Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving

 

Henry and Oliver, Yosemite 
2011


Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them. Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life. Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer. Never take the first. Never take the last. Take only what you need. Take only that which is given. Never take more than half. Leave some for others. Harvest in a way that minimizes harm. Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken. Share. Give thanks for what you have been given. Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken. Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, 
Braiding Sweetgrass 
Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Dysfunctional Resilience


 Last night I was reading in bed and I heard a crackling sound and then again a rustle and I thought it might be Sophie but I didn't feel like getting out of bed so I kept reading (Homeland Elegies) but that was it, the guilt was creeping in and then I heard coughing a tiny cough a choke, really, so I lay the book down and got out of bed and walked down the hall the short hall and into the darkness of the room where the lady lay the princess lay gurgling. I don't know how to write anymore and remember writing these tales before when I used commas and semi-colons and short muscular verbs. Now it's all run-ons and no punctuation and stream of thought because after nine months of being at home and teaching on Zoom and doing all the usual things with Sophie like marveling at her hair and feeling her grace and changing her diapers and managing her medication and arguing with her insurance company and paying Nice Neurologist to write me scrips and listen to my suggestions for what we should do next, well, there's no other way to get it all down. I flipped on the light and Sophie's lips were dark were they blue? was she breathing? had she had a seizure? where's the pulse-ox? Let's make a long story short (the requisite shall we?). Sophie is ok so no worries all is well thank god (where is god?) and I sat up with her all night, you see, because I knew in that moment that had I not gone into her room at that exact moment she might have died. It feels good to type that out here in the public space that is this old blog for you dear Reader some of you well over a decade. I just knew in my bones that this is how it will happen but that it did not happen not happen last night. I sat up all night and then I fell asleep and woke with a start at ten til nine and Sophie was still sleeping Sleeping Beauty right next to me her lips red red rosed. I had to teach at 9:30 on the Zoom and one of the Marias was coming at 9:00 so I got up from the bower where we lay and made coffee and opened the door to one of the Marias who would be taking over for me. Where was I? My friend Noa from days gone by calls this all of this dysfunctional resilience and I call it a tale, a happily ever after, thickets of thorns and brambles and words and thankfulness to be alive, even now with no punctuation.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Hallelujah


 It was the best day in a long long long long stream of days, wasn't it? When Kamala came out in her white suit, the tears started falling, and I felt absolutely nothing but happy when she spoke and then Joe spoke and then all those people in their families walked up there and all those silly fireworks went off and for a moment -- yes -- I felt glad to be American and to be a part of it. I remember going to a resistance meeting in another lifetime, shortly after walking with three quarters of a million people in downtown Los Angeles on the day after Dear Leader inaugurated himself and we talked so passionately about grassroots activism and what we'd need to do to change things and we did do those things but damn the years went by and wore us down and everything, literally everything, that we thought might happen did and more and nearly destroyed us and did destroy hundreds of thousands of lives but we kept it up. We kept up the calls and the postcards and the letters and the writing and the marching and the protesting and the talking and the arguing and holding people accountable and calling out bullshit when we heard it. We stopped when we were exhausted and other people stepped in. We laughed a lot but we were fucking sick of it all, too. And then this week happened and it was probably the weirdest three days ever, waiting to see what would happen, hunkered down in our homes, stepping over the homeless, ordering our groceries, teaching our kids, wearing our masks and posting memes and wiping up drool and comforting our seizing daughters and reading Twitter and novels and Louise Gluck poems and not sleeping and all the while trying to wrap our minds around the fact that nearly 70 million people who live on the same land actually wanted Dear Leader again, actually voted for the man and justified their votes with their usual talk of pocketbooks and Jesus and Israel and socialism and godlessness and killing babies. 


So, yeah, I'm very happy tonight. It's as if a weight has been lifted and thrown off, far off and we're all ready to do what's next. We hopefully won't ever have to hear from a leader who not only mocked disabled people but actively worked toward and supported and put into place policies that harmed our children. I don't want to ever talk about him again. Tonight, President-Elect Joe Biden included persons with disabilities in his speech and spoke in complete sentences with vigor and not a trace of malice or threat or law and order. He spoke little of himself and much of those who'd put him there up on that stage in Delaware and how wonderful that bells rang in France and people shouted in Germany and people danced in the streets all over this country, this grand and terrible place.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Halfway

 



On Tuesday night, when I saw 65 million people had voted for the man we call President in Terrible America, and after I'd felt disappointed then depressed then terrified then enraged then numb I threw the IChing, drew Hexagram 37 by tracing my hand writing writing writing into fingers and thumbs over palm, hunched over the tile table in my dining room. Hexagram 37 is Family (What will become of us? I'd asked). Be certain, however, that you are not involved in carrying out a role for which you are unsuited, or a role that has been cast upon you. This will rob your life of meaning. Every line of the hexagram changed, an occurrence that in the nearly forty years I've been using it, I've never seen. Skip straight to the transformed hexagram when all lines change. Look it up look it up look it up and then read Hexagram 40 (Liberation) which is sometime in the future so I eventually stood up minutes hours later peanut butter ghost redolent and walked down my dark hallway to the bedroom. It's a short walk but about when I'd gotten halfway my children smiling down from the wall of years the slant of moonlight disguised by the blue blinking LED light from the box over the door that waves in this constant stream of information to my room my sanctuary my sleep, I felt  suddenly enlightened (halfway) not by ghosts or peanut butter or Jesus or hands or Chinese oracles but by my persistent unconscious which was screaming exceptionalism is a lie. It was as if a hand were placed on the top of my head palm down the fingers draped over forehead (halfway) my eyes closed breathing there in the hallway (halfway) soothed.


