Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Next Morning

No photo today.

The helicopters are circling, have been circling since yesterday afternoon when a peaceful protest turned into an afternoon, evening, night of violence and looting in my neighborhood and in downtown Los Angeles. It was deafening. I can only write what I know and what I feel. I refuse to dwell on the looting but will sit with the churning in my stomach, shooting out my fingertips. The questions. All of our blind grappling in the darkness as if answers will come. I've argued with my own mother. Carl saw a bear yesterday somewhere and I haven't had the chance or even desire to ask him where. I set up a bird bath in my front garden, powered by the sun. Powered by the sun. I keep thinking of the Wallace Stevens' poem Gubbinal, its simplicity and paradox. How tempting it is to despair. The world is ugly and the people are sad. The body. The sun. The imagination. How to inhabit the body, the individual body and the collective body. Everyone was peaceful until the cops showed up, my son reported. Showing up. Riot gear. Helicopters, their blades slicing through air. I watched a video sent to me by a neighbor of a group of young people, black and white, bashing their way into a luxury store at a local mall. Do I care about a mall? Do I care about a luxury store? Do I understand the motivations? Will I condemn them as senseless? I felt afraid and not for my body, my white body nor, even, for the white bodies of my children or the black body of my love. There's a strangeness and goodness in just feeling something, not thinking about it, and I felt afraid. Cooped up for months. Twenty percent unemployment. National Guard soldiers standing outside a marijuana store called Med Men. Jewish synagogues and schools and small stores defaced and looted. People sweeping, sweeping it up. What it looks like to step through glass buckled and shattered, your skinny white legs and bleached blonde hair, your sleeveless arms clutching a large leather handbag, a blurry computer. Do not share the faces of the protestors, the young people admonish. The strangeness of it. Yet, shouldn't this be so? There's a timeline that leads to this moment and the urge to contextualize. The timeline begins centuries ago.

I'm thinking of Armaud Arbery running through the streets of his Georgia town, chased like an animal and gunned down, slaughtered by vigilantes who were free for months. 

There should not be an etiquette for people's responses.

Earlier in the afternoon, a billionaire launched a bunch of astronauts into the empty airless space over a world choking to death in a pandemic as hordes gathered in the streets to protest the slaughter of a black man who could not breathe under the knee of a white man. That is everything.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Throwing Your Body Into Anti-Racism

Our country is broken, but many of us aren't. Throw your body in and do something.

You don't need visuals to feel empathy for victims. Be mindful of spreading images and the trauma they reinforce and cause.

Please add in any resources that you know of in the comments and share with whomever you like. I will be updating constantly.
A riot is the language of the unheard. 
Martin Luther King, Jr.

The beauty of anti-racism is that you don't have to pretend to be free of racism to be an antiracist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it's the only way forward.
Ijeoma Oluo

Anti-Racism Resources for White People

Sign the #JusticeforFloyd petition

The Minnesota Freedom Fund is a local organization that pays criminal bail and immigration bonds for those who cannot afford them.

Black Visions Collective

Justice for George Floyd -- How You Can Help

Justice for Bre

Black Lives Matter

Black Mamas Matter

Equal Justice Initiative

Thurgood Marshall College Fund

Southern Poverty Law Center

Keywords in Black Protest: A (n Anti-)Vocabulary

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Grace's Warbler

Grace's Warbler by Carl Jackson

to Carl

My love, my Bird Photographer, is a black man and not a day goes by that I don't think about the danger of his being a black man, filing it away the worry in the dark with my night vision honed by twenty-five years of worry about Sophie. I am nothing if not good with this kind of coping. But is it coping or is it complacency? Is there something more to think about, to do, to work towards, something beyond the obvious? How to be scrupulously honest with ourselves, we white women? We white people? How to begin how to continue and how to do so despite the cacophony.

