller than a well fed cat. But keep a cat in a glass jar in order to keep it small? Three problems: It would continue to grow regardless of the size of the jar, it would poop and pee (and where was that supposed to go?), and it’s a cat. A cat in a jar? Do they know any cats personally?

So I did my research. The website was created by three undergraduate students at MIT. It was meant as a joke. MIT did not think it was funny, took it down after three days, and expelled the students. The FBI investigated, PETA investigated, the ASPCA, and others, but once “out there” posting are nearly impossible to eradicate. The website posting had been saved and kept popping up on other sites, put there perhaps by people who thought it was funny, by those who believed the ridiculous story, and likely by those who enjoy making others believe in ridiculous stories.

A child sent me that “bonsai kitten” story, and I suspected the fake right off, but thousands believed it was true. It was, on the surface, cruel and mean-spirited even revealed as a poor joke, but the result was fussing over a lie and a story that reasonable people should have immediately recognized was sketchy. Because here is the real danger: There are too many people eager to believe the worst, and there are plenty of people eager to use the ignorance and foolishness of others to their personal amusement and advantage. I am not referring to people making reasoned and reasonable objections to a plan; I am referring to the promotion of paranoia and delusional lies.

The other day, here in my community, a local spinner of paranoia pushed and pushed at our water board to “admit” they were “okay” with people using our watershed land for recreation. He suggested hoards would invade the watershed forest. He meant to make the board members look irresponsible, at best, and perhaps even prey to some imaginary special interest.

But again, I thought: Why is this a problem? There is accessible forest all along the Oregon coast, parks every few miles. I have myself walked the miles over the top of the cape at least thirty times. It is part of the Oregon Coast Trail that runs through forest and on beaches the full length of the Oregon coast. The three forested miles I know best provide a quiet but rigorous hike through second or third growth hemlock, spruce, snd cedar. In my thirty-odd walks, I can recall encountering other people once or maybe twice (I recall once, Gary twice). I’ve seen deer more often. And this is a promoted, documented, and marked trail.

Our watershed will have narrow access roads but will be gated and unadvertised. Public use of the beach has been guaranteed for decades, and even though I preferred the solitude we enjoyed forty years ago, I can’t claim the beach is ever actually “crowded,” not even at its busiest times. So why would the forest be in such terrible danger? What special interest is supposed to be promoting such overuse? It begs the question.

Perhaps it is the accuser who has a personal agenda, working for his own special interest? Perhaps his property is surrounded by forest and he did not preserve any trees on his lot? Perhaps he has some other issue or group he is protecting? Perhaps he is only a fool himself? Perhaps we should all ignore the fear-mongering rants as best we can and move on with our lives. Allowing management by the Nature Conservancy seems both wise and safe. They have done so much good for the environment.

I can say only for myself. I suspect that the fears come from people with a personal stake in the problem and that the scenarios they warn of seem… unworthy. Unlikely? Foolish?

We reach for what we hope will be treasure and we find trash. On our early morning walks, we fall for this over and over and each time we feel foolish to be fooled by plastic trash or a leaf or broken shell. But we take a chance, look again at the object, and know what it is we’ve reached for before we put it into our pocket. We can judge for ourselves without panic.

All foolishness does not result in betrayal and disappointment. Sometimes, twice so far, we walked to a broken piece of jellyfish—so common on our shore—and when we nudged the side it did not wobble but spun in a circle and became the base of a glass bottle, pounded and sanded into sea glass. The bright bit of plastic half-buried in basalt and broken shells revealed itself as blue glass. We only had to look.

I meant to write about Portland this week, but then two community meetings with paranoid believers… and the weather. The rose above is “Purple Splash,” shown in Portland’s Rose Garden in Washington Park. Yes, striped, but more purple than it shows here.

5 thoughts on “FOOLED

  1. I am not a huge huge fan of John Wayne,
    butt that bean shed he said this that I find humour us
    “life is hard but it’s harder if you’re stupid”—get it?
    the moral bar and of sense that used to be common
    has been buried in the cesspool of delights by the trumpled brainwashed gumlovers—
    pretty soon there will be no up for farina to sing about and the beat goes on

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s