Now it's Thursday and it's all a lot.



Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Forced to be an optimist






 

I can’t be a pessimist because I’m alive. To be a pessimist means that you have agreed that human life is an academic matter, so I’m forced to be an optimist. I’m forced to believe that we can survive whatever we must survive. 

James Baldwin


 


 




Let's go.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

The sea is so big




Did I tell you that Oliver surprised me by coming home for a week? He did. It was so wonderful to lay eyes on that face, and I even hugged him. He's gone again -- back to Arizona -- and I'm feeling that strange melancholy that besets us when our loved ones leave or we leave them. 

How is everybody doing? You can be honest because I will, too. I'm not doing so great. I'm actively trying to do all the things that ease the mind and calm the spirit and give perspective and maintain equanimity and count your blessings and do for others and look outward and create in the face of fuck (as my friend Lidia Yuknavitch) says, but I went for a short walk to the CVS to pick up Sophie's poison and passed a dirty guy lying on the sidewalk next to his tent in what appeared to be savasana pose a grin as wide as his face his eyes closed. The CVS, like a lot of stores in my neighborhood is all boarded up in anticipation of the Day After the Election when, I suppose, extremists from any group might be out marauding. Speaking of extremists, yesterday, I passed a small group of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and boys. They were dressed in their usual religious garb but also sported masks with TRUMP emblazoned across them. Strange bedfellows, I thought to myself and my tiny little mother mind™ mused on the concept of modesty which I'd experienced during my days teaching English literature to an ultra-religious Jewish sect earlier in the year. I wore the stockings and the long skirts, covered my clavicle and my elbows and my knees,  even when bent. Men of the faith, apparently, are able to sport the moniker of a grotesque con man who mocks disabled people and grabs women by their pussy, though, and it's like being Gulliver these days traveling through the streets both literally and figuratively of Terrible America, the arrogance and laissez-faire and people getting back to normal lamenting how Halloween is so different this year it's so hard for the children and on and on and yes, I know it's grief and loss and all of it is hard and even relative but really?


 "It is coming into election week in the U.S. I am here, on this side of the Atlantic, looking at the other side of that ocean. So much has happened in the sea between us: ships shipping enslaved people, hungry people, desperate people; ships going to a land they called uninhabited from a Europe that prefers to forget its history. As I think about how reparations and justice can be enacted, I’m reminded of an old Breton prayer: God help me, because the sea is so big and my boat is so small. "


Pádraig Ó Tuama
host of Poetry Unbound



 


Wednesday, October 7, 2020

On Repeat

 


(I sat down and wrote
The best words I could write
Turn, turn, turn again
Explaining to the judge
I’d be there on Wednesday night
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind)


Please come to my Substack to read the rest of this. Subscribe for free. 


Sunday, October 4, 2020

What it's like to be afraid






What's it like to face death every night? you ask. What exactly is it like I ask myself. Tonight. Every night, almost. Every time Sophie has a seizure. Every morning when I go to her room that short walk down the hallway to her room. Will she stop breathing in the interval between my comforting my attendance and my stance at the sink rinsing the syringe clear of the syrup (poison) I've shot into her day night day night day night day night day night day night day night day night. Will she have stopped breathing in the night and lie warm or cold in her bed? This is not morbid. I am not a soldier. The things I carry. What's it like to face death every night? you ask. What exactly is it like? I ask myself. I am not a soldier. I carry nothing but a syringe, a couple of pink pills, a white capsule, a cup of juice diluted with water. No arms but my own. I am not a soldier Sophie is not a warrior and this is not a battle. What's it like to face death every night? you ask (you have never asked). It's a song may the long time sun her gray face turned pink shine upon you my finger at her wrist all love her pulse furious surround you my hand at her brow and the pure light it's okay it's okay within you over and over guide your way on. It's the water rushing through the syringe at the sink afterward my head tilted. I am not a soldier Sophie is not a warrior and this is not a battle. I'm thinking not of crosshairs my perspective is the narrow tunnel of the hall the bed at the end and her small form. Focus.



Don't forget I'm moving to Substack.


Monday, September 28, 2020

Migration

 

Migrating Nashville Warbler
photo by Carl Jackson 
Instagram: @mo_better_birds

I'm slowly easing myself out of Facebook and Blogger to Substack -- migrating in a sense. I hope you'll come over there with me. Eventually, I might even get subscribers, but for right now you can get notification that I have a new post via email. Please don't ask me anything else, because I only know the basics, and I've been trying to get off Facebook for years but just don't want to cut ties with certain communities. If you migrate with me to Substack, you can read everything I write, add little hearts and likes and dislikes and even comments! It looks neat and streamlined, and I'm in need of neat and streamlined. Even my blog on Blogger is cluttered, and I'm tired. 


The Substack form is at the end of this post!


