But first the prologue. When I posted this mundane picture and wrote what is basically a book recommendation, it was February 2020 and Covid-19 had just been reported as an issue of international concern. I certainly wasn’t worried however; I had managed to make it through my “year of becoming old-old” and felt inspired enough to slog on for awhile. Family and work were fine; trips were planned…what could possible go wrong.
Tonight, as I write this introduction to what will become a blog book memorializing the 2020-2021 pandemic instead of tales of travel to far places, it feels almost unreal. Two years. Two years during which life hasn’t changed so very much for me in many ways and yet I feel the world has shifted in profound ways, most of them disconcertingly forbidding. Like a house in a mud slide…didn’t go all of the way into the sea, but it’s right there on the edge and I’m in it. I’m not sure anything has really changed so much, it’s more like there’s been enough of a pause so we’re realizing how truly f**ked we are: morally, politically, environmentally.
Never mind all of that while you leaf through this book; look at the pretty pictures of family and friends and plants and books. Much is good.
NYT’s Sunday book review of “Weather” by Jenny Offill about …a familiar binary — between the implicit solipsism of caring mostly about “the feeling of daily life” and the more enlightened social consciousness of caring about capital-letter issues came exactly at the right moment.
I’ve been at a blogging stalemate, wanting to launch Time and Place 2020 with happy tales of my personally fulfilling and happy life while at the same time believing the world is in a tailspin from which there may be no recovery. In other words, how do I share pictures of my new fluffy green plant and babble on about a Kenyan safari while the environment is poisoned by the rapacity of (sub) humans capable of killing rare Mongolian sheep for the pleasure of the kill…and the need to dominate/own/consume something, anything, everything to make up for moral emptiness and personal inadequacies. Just how do we live with ordinary everyday life proceeding simultaneously with disasters just over every hill? That is the conundrum Offill addresses (but for which she apparently finds no answer! Don’t have the book yet.)
The narrator … of “Weather,” cares about …the apocalyptic horizon of climate change…and the “feeling of daily life,” [and understands] the truth that we inhabit multiple scales of experience at the same time: from the minutiae of school drop-offs and P.T.A. activism to the frictions of our personal relationships all the way to the geological immensity of our (not so slowly) corroding planet. …“Weather” is a novel reckoning with the simultaneity of daily life and global crisis….”
My satisfactory life, filled with good people and worthwhile projects, and occasionally brimming over with pleasures large and small seems worthy of sharing. Then along comes one of the symbols (sleazy-mister-trump for example) of all that’s going to destroy satisfactory life as we know it and I’m ashamed of myself for thinking a new book or plant or recipe or even a trip worthy of mention. But…write about regular old life I will…until my age or the global garbage-men make it impossible.
So I just watched the Academy Awards and thought about how we stumble on finding small hope in an event such as “Parasite” winning multiple Oscars—because the film was created and delivered by brown people, foreigners to boot, and it’s about the horrors of the growing inequality in this big wide not-so-very-wonderful world. It’s an avenue to express our solidarity with the part of humanity that isn’t white, rich, male, faux-religious, and racist and, for just a minute, we believe we will outsmart them.
And then I remember most of us—the supposedly good guys—don’t even bother voting.
2020 will, for me, certainly live up to the Chinese curse, “May you/he/she/we live in interesting times.” Interesting for us all because of global megalomania and greed, and interesting for me because I’m going on some amazing journeys…and I don’t know yet that a pandemic is just around the corner.