Poplar trees lined the street where I grew up in upstate New York. They were tall, pliant, full-leaved and on windy summer nights, their dry, susurrant racket kept me in my little seersucker pajamas wide-awake with breathless excitement. In those pre-kindergarten days I formulated my theory of wind. After close observation, I postulated that wind started with the slight inexplicable movement of one single giddy leaf. The displaced air caused adjacent leaves to rustle and before you knew it, you had a breeze, a zephyr, wind.
Sadly, a nun in an early kindergarten science unit debunked my theory. The wind was caused by the Holy Spirit.
In President Obama‚Äôs somber inaugural address he urged us, his fellow citizens, to give up childish things. Try as I might I have not been able to shake my early childhood scientific methodology. In the blue morning light, with visions of my 01k dancing in my head, I wonder where exactly was that sub-prime mortgage written that tripped the financial firestorm – soured the bundled derivatives that caused the finance industry to crumble and eventually take down Iceland? Was it a split-level in a new subdivision in Orange County? A second home up in Hudson?
In our apartment we have a bloated behemoth of a SONY television that is fourteen years old. Several additional black boxes perch precariously on top, late adaptations to new cable services. The silver universal remote is grungy despite my best Windex efforts. A few months back, after some snarky comments from a friend about our low-defness, we caught the flat panel TV fever and went to Circuit City.
Since I do not speak TV technology as a second language, we brought detailed specs from an already flat-paneled friend whose secular bible is Consumer Reports. But as thirty screens simulcast Big Brother at us, we got overwhelmed. We left the store. We did not buy a flat panel TV, but I wonder if it was the beefy young man in sneakers and hockey jersey explaining blue ray to his girlfriend who started the winds hear that bought down the whole house of credit cards? Was it our own consumer non-compliance?
Besides Obama‚Äôs steady belief in himself, who exactly was that person who thought yes, this Barack Obama can be president and tipped the prevailing climate from the stagnant anti-Bush inversion to a pro-Obama wind at our back? Was it my friend‚Äôs fourteen year old generally non-committal and monosyllabic son, who became a voluble electoral wonk and can‚Äôt wait to be old enough to volunteer and vote for President Obama in the next election?
In addition to reading poplar leaves, I am always on the lookout for portents. Days before the inauguration a plane landed on water. For once a competent seasoned professional, not a hired hack, was in charge during a disaster. The pilot, an experienced glider pilot familiar with air currents, guided the plane nose up onto the icy Hudson. Trained attendants evacuated the plane. Passengers helped each other out, then stood on the wings as if it were a subway platform. Ferries and private boats in the area circled in the last hours of light to help survivors to safety.
Planes landing on water. A black woman is First Lady of the United States. More good signs in one month than in the whole eight years of Bush. Will it be the closing of Guantanamo, lifting of restrictions on the Freedom of Information Act, rescinding the family planning gag rule or imposing strict lobbying regulations that we look back on for when it all finally began to change?
Recently during closed door discussions of his financial recovery plan, President Obama reminded the obstructionist Betadine-dipped House Minority leader John Boehner, ‚ÄúI won.‚Äù That‚Äôs a good sign, too.