And how about that photo of the Nashville Warbler that The Bird Photographer took about a week ago in a park? He was walking through some Sycamore trees. He said that these little birds tend to bounce between branches under the canopy. It's rare to see them in sunlight as they tend to stay in the shadows, blending in with the leaves, hunting for bugs. They migrate from Canada to Mexico and Central America. 

I would love to migrate to Mexico or Central America right about now. Jesus Christ. May I say one thing about Dear Leader's new nominee to the Supreme Court? Or two things. One is that Amy sounds like an intelligent person despite her "orthodox Catholicism," and good for her balancing career and motherhood and raising adopted and disabled kids all while climbing the ladder to the highest office in justice land. That ladder, though, was placed there by the person she's succeeding, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and it seems to me that Amy's going to pull that ladder up from her high perch and slam the door in the face of all the women who follow her. That'd be us and our daughters and grand-daughters.

Secondly, I can't respect anyone who takes a job from Dear Leader. Amy should have waited for an appointment by another Republican President, if there ever is one. Anyone who colludes with that piece of shit isn't a decent human being.



Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Power to the Peaceful

 



In reaching deep I discard let go of all the old things but not for new things new ways new anything. This place where I find myself is not the flip side of light or the flip side of dark but the point where the flip happens. It was foggy this morning, the sun orange through what might be smoke from the Bobcat fire to the east and I think of what's burning what's burned how we take it all in to our bodies face lifted. The little yellow green birds that splash in the blue fountain. That thin strip of decay the yellow tulip will bow                       

 over 

tomorrow. A thin strip of fabric veils our bodies, 200000 dead despite. The mediocrity of evil. Each dust mote and the way the way it moves in air.


Watch this video.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

May Her Memory Be a Revolution

 


What more is there to say? We all wept yesterday when we heard the news that RBG had died. We all felt sorrow that she had hung on for us, for the country, for the ideals that she had fought for so long. We owe her so much.

What moves me most about yesterday's news was learning that in the Jewish tradition, a person who dies on Rosh Hashanah is a tzaddik, a person of great righteousness. They are the ones that God takes at the last moment because they are needed most. Even the earthquake that shook us all out of sleep last night here in southern California seemed righteous. 


Re-fuel.

Be Ruth-full.

Don't give up.





Saturday, September 12, 2020

Little Birds Everywhere


 

What it looks like every morning when the sun rises


I think all I want to do right now is cook and read and write. And talk on the phone to my old friends. Like Louise and Jessica and Sarah and Moye and Chris and Tanya and Debra and Johanna. I want to read and write and cook and talk on the phone with women. The books are piling up around me, and I don't care anymore. I went to Loews today and bought some plants. I bought some dirt, too, even though that's so weird. Buying dirt. My car is coated in ash. So is the apple tree in my backyard, the little apple tree with bent boughs heavy with fruit. It's impossible to describe apples trees bent with fruit without using cliche. The word groan. I bought some stakes and ties to help the boughs. I'm embarrassed to say that I don't know what type of apple tree this is and whether I should pick them.  Yet. Sophie is sleeping. She seems exhausted. She is not beset by seizures these days but sleeps a lot, like some fairy tale princess. I'm besotted with a writer who writes about fairy tales. Her name is Sabrina Orah Mark. Have you read her work? I'm reading a book written about wild women and wolves -- you know the one because it's been around forever -- and it embarrasses me sometimes. It's too. Too too. I'm reading it with two of my students, and then we will look at Anne Sexton's confessional poems, her transformations. But then there's "The Handless Maiden." Have you ever read "The Handless Maiden?" You should. You should read all the fairy tales, actually, because they're all.

I'm reading Chanel Miller's memoir, Know My Name and I'm reading The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley and I'm saving Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell because I think I won't be able to stand it it'll be so good. I'm anticipating that it'll be one of those every five years or so books that I read. Do you know what I mean? Never mind.

I'm watching Friday Night Lights (the series) for the second time with The Bird Photographer. He points out the racial cliches, and I feel defensive until I don't. I don't know why I love this series as it's about two things I hate. Football and Texas. Well, I don't hate Texas,  but I do hate football. Unequivocally.

Last night I had a hideous nightmare. I was wearing a football helmet in the dream and my ex-husband had his fingers in it and was about to bite off my tongue. I had to write that out. It helped me. I screamed so loudly that I woke myself up. I was screaming in my dream and in real life. I can't remember when the last time was that I've had such a nightmare. It seems obvious what this dream means, but feel free to give me your best interpretations. 

I feel sick for our country and right now, particularly, our beloved west coast. My friends in Oregon and Washington, my god. All up and down we are burning and choking and every single morning the sun comes up baleful and orange. Ash covers everything, and there are a lot of little birds everywhere. I mean a lot. I think they must be from up north. The Bird Photographer said probably when I asked him, so I made a little fountain for them and put out more bird seed. I am hoping that The Tenant's (ask me about The Tenant sometime as it's not a pretty story, not a fairy tale not even a nightmare) cats steer clear. I do not like cats. Sorry.

My friend Ebony (whom I neglected to list up there) texted me an article about a motel in Orlando whose owner has left where the power is out, the garbage is piled up, drugs, rats, children, all the miseries of the world and just down the street from the Disney bubble where basketball players are playing their hearts out in a bubble, their Covid watches blinking, their owners counting cash. 