Carl wrote this on his social media page, where he generally posts some of the most gorgeous photos of birds you'll ever see: 
A Memorial Day reminder of just how risky it is to be a black photographer. I’ve got too many stories from my time out alone shooting in Southern California, as well as every state I’ve gone to observe/photograph wildlife or birds. The systemic racism based upon skin color by the police and the justice system could turn a birding trip into an arrest or even death, not even accounting for the threat of others who hate based on skin color. “Birding while black” has many layers of risk.

We can pass along memes and express our outrage. We can talk about privilege and supremacy, inner and systemic racism. We can defend dogs and debate endlessly whether Ms. Cooper should will when how much is enough receive the punishment she deserves. The word opprobrium. How much energy is wasted even in this the writing the need to wrestle meaning to string together in what direction? What direction? 

When I first met Carl he took me out for a walk in a park. He walked so slowly that if I hadn't been falling in love with him, I would have felt irritated. He is so very very quiet. He stopped periodically and pointed. I'd look where he'd point and see nothing. I'd tilt my head and gaze down the long line of his finger, one eye closed struggling to see. To see what he saw. And then I did see what he saw a brilliant blue bird so blue that I couldn't possibly miss it, yet I had. In the days and months and now years that followed then, I saw them everywhere, these birds, all sizes and colors their markings intricate and startling even as they blended in with the browns and greens of the trees and flowers and shrubs. Their calls, too, each distinct and something to remember -- a chirp, a warble (is there a more beautiful word than warble?), a low rumbling creak. They have always been there.

I had to slow down and look. 

I had to be quiet and listen.

And yet. 

I still walk fast. I'm impatient and blind, perhaps willfully so to what is in front of my eyes. I can't hear, don't listen and I forget the names.  

And yet. 

Carl still walks slowly. He points them out, these birds that are everywhere. 

He tells me their names.

Brown Violetear 

Summer Tanager

Cedar Waxwing

Vermilion Flycatcher

Grace's Warbler

You know where I'm going. 



Say the names. 


Monday, May 25, 2020

It's Not Too Much To Ask You to Wear a F*^king Mask and Stay Home

I'm just going to repeat that:

It's not too much to ask you to wear a fucking mask and stay home.

The pandemic isn't "over," and life is not "going back to normal." What is "normal" is the craven irresponsibility of the privileged and even the not-so privileged. This is the high school that I graduated from back in the Stone Age. It was basically a one-room school-house then (hyperbole intentional since privilege was rarely recognized in the Stone Age) but is pretty much unrecognizable now. You can read the story here. 

My take on this shit-show?

(Anonymous commenter -- you'll have to forgive me my anger as I know it offends you, makes you "exhausted") This pandemic is demonstrating with crystal clarity that the lives at risk are expendable. That if you are a person of color, a disabled person, an old person, a person who takes care of another, an "essential worker," you are EXPENDABLE.

WE are expendable.

The rest of you are "free" to do -- in what seems to be the most grotesque interpretation of freedom I've ever understood -- whatever the hell you want.

All is transactional.

So, go on with your best self, as they say.

Have a party.
Get your hair cut.
Go bowling.
Go to the beach.
Go to church.
God will take care of you. 
You've got to start somewhere.
Don't muzzle yourself. You're free.
Social distancing is a hoax.
Bill Gates is out to track all of us.
Get back to normal.
Make America great.

I'll say it again. America is terrible and exhausting.

