SMITHEREENS: Reflection on Bits & Pieces

By Gar Smith
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 06:16:00 PM

A Sign of the Times

This morning, an NPR reporter mentioned the upcoming November election and added a qualifier: "... assuming human civilization survives that long."

Another Sign of the Times

I had a small bout of surgery two weeks ago and was due to return to the hospital to have the sutures removed. Given the restraints of our geo-endemic pandemic, I sent off an email asking if the appointment was being postponed.

The helpful hospital folks suggested a delay was a possibility but they had an alternative: I could take out the sutures myself in the comfort of my own home.

Right: a Do-It-Yourself suturectomy!

The doctor's email provided the following quick course in removing surgical stitches:

"Use a small nail scissors with the pointy tip, to cut under the knot and pull the suture out with forceps/tweezers at home. It would be great if someone could help you."

A more detailed Five Step Procedure followed, along with a link to "a step-by-step video on taking out your stitches at home."


A Poem for Our Troubled Times 

The following poem has been making the online rounds as pandemic-panicked people search for reassuring words to share. Herewith: 


By Brother Richard Hendrick (March 13, 2020, Ireland) 

Yes, there is fear. 

Yes, there is isolation. 

Yes, there is panic buying. 

Yes, there is sickness. 

Yes, there is even death. 


They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise 

You can hear the birds again. 

They say that after just a few weeks of quiet 

The sky is no longer thick with fumes 

But blue and grey and clear. 

They say that in the streets of Assisi 

People are singing to each other 

across the empty squares, 

keeping their windows open 

so that those who are alone 

may hear the sounds of the family around them. 

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland 

Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound. 

Today a young woman I know 

is busy spreading fliers with her number 

through the neighborhood 

So that the elders may have someone to call on. 

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples 

are preparing to welcome and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary 

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting 

All over the world people are looking at their neighbors in a new way 

All over the world, people are waking up to a new reality 

To how big we really are. 

To how little control we really have. 

To what really matters. 

To Love. 

So we pray and we remember that 

Yes, there is fear. 

But there does not have to be hate. 

Yes, there is isolation. 

But there does not have to be loneliness. 

Yes, there is panic buying. 

But there does not have to be meanness. 

Yes, there is sickness. 

But there does not have to be the disease of the soul 

Yes, there is even death. 

But there can always be a rebirth of love. 

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now. 

Today, breathe. 

Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic 

The birds are singing again 

The sky is clearing, 

Spring is coming, 

And we are always encompassed by Love. 

Open the windows of your soul 

And though you may not be able 

to touch across the empty square, 


Breaking News Amidst the Noise: What's Bad News for People Is Good for the Planet New data from the orbiting the CopernicusEU #Sentinel5P weather satellite reveal a major decline in air pollution over Italy as a result of a nationwide lockdown that is keeping residents confined to their homes. 


At the same time, the water in Venice's clouded canals has begun to run clear as the coronavirus lockdown suspends boat traffic. Fish are once more visible in the canals. Also returning to enjoy the currents of the city's cleaner canals—swans and . . . dolphins! 


Meanwhile, the air quality over China has improved dramatically following the imposition of a nationwide coronavirus quarantine. NASA satellites are finding 'significant decreases' in nitrogen dioxide as factories are closed and workers are ordered to stay home. 


A Hopeful Invitation from the Greenhorns 

Over the years, it's been my pleasure to know and work with an amazing crew of young eco-activist farmers who call themselves the "Greenhorns." From their headquarters in rural Pembroke, Maine, they energetically promote ecological farming as an alternative career path for young Americans who see no long-term future in a world dominated by short-term, extractive, debt-for-profit capitalism. 

And how can I not love a team of on-the-land artists, writers, and eco-agitators who chose to name their homestead "Smithereen Farm"? 


Here's a portion of a recent letter from their farm in Maine. It was a welcome respite from the apocalyptic barrage of doom-soaked screeds that have dominated the news cycle for the past weeks. 

What a time! What a time to sit quietly in the morning and lay out some constructive thoughts about where and how to intervene in the unfolding now. Disaster capitalism, masked sprayers in the streets, lockdowns and xenophobia, trillions of dollars of phantom money flooding, draining and swirling toxic silt, indenturing the future with debt. 

Panic and hoarding, schools and courts of justice closed—and meanwhile the dismantling continues, the closure of state agencies charged with overseeing our public lands, parks, forests, department of agriculture, department of statistics, the science of climate study and the needed coordinated response to climate change. We’re keeping our spirits up: speaking with each other, checking in with those we love, showing care and kindness in the hallways and at the intersections. This is no time to be hollowing out institutions and the social behaviors of solidarity. The dispatch comes with an invitation. Every year (in between planting and harvesting) the Greenhorns produce a collection of ruminations and solution-oriented essays in their annual publication, The New Farmer’s Almanac. And this year, they are inviting us to submit articles for the upcoming edition. 

We at the Greenhorns challenge you to use this time to compose your thoughts, articulate constructive solutions, and write for The New Farmer’s Almanac! The future is a long time, and the present is a good time to write. 

As they explain in their letter: We are seeking solutions! Works of resistance, restoration, revisioning. We welcome contributions from farmers, researchers, poets, landscape designers, architects, ranchers, activists, artists, thinkers, and gardeners working to reimagine our management of public and private lands. 

In the meantime, the Greenhorns offer this open invitation: "Come learn with us about Sardines, Oysters, Mushrooms, Rice, Vinegar, Wild herbs, Forestry in a Forest context, Historic Restoration and more." 


Trump a Poet? You're Right: It's Got to Be a Joke Need some satire to get you through these helter-shelter days? How about an audio book titled: The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump (Unabridged)? The perpetrator behind this parody is Robert Sears, the publisher is Canongate Books, and it's the mellifluous, overly dramatic voice of Jon Culshaw that carries the day, delivering Sears' craftily edited collection of Trump's tweets and tropes with deliciously unearned gravitas. 

According to the publisher: "This collection will give readers a glimpse of the Trump's innermost thoughts and feelings, on everything from the nature of truth to what annoys him about Cher—and will reveal a hitherto hidden Donald, who may surprise and delight both students and critics alike." Click here for a free listen. 

Trump Does TIME