Yesterday I joined a Zoom call with a small group of women (five of us) from around the country. I knew none of them, but now I do. We wrote postcards to swing states, urging people on lists to vote. Dear Janice. Thank you for being a first-time voter. Who you vote for is secret, but your voting record is public information. After the election on Tuesday, November 3rd, local organizations may contact you about your voting record. Thank you! Elizabeth. It was a script, and I thought it sounded a little coercive, not to mention the use of the word who instead of whom, but I dutifully wrote it down because there had been marketing and studies showing that it worked. There are good people all over this country working hard figuring things out. Despite there being only five of us on this Zoom call,  I felt cheered. We are doing this. We can do this. We chatted. One of the women is somewhat famous. I told her about my parents, how they came together. What an interesting story! she said. Over one hour, I wrote and addressed and stamped 12 postcards. I ordered 200 and gave some to friends to write. I've got about 60 more to go, and it's pleasant work. Honestly. It seems inane and hopeful.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Serious


 


My kindergarten picture makes me feel an enormous sense of relief. It grounds me. It makes me smile. I'm not the sort of woman who smiles easily, and I've been the sort of woman who, when asked to smile (usually by men), feels but doesn't act (I'm that kind of woman) irritated. That's partly because it's always annoying to be told (by men) to smile (and also to be called, cheerfully, by medical professionals Mom), but also because a serious person generally has a lot of wackadoodle inside herself, no small amount of weird and a predilection for dark humor that those who wish for smiles don't see. At worst, the men who tell me to smile might/would prefer that I not be so serious, that I look pretty or would look pretty when you smile. I was serious at five years old for my very first school picture. I didn't like birthday parties or cartoons, and the show Zoom gave me a headache. I read every single book in the children's section of the library, made my way methodically through even the biographies. I imagined myself a changeling, dropped in the middle of a cheerful family. I grew up in a happy family, but I imagined myself somewhere else, a  Jane Eyre, an orphan. Being serious doesn't mean I'm not joyful, though. I know that I was filled with joy that day despite my serious expression. I'm a serious woman who doesn't smile easily but am busy, in there, laughing. 


That's all I'll say about that.


I've been thinking a lot lately about my Italian grandmother and my Syrian grandfather. I've been wondering how they'd respond to this weird world, this circus, this Terrible America. They lie on opposite sides of my family tree, my father's mother and my mother's father. I've been thinking about them because of two separate details I remember, that stand out, that define them for me, decades after they died. I feel both of them in my bones. My Nonni wore a black dress and rolled thick stockings with black shoes for as long as I can remember. In her later years, she stayed with my family for a significant part of the summer. She walked around the house with her rosary beads, muttering, Pray that I die, pray that I die. Over and over she prayed that she'd die. She was serious. My Syrian grandfather chain-smoked even after having part of a lung removed. When he got riled up, which was a lot, he yelled the Arabic word for SHIT! which is pronounced Cutta! with a hard back of the throat c. He was serious, too.

Monday, August 31, 2020

What I think about when I think about guns



That photo of me during what would become the peak of my adolescent geekdom is at the top of the fourth most viewed post on my blog, titled "Let's Talk About the Gun." Approximately 32,000 people have found it since I posted it in 2014 shortly after I posted the photo for the first time and was deluged with inquiries about "the gun." 

Again, it isn't a gun. You can read about it if you click on the link.

People love guns in this country or google the words a lot.

I was reminded of it tonight when I read about a group of Trump-loving fools riding up Ventura Blvd this weekend in some kind of caravan. I believe shots were fired, but who did what is unclear. The POSPOTUS, of course, tweeted  The only way you will stop the violence in the high crime Democrat run cities is through strength!, which I guess means guns. A friend from Michigan reminded me of the Trump-loving gun-toting cowards who stormed their capitol, fully armed, to protest masks or something or other, their foolish faces screaming into the masked soldiers standing at arms outside the legislative body's door. Those dudes didn't blink, their mouths still behind their black masks, even though there was a bunch of Covid 19-laden spittle hovering in the air. Afterward, I guess the White fools went home and ate some terrible food cooked by their wives who had shopped for it, ignorant that it had been picked and packed and slaughtered and quartered by the immigrants they hate and other sufferers of the fake virus. I was thinking about that hateful White 17 year old fool murderer who drove twenty miles to protect some property in Kenosha, Wisconsin, killed a couple of people and then walked right on by a bunch of cops. I was thinking about those two tacky fool lawyers in pink and khaki and stripes who came out of their faux chateau in St. Louis, Missouri, fully armed as peaceful protesters strolled by, eventually lauded by the POSPOTUS himself at his hateful foolish sycophant fest. Good for them! I heard someone say about them. I started thinking about how people I know keep guns in their house to protect myself and my family. I was trying to imagine what it would feel like to get trained using a gun and then to carry one around in anticipation of or just in case you'd need to kill someone. And then I thought of the brilliant quote by writer and deeply Christian thinker, Marilynne Robinson. It's been over there on my sidebar since I plucked it out of an essay some years ago -- an interview she had done with President Barack Obama. She said, 

Normalizing the idea that we should all go around capable of a lethal act at any moment is completely corrupt and crazy. I wouldn't carry a gun. The reason I wouldn't carry a gun is because it is an immoral act walking around imagining you're going to kill someone. It's a recipe for a completely deranged society. It's grotesque.