Sometimes, it's not. Read this:
It Just Burns Me Up

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


Giulietta Masina, La Strada

Do you think about things while you're showering or focus on your shower? he asked. She was combing out her wet hair, already anxious about going to bed too early. With wet hair. What? she asked, as was her wont. Or what. She had a hard time picking up the lower register of his voice, of any voice really. It was one of those things that she'd noticed in the last year or so along with the tiny age spots at the base of her right thumb. She wouldn't do anything about it. Do you think about things while you're showering or focus on your shower? She leaned over, picked up her clothes from the floor and dropped them into the hamper. I don't focus on the shower, she said. She felt vaguely irritated at the question. She wondered if she wanted to be unknowable. But I don't really focus on much these days anyway. He asked, What do you think about? What did she think about? The peeling paint at the top of the tiles, the gray spots on the ceiling that she couldn't reach to clean, her perpetual disappointment, the way the tile felt on her forehead where she rested it, the water streaming down her back. I cry in the shower sometimes she said. But not tonight. He put his phone down and turned to his side. She didn't tell him that she'd been thinking of Giulietta Masina's face in the Fellini movie, her devotion to the strongman, however cruel, how she climbed into the back of the carnival truck with the mermaid on the side to serve him, how she ultimately went mad, her love and devotion abandoned, all the magic and superstition and miracles.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Terrible America

I should probably change that sign to "I bake and I know no things," because lately I'm just feeling mostly that I know very little if nothing at all. For instance, why is the rest of the country (other than New York City and greater Los Angeles county) getting back to what they deem normal? Who were those people in those bars in Wisconsin, for example, that bunch of burly white bearded men getting beer on tap, piled up in booths with blondes? And who are the people driving across the country to their beach houses? Who is my son, actually, getting ready to fly to the east coast to spend the summer in South Carolina where life is back to whatever normal is in South Carolina? We are still wiping down our groceries before bringing them into the house, rotating through the masks that lie, now, everywhere, making sure that we wash them before putting them on again to step into the dystopian world outside. We're looking at a fall with school still virtual, with even colleges and universities heading toward 2021 that way, even as other states are opening up their gyms and planning for football. Black men, women and children are gunned down doing normal things while being black even as men with submachine guns strapped to their bodies (and their adoring women because let's not leave out the women) protest for their freedoms in public places. Their idle white faces.

I'm confused, so confused.

Children are beginning to die in New York and New Jersey from a rare neurological/immunological disease related to Covid-19, but there are legions more protesting against their tyrannical government, peddling conspiracy theories and refusing to wear masks in the name of freedom. We've got Dear Leader spinning spinning spinning his lies and venom, health insurance companies diving back into states that they'd pulled out of one year ago, piling up record profits to reward their shareholders and executives, while the disability community faces the spectre of cuts in services, the usual sacrificial lambs at the altar of mammon.

We are divided, disunited.

We were encouraged to go outside and look up into the skies today as military jets flew through in a show of aerial support for healthcare nurses. Thunderbirds. Blue Angels. Who are the people that thrill to this kind of thing? I do not understand them, but I know nothing. I am confused. I put on my mask and go for a walk, my lips tight underneath, my glasses steaming up. Don't touch your face.

America is exhausting and terrible.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

This Guy

I know it's Mother's Day and all, but frankly, who cares? I spent much of the day weeping on and off, and don't ask why because it's all blurry, the why. These are strange times, and I'm going with the flow of strange. Today was also Oliver 's -- the Big O's -- Ollie's -- the wunderkid's-- nineteenth birthday. We celebrated yesterday. I made a traditional cheesecake with strawberries on top, and Oliver invited some friends over to social distance celebrate. Masks were worn. Oliver was born a few months before 9/11 and now this. Life is weird.

A few of Oliver's friends went to PRESCHOOL WITH HIM. I'd put their pictures up here, but they'd probably kill me. It makes me so happy that they've known one another all their lives.

Happy Birthday, Oliver. I love you so much, baby.

(Oliver is NOT this tall -- I am standing on a stair below him. BUT -- I am morphing into my Italian grandmother.)

