“Fresh, vibrant June passes to a languid, slow July. Then comes a turning point, when summer suddenly feels utterly tiresome. Some years, late summer weather is kind and merciful, indulging the gardener in a quick turn to cool nights and days filled with a mellow, amber sunlight that actually feels good on the face, totally unlike the prickling and piercing rays of high summer. Other years, the wait is interminable, summer’s heat oozing on well into months traditionally autumnal….
“Just as fall is a time for letting go, for riding with the slow, melancholy yet beautiful decline toward the inevitability of winter, it is also a time for loosening up rigid color rules. What may jar in the May and June garden is a welcome sight in October. Colors have richened and deepened with the cooler temperatures and golden light. The sunlight of autumn softens the boundaries that in spring and summer define orange, red, magenta and purple…. Nature combines cobalt skies, red and yellow leaves and purple asters; the gardener does well to take inspiration from these stunning scenes.”
The first day of autumn was a few weeks ago, yet here in the Southeast we have our own transition from summer to fall that I’ve designated as a new season. It’s called Summerfall.
Summerfall’s most notable characteristic is that it’s cold enough in the morning to crank on the furnace, but warm enough in the afternoon that you need a bit of the air conditioner. Temperatures will swing as much as 30 or 40 degrees between dawn and dusk, before they settle into a narrower range that presages winter.
Summerfall only lasts a couple of weeks — usually winding up in late October — and it’s only toward the end of the month that the leaves around town start to shed their greens and reveal all their fall colors before they need raking and sweeping and bagging up. With the sun tilting toward its winter angle, all those green leaves look super-saturated right now — which in part accounts for how early fall can seem so emotionally soothing after the long, hot months of July, August, and (here in the south anyway) early to mid-September. The galleries below are a recap of the lily photos I’ve posted so far; and I’ll be using this tween-season to finish up my summer photos in a few final posts while I also begin photo-hunting for the first appearances of fall color among the plants in my garden and the surrounding neighborhood.
For those interested in what I’ve written (see here and here) about the upcoming general election in the United States, below are two websites I’ve recently been visiting to keep tabs on early voting, and one I’ve found that describes the ballot processing rules for each state. That third site is useful (note the column “When Ballot Processing Begins”) for an important reason: it undermines the false idea that we will not know the results of the election for many days, weeks, or months (as the president and his campaign have tried to claim) since many states start processing ballots well before November 3.
From My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg (quoting her Senate Confirmation Hearing Opening Statement, July 1993):
“Let me try to state in a nutshell how I view the work of judging. My approach, I believe, is neither liberal nor conservative. Rather, it is rooted in the place of the judiciary, of judges, in our democratic society. The Constitution’s preamble speaks first of ‘We, the People,’ and then of their elected representatives. The judiciary is third in line and it is placed apart from the political fray so that its members can judge fairly, impartially, in accordance with the law, and without fear about the animosity of any pressure group.”
From My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg (quoting her speech “The Role of Dissenting Opinions,” July 2013):
“My remarks concern the role of dissenting opinions in U.S. appellate courts generally, and the U.S. Supreme Court in particular. It is a subject I have been obliged to think about more than occasionally in recent Terms….
My experience confirms that there is nothing better than an impressive dissent to lead the author of the majority opinion to refine and clarify her initial circulation….
Another genre of dissent looks not to a distant future day, but seeks immediate action from the political branches of government — Congress and the president. Dissents of this order aim to engage or energize the public and propel prompt legislative overruling of the Court’s decision…. “
“[A] governing political coalition has an incentive to prevent changes in the existing balance of voting power….
“When voting is racially polarized, efforts by the ruling party to pursue that incentive ‘will inevitably discriminate against a racial group.'”
I’ve been away from blogging (and photography) for a few weeks, after I decided to educate myself on some political issues that have gotten a lot of attention since earlier this summer. I was triggered, I think, by hearing the president of the United States float the idea of delaying the November 3 election because, ostensibly, of the pandemic. You may not have even noticed that that idea didn’t get much traction — since it didn’t get much traction. It held our attention through a few hours of news coverage, then dissolved of its own failed logic: the president can’t delay elections that are run by states; he behaves as if the pandemic is barely real so he can’t use that as a reason; and, more psychotically, the whole point was to just throw out a trial balloon to test reactions and stir up some chaos and confusion. The president then flipped to denigrating electoral procedures — focusing, if you could call it that, on unproven assertions about absentee ballot fraud — a theme he reiterates almost daily and will likely continue to do so well into November.
You see, it’s like this: intentionally creating confusion about election procedures and insisting in advance that an election is fraudulent are classic examples of voter intimidation — potentially illegal if you or I tried to do it publicly — and that’s what got me interested in setting aside a few weeks to learn more. I’ll come back to that in some future posts — I’ve been surprised at how little I knew about voter suppression in the United States — as I try to organize and write about what I’ve been learning. For now, though, just keep this in mind: prior to the railings of this madman, you probably didn’t find yourself worrying about whether there was integrity in elections you participated in — largely because you were (intuitively, perhaps) aware that state and local governments and election boards were quite accomplished at managing election procedures that they continuously seek to improve and have followed for decades.