Tens of thousands of people have viewed that one silly blog post of mine, and I know it's not because of my gingham dress. We're a completely deranged and corrupt society in the big fat ugly year of double twenties in Terrible America. We are grotesque.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

"You are not behaving like a decent person, and I do not respect you."



You are not behaving like a decent person. 

I do not respect you.

Gabrielle Blair, The Consequences of Your Actions


I hope you'll read the above link, because in this post Gabrielle, otherwise known as Design Mom, writes literally everything that I think, on a nearly daily basis, as I struggle to maintain relationships even in my own family. It's incredibly exhausting and debilitating to all involved, I'm sure, even as I acknowledge how it pales in comparison to my fellow human beings who are fighting for their lives.

A lot has happened in the last week or so since I've been here on the old blog. I tested negative for Covid, thank goodness, and I'm sorry I didn't let you know earlier. I took Sophie to the beach for the first time in years -- down to the water -- in her new beach wheelchair that my parents bought for her. I think I'll leave you with these glorious pictures. Having access to the beach again is transformative and brings me to my knees in gratitude. Sophie was so happy.








Saturday, August 22, 2020

Schoolmarm



I don't think I can express to you, dear Reader, how grateful I am to have a job teaching and how much I love my students and the place where I work. I teach at a school that uses a one-to-one model, and we went virtual back in March after a week or so of Windexing our rooms and wiping down surfaces to ward off the beginnings of the plague. Sigh.


That seems like forever ago. It was forever ago. The transition to virtual was virtually seamless, to tell you the truth, and while I miss seeing my students and colleagues in person, and Zoom can be exhausting in a weird way,  teaching English literature is doable. I had only a few students all summer long, but the fall term is picking up, and next week I have a nearly full schedule with about 12 students. They range from a darling sixth grade Language Arts guy who bounced up and down all through our fifty minutes together, to a young woman and young man in their last semesters of 12th grade English. I'm also what we call a Tutor/Mentor to a couple of students who struggle with reading. Each student is like a miracle, to tell you the truth. They show up on this weird platform and we work together to learn about literature and writing and life. I am encouraged by their and my own sons' general resilience to #weird world. The term ahead has Catcher in the Rye, Macbeth, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Anne Sexton, Little Women, The Laramie Project, Anne of Green Gables, Out of the Dust, Roald Dahl, Flannery O'Connor and so forth. There's really nothing better than back-to-school for geeks like myself.

In other news, I've been doing a little bit of art these days. I've taken a couple of Zoom classes and dabbled a bit in a handmade book with collage, via an old blogger friend of mine, Suzy Banks Baum. I also ordered an embroidery kit.


This morning, I spent an hour doing paper cut-outs, Matisse style, via Zoom and the London School of Drawing. The instructor even had a jazz playlist on Spotify for us to listen to, and damn if it wasn't the best hour of quarantine that I might have spent.







I feel somewhat at peace of late due to meditation, I guess, and turning things over to a higher power. Just kidding on the higher power. Sort of. Things had gotten so bad that I sort of broke into my higher absurd dark-humored self. Or she came around again after taking a hiatus. Praise Jesus. Even today, for instance. I've been feeling covidy lately, so this afternoon I made an appointment and went for a test. I paid big bucks to stand under a tent with a guy in full PPE who handed me a swab and told me to first cough hard a few times into my mask and then wipe the swab on the inside of both cheeks and on both tonsils. You'll know you've gotten the tonsils when you gag, he said. I then dropped the swab into a test tube and went on my less than merry way. I'll find out by midnight tonight. I don't mean to be glib. It's hot as shit here and northern California is burning. There are people in Terrible America who believe the virus is a hoax, and there are people I love who still support Dear Leader. There are, quite obviously, two Americas and who knows what will happen? I'm struck by the ease with which I got a Covid test, by how much it cost and by how quick the results come in when you have the money to pay. This is not right. This is totally fucked up. But like I said, I'm feeling more at peace these days having surrendered in a small way to all the fuckery in my own world and the outer world. We can only live in the now, as they say.








Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Grifters

Making gazpacho on the verge


 A series of movie clips:

So, I can't go into it here, Reader, but I'm being grifted. It's outrageous and frustrating and hurtful emotionally and financially. There's nothing I can do about it, and while I wish I could tell you more, I don't want to enable The Grifter. I've gotten good legal advice about The Grifter and have accepted it. Accepted that I'm being grifted and can do nothing about it, that is.








My tiny little mother mind™ learned from a friend about a concept called status inconsistency which is fascinating, especially when I look on it as a kind of personality disorder. It would explain The Grifter, for sure.






In real life, I am thinking of that old Pedro Almodovar movie Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Have you seen it?




In more cheerful news, both my dudes are home for a short time before leaving to go to their respective campuses where they will be studying virtually or doing some sort of hybrid thing during The Great Pandemic. They are really the greatest sons in the universe. And Sophie is doing pretty well. We had a scare with a person close to us who came down with The Covid and had to be hospitalized, but she is recovering, and we all tested negative (this time, for what it's worth). Sophie had an EEG the other day, and I had to badger The Nice Neurologist for the results, but I'm happy to report that it's the same old, messed-up EEG that it's always been with no ESES.













