Pumpkins and Psychology

September 26, 2012

Rows of small pumpkins

Copyright 2012 Kevin p. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It continues to be crisp and clear and that is such a welcome relief.  We have just passed the Autumnal Equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere and so “Fall” has officially begun.  From here until the Vernal Equinox, the days will be shorter, the nights longer, and the temperatures cooler.

This change of seasons also brings with it what is by far the most enjoyable part of Fall-pumpkin pie.  Without a doubt, this is my favourite pie of all time.  And this is the season for it.  Roadside markets are awash with all the colours, sizes, and shapes of this signatory ingredient.

Unusually tall pumpkin

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

For others, though, pumpkins are about competition, and we humans certainly are a competitive bunch (just look at the controversy surrounding the replacement officials in the NFL this season).  Interestingly, pumpkin growing is also a competitive activity, as described here in “The Great Pumpkin”.  The Ohio Valley appears to have the right climate (those cool temperatures) to support the growth of massive pumpkins.  Please read through that article as it describes the intersection of weather, plant genetics, and the human desire to “be the best” that has spurred the growth (literally and figuratively) of pumpkin growing contests. 

There are, of course, many reasons why someone would want to grow the largest pumpkin (or play football for that matter).  Sigmund Freud, the father of Psychoanalytic Psychology, believed that competitive endeavours were a way for humans to sublimate their sexual and aggressive tendencies.  If this is indeed true, and it is important to remember that sublimation is just one theory used to explain the root nature of competition, it leaves one to wonder how Dr. Freud would interpret the motivation of those males who seek to grow the largest round objects possible.

Take care.

Fall 2012

September 22, 2012

Sun rising over Baltimore neighborhood

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

We have had really nice weather these past few days.  A bit of a (hopefully) momentary uptick today, but a cold front is on the way this evening and we are to be back in the 70s tomorrow.  This morning started out with some colour and so I went in search of more.


Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

While driving I passed many corn fields and stopped to take a few photos.  This serves as a reminder that many of the  counties in the south and mid-west have been declared drought disasters.  As a result, the price of corn has increased for consumers and farmers have found it difficult to feed their herds.  The heat and dry conditions have also made for a difficult fire season this year.

Tug boat in harbour

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

All of which seemed not only geographically but also psychologically quite far away as yesterday it was crisp and clear-a perfect day for an evening walk.  It is mentally beneficial  to seek out and take advantage of these moments as they do provide an opportunity for reflection and perspective.

That is a key point,  as there really is so much distress in the world today.  It is important to stay informed because before a person can decide if s/he cares about something, that person first has to know what is going on.  Along with that,though, one also has to maintain a sense of balance as it is so very easy to go down the rabbit hole of demoralization.  Yes, sometimes taking a walk helps-as long as walking away does not become the only intervention when dealing with issues.

Take care.

Mums at roadside market

The weather was clear and cool this past weekend.  It was a relief to have a respite from the heat and humidity that so characterized this past summer.  While this may have just been a tease, it was a pleasant one at that.   Along with the arrival of cool temperatures, we are starting to see the colour of fall as well.

Street scene in Shepherdstown, WVa

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

And since the weather was so nice, spending some time in Shepherdstown, WVa seemed like a good idea. Being able to walk around and not become wringing wet from sweat was welcome.

Yellow ribbon hanging from railing

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It was also the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.  On September 17, 1862, 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or went missing-more can be read here and here.  The yellow ribbons that were hung throughout the town served as a remembrance of this grimmest of days.

“Grim” does not even begin to convey the horror of such killing.  In fact, it seems difficult to find a phrase to attach to such an event, even all these years later.  And  that was one day and one battle.  All told, it is estimated that 750,000 were killed during the four years of the Civil War, a statistic explored in the new Ric Burns documentary “Death and the Civil War”, which is part of the American Experience series on PBS.  (It is worth noting that in 1994, Rwandan Hutus slaughtered between 800,000 and 1,000,000 Rwandan Tutsis in 100 days.)  The National Park Service uses the terms “memorial ceremonies” and “commemorate” as descriptors for the activities held over the weekend, and such terms might engender a particular type of remembrance:  that of events which ought not be repeated.

