Share Appreciation [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“I’ve got an old mule and her name is Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal”

~Low Bridge, Everybody Down, music and lyrics by Thomas Allen, 1913

She’s a donkey, not a mule, yet I couldn’t help but appreciate the collision of power sources present in this photograph. From donkey to solar.

I’ve read that the innovations of the industrial age were meant to spare humans of muscle-toil. If an engine could power it, a human didn’t have to. The innovations of the information age are meant to spare us mental and sense toil: why stress to parallel park your car if the car can do it all by itself? Why add the numbers if the spreadsheet does it for you? Why look up information if Siri or Alexa can bring it to you? What does it now mean to stay in touch? Text and facebook and tweet and email and zoom and facetime and slack and chat and…call.

Oil, coal and gas are the energy systems of the past. They are donkeys and mules standing next to renewable energy sources like wind and power. It takes time for an infrastructure to be built. It takes time for people to wrap their imaginations around a different way. Do you remember the loud resistance in the early days of the credit card proclaiming that plastic would never replace paper money? That was not so long ago. There were similar angry voices declaring the auto-mobile was a flash-in-the-pan. “Nothing will replace the horse!” Our local supermarket just installed banks of electric car charging stations. Energy systems are slowly moving away from grids: the power source and the property will (mostly) be one and the same.

Industries, like people, either adapt or die. Most retail chains that came late to online shopping are going or already gone. Many have said that they didn’t see the change coming. Or that they couldn’t imagine a world in which people bought stuff without first touching it. Cars are in vending machines. Isaac Asimov would have loved it!

Did I mention that the solar panel in the photograph senses and moves with the sun? As it turns out, the donkey does, too. Much for the same reason. Only, for the donkey, the heat of the sun feels good and I doubt the solar panel cares or feels anything. Sensing and feeling are still on opposite sides of the change-line. At least so far. There may come a day in the not-so-distant-future that the donkey and the solar panel share appreciation for the heat of the sun. The donkey will wag its tail. The solar panel will stretch and sigh. The stuff of children’s books or sci-fi. At least for now.

read Kerri’s blog post about DONKEY & SOLAR PANEL

Hide The Horse

from my archives. This one is called 'Angels At The Well.'

from my archives. This one is called ‘Angels At The Well.’

I first learned this story prompt from Rick Stone at The Storywork Institute: I come from a people who (fill in the blank), and from them I learned (fill in the blank).

Rick’s story prompt was with me when I awoke this morning because I’ve lately been thinking about my grandma Sue. Kerri and I just started rehearsals on our Back To Center concert series and for some reason Grandma Sue has been present when we rehearse. She passed away several years ago and I adored her. She was small in body but big in spirit. Over the weekend my mother said of her mother, “She took everything in stride and adapted to whatever came her way.” Grandma Sue did not resist her lot in life, she made the most of it. She had fun. She created fun.

I’ve been rolling over and over in my mind a specific story about her that happened before my time on this planet. The shorthand goes like this: the glue factory was coming for an old horse that lived in the pasture next to her house. She knew the truck was coming so she hid the horse in her kitchen.

I grew up playing in her house. I know her kitchen. What makes the story miraculous to me is that 1) her kitchen was teeny and 2) you had to climb some stairs to get from the back door into her kitchen. This tiny woman managed to get an old horse through her back door, make a right hand turn, and climb some very narrow stairs. And then she “hid” it from the owner and the glue factory search team.

I do not doubt the truth of this story for a moment and if you knew my Grandma Sue you would not doubt it either. She was a champion for the underdog, a lover of the small moment, a believer in the extraordinary in the ordinary. She lived from her heart and not her need to make sense. What do you do if the sweet old horse next door is in imminent danger? Anything you can.

This morning, as I awoke, I was again thinking of my Grandma Sue and Rick Stone’s prompt came to me. I smiled because I come from a people who act on what they believe- against all odds. And from them I learned moxie and perseverance.

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