We have a lot to be thankful for, including the recent appointment to Vice Presidential-candidate, Kamala Harris. I think she's exciting, strong, interesting, brilliant and presidential. At this point, Terrible America could use even a kindergartner to replace the present POSPOTUS, so we're on the way out if not up with Harris.

What are ya'll doing?

Monday, August 3, 2020

Essential


On Friday morning, I set up a Zoom call with my friends Louise, Jessica and Sarah. That's them (or is it they?) up there in that photo, except for Sarah. She was probably somewhere near when the photo was taken, talking, probably, or making someone laugh. I can't remember where it was taken, but it must have been in 1985 or shortly after we graduated from college. I coordinated the Zoom call to accommodate three different time zones, the earliest being mine on the left coast and the latest being Sarah's somewhere in France. So we gathered in our little boxes and smiled at each other and laughed and caught one another up on our children, thirteen between the four of us, close to the age we were in that photo, most of whom are already out of college or in college or soon to be in college. Thirty-five years and thousands of miles make no difference. I feel connected in every cell to these women, and the pandemic and all its despair and loneliness melt away for the couple of hours we spent together. It's always with yearning that I leave these meetings and a sad reluctance to separate, the sad little button you click, LEAVE THIS MEETING.






What does it mean -- essential? Pandemic words.







Each morning, Chris sends a brief note of what she's grateful for, and I am at once irritated (the tyranny of gratitude) and buoyed. My sisters and I share strange humor back and forth back and forth our lifetime together. Leslie, Kari and I text one another almost daily with snippets of poetry.  The death of a mother and a father, the illness of a spouse, the ongoingness of caregiving are met with words of love or a well-placed fuck and hearts and check marks, these little messages and connections and it doesn't seem possible to be shored up but it is and we are. Tanya posts pictures of flowers and plants from her walks, sketches everyday objects on her kitchen island, talks on the phone  in her lilting voice and we are both reassured. Debra texts each evening: Feeling the evening covidy feeling, and I know exactly what she means. And the silence from others says everything, essentially.


These friendships are essential. Touch is essential and full body hugs are essential. 



I'm not faint of heart. 




Henry said tonight that maybe it wouldn't be so bad to die after all, but I didn't say that I'd thought it myself. I said some kind of mumbo jumbo about doing good, being kind and helping people out since we appeared to be doomed in these disunited States. I said something sarcastic. I am being taken advantage of, after all, by persons who've betrayed me. Insults and injuries. I cling to that, aware of the danger. A burning bush, not yet consumed.  We had read an article in The Atlantic earlier in the day that set the tone. It didn't tell us anything different than we already knew, but it was written so clearly and concisely.  Terrible America.


Anger veers into dullness eventually and reveals sorrow deep and wide where I guess we tread for a bit, tread water, our feet making walking motions and hands a downward circle. I can do it, maybe forever and maybe not. 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Neowise


Yesterday, on an excursion to a place called Grassy Hollow where Carl and I headed for some much-needed nature, I read an article on the worldwide webs about the enormous hardship of our migrant workers, how they are bearing the brunt of the pandemic, even as they pick the food we eat, pluck the chickens we roast, slaughter and package the meat we barbecue. I won't regale you with the statistics, but it's gross. This country is foul.

How do we unhook from this culture?

This morning, I lay in bed thinking over-thinking wondering lamenting the usual morning fare. Professional basketball players are housed in what's being called the "Disney bubble," quarantined together with their families, at Disney hotels, kept safe and fed and tested constantly for the virus even as they are getting ready to finish the season of basketball that was so abruptly stopped and that fans so desperately await.

Do can will basketball players play without anyone watching? 

Does a tree make a sound when it falls if no one is there?




I'm reading an article in the newest New Yorker by Lawrence Wright titled "Crossroads." The subtitle is "A scholar of the plague thinks that pandemics wreak havoc -- and open minds." The scholar is Gianna Pomata, a retired professor at the Institute of the History of Medicine, at Johns Hopkins University who has returned to her hometown, the old city of Bologna, Italy. She compares Covid-19 to the bubonic plague of the 14th century -- "not in the number of dead people but in terms of shaking up the way people think." She says, "The Black Death really marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of something else." We know that something else was the Renaissance. Pomata also says, "Chroniclers of the plague describe the crumbling of the family. At the same time, human beings are creative. They react to this perceived moral decay by creating new institutions." She's less optimistic about what's going on in our country, a country that she loves, where she lived in and worked for over thirty years. "What I see right now in the United States is that the pandemic has not led to new creative thinking but, on the contrary, has strengthened all the worst, most stereotypical, and irrational ways of thinking. I'm very sorry for the state of your country, which seems to be in the grip of a horrible attack of unreason. I'm sorry because I love it, and have received so much from it."



I just can't help thinking about the migrant workers picking my fruit and the basketball giants in their bubble. I can't stop thinking about those who are both ignoring the necessary actions we need to take and those who want to "get back to normal" or "learn to live with it." I am aware of the absurdity and privilege of my own lamentation.

Again, how do we unhook from this culture? Maybe you don't want to. Tell me why?