Back in the early twenty-first century when I was working on my history degree, I took a couple of courses on constitutional interpretation that occupied me for the better part of a year. I don’t lay claim to any inordinate expertise because I took those classes — but I will say that the experience of studying the United States Constitution and deeply reading dozens of Supreme Court opinions was singularly valuable, the kind of learning experience where you realize you’ve been forever changed by what you learned. If you’ve never read a Supreme Court opinion, you’re missing out: embedded in the Court’s writings you’ll find the history of this country — in a literary and narrative form unlike any other — and with it, the history of the struggles of millions of people as they worked toward greater justice, for all. The American Bar Association has a short summary describing how to read a Supreme Court opinion — though I would personally shorten that even more to say that the syllabus (which states the facts of a case), the main opinion, the disposition (or judgement rendered), and the concurring and dissenting opinions are the most relevant to someone reading an opinion without legal training.
Coincidentally (the coincidence is inconsequential), I was reading in Carol Anderson’s book One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent in the 2013 Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder when I heard she had died — which is why I chose her quotes about that case and the importance of dissenting opinions to lead this post. The Supreme Court’s majority decision in the Shelby County case invalidated provisions of the Voting Rights Act that required certain states with a history of disenfranchising voters along racial lines to get permission — or pre-clearance — from the Department of Justice before changing their voting procedures. In her dissent (which you can read here), Justice Ginsburg discusses the problems of ongoing voter suppression in some detail — providing a summary of contemporary and typical examples — and is certainly still relevant since the Trump administration and campaign have launched over 200 lawsuits that potentially interfere with voting access, procedures, and ballot counting for the November 3, 2020 election.
In a season when we seem politically unmoored, with many normal frames of reference out of reach or completely gone, we would do well to remember Justice Ginsburg’s belief that dissent could be used to spur legislative action and even challenge the very court she served on. And, as we try to move forward, to remember that dissent in itself has a way of creating clarity about uncertain times. As Sarah Wainwright says of her in In Defense of Justice:
“Ginsburg reads the Constitution for the principles it espouses, she looks at society for what it is, and she sees the yawning gap between the two. With every dissent, she fights — if not to fill it, then to light the path for those who follow….
“To the fight, she brings nothing but a pen….”
Rest in peace, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Your memory, and your work, will live on.
“Much of what appears to be reform in our time is in fact the defense of stasis. When we see through the myths that foster this misperception, the path to genuine change will come into view. It will once again be possible to improve the world without permission slips from the powerful.”
“Pull a thread here and you’ll find it’s attached to the rest of the world.”
Uh … hello … is anybody out there??? All of a sudden … it’s summer!
This morning I noticed that two wall calendars in my house — one above the phone in the kitchen and one next to a bookcase in my office — were still on pages for May … which might have something to do with my-self getting sucked into the TV and watching too much news since a few days after my last post. I finally hacked my way out from inside the flat-screen this past weekend, slightly disoriented but not really confused or surprised by all thathas happened. I then started wondering if I would write something that, despite inadequacies, might reflect on the moment we’re in — and decided that I would and could, but not quite yet, I’ve got some work to do first. It’s a little bit funny at times — sort of like writer’s block, or maybe that restless feeling I get when I do the same kinds of updates to my photos over and over again — to have a blog that I’ve focused almost exclusively on photography for a nearly two years, but feeling the urge to split off in other directions. Meanwhile, spring has marched on, summer’s already here … and even with afternoon humidity approaching 150% (exaggeration alert!) last week, I’ve still been spending some cooler mornings hunting down more irises, hydrangeas, lilies, and other fresh flowers making their way into the southern sun.
My adopted state of Georgia made national news a couple of weeks ago, with images and stories of long lines and day-long waits at voting locations for the twice-delayed June primary election — followed by finger-pointing and blame-slinging from people in various leadership positions who seem hard-pressed to recognize that the roles they were elected to or appointed for are supposed to mean that they’re actually responsible for doing something, not just talking about someone else doing something. Whether these failures represent intentional voter suppression or incompetent voter suppression doesn’t matter that much: the effect is to discourage and ultimately reduce voter participation, a problem getting more serious national attention in many states because of the challenges of voting during a pandemic. The fact that we’ve been here before is one of the many loops United States politics is always getting stuck in — where the only consistency we see is the conviction that problems like this are too big to be solved.
I mention this along with a polite suggestion: if you live in a U.S. state that permits you to vote by absentee ballot, it’s not too early to make sure you know how that process will work for the general election in November. I voted absentee in the Georgia’s June primary on purpose this year, because I wanted to learn the steps required. For Georgia, that included verifying that I was registered (on the Georgia My Voter Page); getting an absentee ballot request form; filling it out and submitting it by email; tracking it on the My Voter Page so I knew when it was received and that the actual ballot was mailed to me; then tracking that my completed and mailed ballot was received and accepted. Though thousands of people in several Georgia counties reported not receiving their ballot despite requesting it (which in part accounted for the long lines at polling locations), I did get mine — but with only a few days to spare before I needed to complete and return it. Check with your county government or your Secretary of State’s web site, or start with the National Conference of State Legislatures summary of states with absentee voting options. You might also try the ACLU in your state, which typically has detailed information on how voting (including absentee voting) works, what to expect, and even how to properly fill out and submit your ballot request or ballot. Also, I’ve found that Balletopedia is an excellent starting point for learning more about candidates, as it’s frequently updated with backgrounders on local and national elections.