Stony the Road, The Rebirth of Hope

img_6607There’s an arresting passage in James Weldon Johnson’s Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing, aka the Black National Anthem, that paints the historical black experience in vivid and heart-rending strokes. It says:

“Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chastening rod
Felt in the days when hope
Unborn had died…”

Pause to imagine that. Imagine a moment so horrifically bleak as to kill the very opportunity to ever know hope — to never be hopeful.

If we accept hope is existence’s lifeblood, or at minimum that force which impells us toward a new day – the thing that urges us to reach down and push forward one more puff of air when we’d rather stop breathing – then what must it be like to have that stolen from an entire race of people? What of the generations that ascended believing the very act of hoping was meaningless and futile – that the mere glimpse of hope was dead on arrival, that it died in utero?

That is the barren land from which our fertile crops have grown. To begin to understand the descendants of African slaves’ present circumstance and celebration, one must appreciate that they have emerged from and have been propelled beyond such a time as that.

The greatness of our greatest leader, or achievements of our most accomplished doers or perils over which we prevail daily find their seed and root and stem there. In that place, we have learned to discover hope at despair’s tombstone.

From a place of hopelessness have we mightily come forward. Now, the conversation may begin.
-Jonathan A. Clarke

(c) Copyright 2017, Jonathan Clarke, All Rights Reserved


Donald’s Sound and His Fury. Can You Hear Me Now?

img_6439THE SILENCE IS DEAFENING! Where are the voices that once roared with chants of “EXECUTIVE OVERREACH?!” Where are you who, in times not long past, writhed in apoplectic fits and launched court challenges whenever our last president dared exercise the most basic of his constitutional mandates — the executive order?

How dare you stand by mute as this rogue, small man scrawls his ugly name across our precious parchment and commits this nation to its most vile and un-American posture in generations? Where are the PATRIOTS?

And how about those of you who sat home Nov 8th or recklessly tossed your franchise to 3rd party candidates who hadn’t the thinnest expectation of victory? Where does your flag of principle wave today?

Weren’t you the ones who said your vote didn’t matter? Wasn’t it you who claimed 4 years of Trump wouldn’t irreparably harm us? Four years? How about four months, four weeks, four minutes? You exchanged alternative candidates for alternative facts.

Where are the ones who enrobed this man in the shawl of preeminence and set loose his fury on our land? Where are you hiding today? Why are you mum?

He tried time and time and time again to convince you he wasn’t ready, he was unfit. Yet, you ignored his pleas to bar him from government. And now we collectively get what we “deserve” while you sit in silence — the ones of you who are bright enough to stay so.

To the remainder of you who raise your Stars and Stripes (or Stars and Bars, if you prefer) and lift your hateful voices to cheer on this tyrant, we say: Shut Up and Sit Down. You’ve done enough harm.

Leave us to holler and howl and bellow in peaceful protest. Hush while we sound dusk’s alarm and beckon our rescuers.

Stay out of our way as we try to stay afloat and keep from drowning.

(C) Copyright 2017, Jonathan Clarke All rights reserved

Time Lapse, Fifteen Years and Counting

asher-collageIt may not be the latest innovation, but TIME LAPSE PHOTOGRAPHY certainly is one of the truly indispensable techniques to come along. Capturing single frames of a scene or a location at constant intervals, then playing them out in a real-time sequence allows us to see a thing take shape in a way that otherwise would be impractical or not possible. No one’s going to sit around and watch a seedling sprout and form into a flower. Camping out across from a construction site to watch a hole in the ground erupt into a 75-story skyscraper would be impracticable.

Yet as inconceivable as that might be in our ordinary lives, time lapse positively has been my near daily experience in watching my daughter grow.

Today, she turns 15, that age when her life is consumed with playing girls volleyball and pop stars whose names I don’t recognize and studying rules of the road I’m ashamed to admit I no longer recall or practically no longer matter to me. But they matter to her now because she wants to pass that driving test; it’s like a right of passage for 15 year-olds.

“That means no left turn,” she tells me as we approach an intersection with the sign displaying a bent left arrow superimposed with a red circle and line through the middle. From the passenger seat she blurts, “Right lane coming to an end.”

“Oh, so that’s what the yellow sign means? Thanks,” I quietly think.

This mundane act of operating an automobile is a thing of fascination, or perhaps mere preoccupation, for my little one as another of her petals comes into bloom. Fifteen years now, I’ve watched with constant amazement as her life’s time lapse plays out before me. Frame by frame I watch her flower blossom.

I remember a toddler charging full tilt into my arms when I’d arrive home. I’d hoist her up, rattle her like one of my sister’s dolls and plant on her lips something we declared “the best kiss in the world!”

Then, there was the plump-legged little dancing girl in the white tights who pointed her toes east and west, held her hands in a loop above her head and mimicked a ballerina’s pose.

And how could I forget the 3 year-old swim student who fought and splashed at Miss Marci to keep from getting her own face wet and plunging into the Y’s pool.

With the lapse of time, that swimmer swims now like a dolphin. The dancer leaps and kicks with grace and precision. And no longer a toddler, the teenager sometimes walks in the other direction when I arrive and her friends are near; the best kiss in the world has been repealed and replaced with an occasional peck on the forehead.

Sweetlet has ascended tall and bright. And the things she once couldn’t do, but always has had the potential to do, she now does even as she gathers more knowledge, skill and confidence.

My one, true delight has been seeing her flower in my garden. And with that some disquiet for sure as 14 turns to 15 and the time lapse flutters rapidly on.