After wandering around Grassy Hollow, Carl and I drove to La Cañada to try to see the comet in the northwestern sky. We parked on a street called Sleepy Hollow and walked up a dirt trail to a peak that looked out over the entire Los Angeles basin. We watched the sun go down in orange flame, a thin crescent moon rise, the lights of the downtown skyline appear out of a thin haze and then the Big Dipper. There, Carl said, just to the left of the ladle. I saw only a very faint smudge, my night blindness preventing any real recognition.  There was the comet, so aptly named Neowise, just barely visible to the naked eye, a cosmic snowball made of ice, rock and dust. I read that there are about 13 million Olympic swimming pools of water in Comet Neowise, that it's nearly 3 miles long and travels about 40 miles per second. When asked what she wanted to do when the pandemic was over, Gianna Pomata said that she longed to see her mother who lives in Sardinia. She wanted to swim there again. "Older people need exercise," she said. "I don't spend time at the beach gossiping with friends. I don't even take the sun. I just go immediately into the sea."

On Carl's super-camera, Neowise was a green blur with a fuzzy tail, 70 million miles away from the Earth where we stood.



I am grateful for my life. For life. I marvel and mark my own insignificance in this world. And I love the world and its people. But how do we unhook from this culture beyond going out into hollows and onto peaks to bask in and gaze at its mystery?


Here's a poem:

For the Sake of Strangers

No matter what the grief, its weight,
we are obliged to carry it.
We rise and gather momentum, the dull strength
that pushes us through crowds.
And then the young boy gives me directions
so avidly. A woman holds the glass door open,
waiting patiently for my empty body to pass through.
All day it continues, each kindness
reaching toward another—a stranger
singing to no one as I pass on the path, trees
offering their blossoms, a child
who lifts his almond eyes and smiles.
Somehow they always find me, seem even
to be waiting, determined to keep me
from myself, from the thing that calls to me
as it must have once called to them—
this temptation to step off the edge
and fall weightless, away from the world.

Dorianne Laux (1994)


Thursday, July 16, 2020

Pandemic Darts



Reader, Sophie is full of grace. She's a little lady. She loves to be outside. Really, that's all she wants to do -- to be outside. She loves the trees blowing in the sky. She can't walk as well anymore, but she enjoys sitting on the ground. Her eyes light up when she's outside. There's a lesson there, I know.





I had a conversation with Nice Neurologist the other day about Sophie's resistant seizures. We never really talk about anything else. Sophie's seizure control is okay -- but it really is all relevant. What she endures and what we think is a good day or week or month is a nightmare for others. A friend recently called me for support as she'd found her four year old son under the water, seizing. He'd been taking a bath with his older brother. She called me from the hospital. Her son was okay, but she wasn't. The boy hadn't had a seizure in four years, and she was wrecked. She should be wrecked. There are few things worse in seizure world than the bathtub seizure. Nakedness and thrashing and the water a killer. Yet, he hadn't had a seizure in nearly four years. How have I watched my daughter seize nearly every day (we have had brief periods of total seizure freedom) for twenty five years? More importantly, how has Sophie seized so many times yet loves and lives to be outdoors? While I listened to the panic and horror in my friend's voice, I couldn't help but think no wonder I'm dissociating half the time while Sophie is seizing. I don't really know how I do it. How I've done it. This shit is hard. I was struck by how I know this, yet I still don't entirely rest in it. I still feel agitated or guilty that I'm not doing enough, researching enough, trying to figure it all out. Figure it all out. So, back to the conversation I had with Nice Neurologist the other day. We were in a bar playing darts. He said, What about giving her a pulse of Ativan in anticipation of her bad days? and threw his dart. My turn. I don't understand why that would help? Do other people do that? I threw mine. Well, let me think about it. I'll look into the research, see whether it's been done. He threw another dart. Our darts were all over the bar at this point, a Dilantin hanging off of the seat of a chair, an old-school Diamox wedged into the front of the bar, Ativan dangling from the back of a stool. A guy walked by pulling one out of his neck. Nice Neurologist aims but generally misses. I throw wildly most of the time, but when I really concentrate and listen to what I know, I hit the target. Or maybe it's the opposite. It's only when I throw wildly that I hit the bullseye. No amount of concentration or attachment or expectation improves my aim. There's a lesson there, I know, and it's how I do it.

I don't know why I'm telling you this now. During a pandemic when the whole country is going mad. I guess I'm encouraging you to hang in there. The whole "we can do hard things" mantra. I don't know why, but we can. Lots of people do hard things, literally all the time, for years and years and years. Something is changing, and we have no idea what's happening. I think we need to think wildly and let go of our concentration, our attachments and our expectations. I think we'll aim true that way.