However, the American Civil War lasted another two years after Antietam, and, soon thereafter, came the First World War, also known as the “war to end all wars”.  That was until World War Two.  Then Korea (yes, it was officially a “police action”), Viet Nam, the First Gulf War, then Afghanistan, and Iraq.  These are the wars in which the United States fought during the 20th and 21st centuries-there are exponentially more conflicts and wars that have been fought by other countries in other lands.

150 years later, we are still at it, so what is it that we are to remember and why?

Take care.

Industrial Canal Patience and Passion Sign

(C) Copyright 2008 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The Republican Party held its 2012 convention while simultaneously Hurricane Isaac inundated the Gulf Coast with torrential rain.  As Isaac was such a slow-moving storm, some areas of the coast received upwards of two feet of rain.  When combined with the storm surge, this amount of water led to flooding in many areas that previous storms had not flooded.

The sea walls and levees around the city of New Orleans appear to have done their job.  The feds had spent $14 billion dollars reinforcing and upgrading these protective measures in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina seven years ago.  However, areas outside of the city that did not have the levee system upgraded, such as Plaquemines Parish, experienced heavy flooding.  In fact, concern has been raised that these improved levees may have contributed to the flooding in other parishes, such as Plaquemines and St. John the Baptist.  It appears that issues with funding and disagreements among governmental officials  resulted in the lack of upgrades to these flood-protection systems.  It is also important to remember that parts of Mississippi received extensive damage as well; damage that is often overshadowed by the concern for, and coverage of, New Orleans.  For all along the Gulf Coast it was a cruel irony to have had Hurricane Isaac come ashore on the anniversary of Katrina.

This is not meant to be a partisan post, and, quite frankly, partisanship really should not play a role in disaster relief.  (When a paragraph starts with a sentence like that, you know a contradiction is coming.)  It is worth noting that the Republican Party attempted to cut the budget for both FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).  With a $16 trillion-dollar deficit, on what the government spends money is an issue.  With such a deficit, tax policy (the raising of revenue) and expenditures (the disbursement of funds for programs) becomes the political fodder for campaign promises made.  The Republican and Democratic parties have very different views on these issues and the electorate has to figure out on which side we stand come November.

One example of this is Grover Norquist’s “Pledge” that the majority of Republicans have signed stating that they will not vote for any new taxes ever-about which much has been reported and written.  60 Minutes just ran a program about Mr. Norquist and the pledge last weekend.  Full disclosure:  I am not an economist and do not have a good grasp on much of the technicalities of such a voluminous issue as the federal budget.  However, it does appear that if no taxes are to be raised ever, then the only way to reduce the federal deficit is through cuts to programs.  Wh0 pays what taxes and which programs are to be cut and which are to be funded and at what level gets to the heart of the role of a federal government. And there certainly are arguments to be made about such allocations.  

However, in the context of natural disasters like Hurricane Isaac, the issue is this:  who or what is responsible for providing disaster relief in the face of such storms?  Who or what is responsible for the infrastructure needed to prevent such damage in the first place?  Governor Bobby Jindal (R) of Louisiana requested more disaster relief from the federal government to deal with the destruction left by Hurricane Isaac.  If such funds were not avaliable due to budget cuts, what would Louisiana, or Mississippi, or for that matter, any of the states that get whacked by the record level of  tornadoes last year, do? What about the more than 1,200 counties in the United States that have been identified as drought disasters thus far in 2012?  

The issue of climate change is at the core of this issue, and here, too, is a political difference.  Presidential Nominee Romney has gone back and forth on his view of climate change and is for the Keystone XL pipeline project.  President Obama has acknowledged that the planet is warming, and has been criticized for his general lack of fulfilling his campaign promises to address climate change as a national issue and has put off a decision about Keystone.  This blog contains many posts about climate change and so nothing more specifically will be said on this issue here, except for the following:  1.  The summer of 2012 has been extremely hot, and 2.  If the United States is not committed to making the cultural changes necessary to reduce climate change, and we are unwilling to create a system wherein there is equal participation in revenue generation along with a more balanced approach to expenditures, who, or what, will be available to create proactive and reactive measures to address the increasing likelihood of natural disasters as the climate continues to warm?

Take care.