Here are some posts about Oliver over the years:

Friday, May 8, 2020

Day 60

I've been ordering fresh produce from a local cooperative, and yesterday's delivery was a bonanza of greens and lettuces, radish and baby broccoli, a scattering of herbs and lemons, a grapefruit, some blueberries and onions and a couple of tiny worms. The rendering -- the washing the drying the organizing the storing -- of all this fresh produce gets my tiny little mother mind™ thinking about convenience and waste and the myriad depressing ways a lot of us live, saying we're too busy or can't be bothered or whatever. Whatever. I'm no farmer girl, no rural girl, no grower of my own vegetables nor do I have any desire to do any of that. What I do love is fresh food, recipes and cookbooks and puttering around in my kitchen doing domestic things. I also like fancy things -- half and half in a glass bottle, tiny little jars of pot de creme from France, a weird Italian green that tasted salty like the ocean or what I imagine a cactus (it looked like one). I don't have much to say other than I've been depressed in a way that I can't remember being depressed and I'm very much aware of the luxury in that statement and the unoriginality in the condition. I'm angry, too, but I'm made of anger in no small part and as the gray takes over my hair I will try to be as exuberant as unapologetic because it's all about letting go letting god letting.

as much as i try to be an easygoing, stretch your wings and fly type... i just can't stop trying to burst people into flames

a card that a beloved sent me

People I'm Currently Trying to Burst Into Flames In No Particular Order, Except for the First Three:

Donald Trump
Mike Pence
Mitch McConnell
Men with submachine guns
Men who assault women
Men who kill black people
Men who shoot children
Men who beat up women
Men who make stupid jokes
Men who harass women
Men who are religious zealots
Men who date girls
Men who refuse to apologize
Men who can't get their shit together

Feel free to add to the list.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Conversations in Quarantine

I can't do it anymore.
What's happening?
I can't do it anymore.
Where are you?
I'm driving.
I don't know. Anywhere.
You should pull over.
I can't do it anymore.
It's too much.
It's too much for all of us.
Yeah, it's always been too much.
The yeah yeah yeahs.

How's Sophie, he texts.

A nasty toxic red tide we see during the day on the beach in southern California turns into a glowing blue -- what? Phosphorescence. Some people call it magical. I'm transfixed less by the blue emanating from dolphins and water in moonlight than the transformation itself. The smell of decay masked by light. It doesn't seem possible so I guess, magic.

How's Sophie, he texts.
She's running a fever. No other symptoms. I will talk to the doctor tomorrow.

People on cell phones bore me. The people I can't see and the people I can see. The head low like a horse without the velvet nose. I'd like to see some teeth, the huge yellow ones biting an apple.


Red tide. Decay. Stink.

Phosphorescence is light emitted after exposure to radiation.
It's produced by something that doesn't flame or heat.

(BTW, Sophie had a fever last week for three days with no other symptoms. She also stopped having seizures which is always the case for her. I wondered if she had The Virus. I wondered whether she'd die, but I wonder (this) (whether she'll die) every single day. The parenthetical. My powers of dissociation are strong. I had my first tele-health meeting with The New Physician. She took up 1/2 of the rectangle that is my phone screen. She wore a white lab coat and stood in front of an examining table with a blood pressure machine on the wall behind her. I wondered if it were a backdrop, one of those screens you can put up behind you while you Zoom. My students do that. One of them has the Tiger King guy behind him, the stripes playing light across his face. Wavy. We're reading The Crucible. The student can't believe I refuse to watch Tiger King. Why not? he asks.  Why? I say. What's a crucible? he asks. A container that holds high temperatures, metals melting. The doctor says, I wouldn't test her because it's so uncomfortable. I imagine driving in a line of cars into Dodger Stadium with Sophie in the back of the car in her wheelchair. Would someone open the door and have to swab her? I read somewhere the nasal swab felt like it touched my brain. 

How's Sophie, he texts.
Fine.                                                                  (I am, too.)

I'm outside today picking mint from the garden. I rip it up take a huge bunch inside and wash it in the sink. The apple tree has blossoms and every succulent has a bloom. The sky is blue and a velvet hummingbird sideswipes my nose, I hear it coming. Hear it here.


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