Friday, July 10, 2020

This Is A True Story



A very long time ago I held the baby in my arms in a brown and cream-checked easy chair, rocking back and forth while she screamed. Breathing in I calm myself, breathing out I smile, I said in my mind over and over back and forth. I got in a black car with a driver who took me to a nursing home in the Bronx where an Orthodox Jewish rabbi a supposed holy man recovered from a stroke. I walked down a hallway with the baby in my arms behind a small group of men in beards in black they turned left into a room there were no other women. The rabbi sat in a wheelchair his head on his shoulder his eyes looking straight at me and the baby and his eyes were clear and I had to look away look down not to escape but to absorb I guess (it's been 25 years). He said some things some things I won't repeat here although I've said these things before some things about eyes and evil eyes the whole time he spoke his head lay on his shoulder (the stroke) his beard lay on his chest he stroked the baby's head and said she'll be okay. He gave me a small medal with a sign on it that I pinned on the inside of her clothes for months, maybe years, taking it off each small shirt, dress, onesie, for months until it turned black it was cheap and magical. Years go by went by are going and as she seized seizes I say you're okay, it's okay, it's okay, it's okay and for a while I thought it would be okay and then I thought (with rue) when? and then with dark humor I forgot to ask when? and now it's all okay, it's really okay. 



May we be well, happy and peaceful.
May no harm come to us.
May no difficulties come to us
May no burdens weigh us down
May we always meet with success.
May we have strength, resilience and courage to meet the inevitable failures and disappointments in life.
May we be held.
May we be transformed.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Edge of the Continent



What's happening with you? We're living large out here in Covid-California times. I haven't posted in over a week, but I've composed many in my mind. That was our Fourth of July celebration. We weren't celebrating #TerribleAmerica but tried to make the best of the day. I don't feel like using this space today to rant and rave about this country or the POSPOTUS, but I will inform you that I don't think I've ever been this stressed out in my lifetime and it's not just about the pandemic, the POSPOTUS and the Assholes Who Still Support Him. There is so much stuff happening, none of which I can control but all of which I am juggling because -- well -- apparently that is what the universe is currently demanding of me. I am on edge. I am the edge. My ex continues to detonate giant mushroom clouds; I am now supporting my tenant whose job was affected by Covid, who can't pay rent and who is entitled to stay rent-free as long as the moratorium is in place.  Don't ask. I've started my baking business up to help make ends meet and am currently deep into peach pie. Last night, Sophie had three giant seizures in a row and I changed over five diapers in two hours and then I just told Henry to keep an eye on her, got in my car and drove toward the edge of the continent. I played Ennio Morricone's music because he died yesterday, and I cried and wanted to yell but then I got to the ocean, so I parked the car and walked out onto the sand and just stood there, in the dark, listening to the surf, the lights of the Santa Monica pier bright in the distance. No one was on that ferris wheel but it looked pretty in an apocalyptic way. The world is vast and oh, so weird.


I felt better.

Today I am thinking of you, Reader. How are you doing? What are you doing? Reading? Listening to? Watching?



Here's a poem:

Not Writing

A wasp rises to its papery
nest under the eaves
where it daubs

at the gray shape,
but seems unable
to enter its own house.

Jane Kenyon (1993)


Monday, June 29, 2020

PSA For All My Lurkers and Anonymous Folkx

"Here all is strange"

I was feeling beside myself  over the weekend. I got in my car and headed north on the PCH toward Malibu and turned around just about where Pepperdine sits so I could make my way back home to my regular, blessed and somewhere between a Monty Python comedy skit and a Samuel Beckett absurdist drama life.  Silly Walks. The Office of Arguments. Happy Days. Waiting for Godot. The ocean was on my right as I headed south and it led, as always, out to forever. I pulled over to the side of the road and slithered out of the car as other ones whizzed by me. I stood then, on the side of the road, on some rocks and looked out to sea (that phrase looked out to sea) and contemplated the strange world and my own insignificant place in it and the outsized emotions that I've been feeling about everything, knowing nothing. Knowing nothing and knowing more of nothing by the day, it seems. I looked down at my feet and saw this mermaid etched into the rock. Really. Beside myself.

That is what I find so wonderful, that not a day goes by....hardly a day, without some addition to one's knowledge however trifling, the addition I mean, provided one takes the pains. 
Samuel Beckett, Happy Days

St. Louis lawyers,  Patricia and Mark McCloskey,  defending their folly/home/castle/domain/wayoflife 

In today's Reign of Terror-wear, we have striped boat necks, clam diggers, pink polos and belted khakis. I know these people. We (we) know these people.







Back to my PSA for all my lurkers and anonymous folkx:

Black Lives Matter is not a terrorist organization. I imagine you have never really explored what the organization's mission is, so I urge you to do so. Here is their website: Black Lives Matter. Here are some of the statements on their website about their founding, their mission and their intent that jump out at me, a 56 year old white mother of three, pastry cook, English teacher and disability advocate:

We are guided by the fact that all Black lives matter, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status, or location.

We make space for transgender brothers and sisters to participate and lead.
We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.
We build a space that affirms Black women and is free from sexism, misogyny, and environments in which men are centered.
We make our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work.
We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.

Again, my Lurkers and Anonymous Folkx.
Again, #BlackLivesMatter is not a terrorist organization. I have contributed money and am committed to their purpose. I am not a terrorist, and no one I know supporting the movement is one. We are not brainwashed. We are marching or protesting peacefully with our whole bodies. The work of these women and men is profound and awe-inspiring. I am grateful to be listening and learning about the movement and to bring my own passions and experience standing up for the vulnerable to the table. I am blessed to be on what I believe is the right side of history, as they say. 






To have been always what I am - and so changed from what I was. 
Samuel Beckett, Happy Days

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