DEAR EVERYONE. HOW ARE YOU? I AM FINE. Well actually, I am nervous and sad. Oh yeah…and I’m dealing with an enormous theft—a year or two stolen from the few years I can remain fully engaged in the world. Other than that…
And you? What I know of what you’re doing—from email, facebook, zoom, messenger, text, phone and even an occasional card—you, my family and friends, are generally okay.
But we’re all so done with this aren’t we? The coronavirus and the cop-violence. Being ashamed of our country. Wearing a mask. What about jobs and travel and rain…will there ever ever ever be another rainy day.
I always feel like I should acknowledge how much better off I am, we are, than so many around the world. I should. And do. `
It’s just that the mental health toll of all of this uncertainty and anxiety is present…and not pleasant. So in spite perhaps being perceived as whiny…I’ll whine a moment. And since we all know that misery loves company maybe you’re experiencing some of these symptoms also?
For example, a typical day begins when I wake up, usually way too early—between 3 and 5am—feeling sad, even hopeless, and usually nauseated…the latter inexplicable. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that, by the time I’m up a short time and drinking of the magic potion known as coffee, I am almost always fine…feeling healthy, optimistic, energetic. Honestly it is amazing.
But then the day goes on. Small disappointments, awkward masked meetings, annoying zooms, more bad news, the sun glares, DT is still alive and my optimism fades…but only rarely does it disappear altogether.
So, we scheme about how to keep the thief from stealing chunks of our time and possibilities. My last vigorous years, my granddaughters’ next birthdays (C-19 already stole the 21st and 30th celebrations), our jobs, our trips…and of course, especially, our lives.
How to lock the door against thievery more securely. Therapy? Denial? Drugs? One foot ahead of the other—yeah, that’s the one.
Where one pours out their secret longings and wishes and passions. Shares their secrets. Worries their worries. Plots the destruction of their enemies. Conjures up princes to the rescue, bright futures….
I’ve kept diaries but, as mentioned in other posts, they’re always deadly boring…except for the one paragraph out of 500 you don’t want your mom, your lover, your boss, your children, your friends to read. So the whole little red or black book must be destroyed.
Blog diaries are different. Others do, or at least can, read every entry. So while I do not have to wax eloquent for each or any posts, I really do not want to shame family or friends with entries that are seriously dumb. Pretty pictures are always good…and perhaps a poem or two. Then at the end of the year when the blog-book is published I really can feel okay about printing extra copies for my children that, when they read them long after I’m dead, will cause them to remember me fondly.
ESCAPE: It is Sunday, June 6, 2020. Day 84 of my pandemic life. I’m escaping. Please know that I am fully aware of what small percentage of the world’s population can escape either virus and/or violence for even a few hours. Those of us who have the privilege of a day-away acknowledge our luck
Today’s escape includes no conversations however short; keeping the blinds drawn except on the window that looks out on my bamboo thicket—which hides the desert sun from view; a tropical rainstorm ap beaming me to Hilo, Hawaii, and doing nothing useful for actual work or task-work around the apartment.
Most escapist of all however is making plans for the 2021 almost two-month trip to Africa. My friend Celia and I, the mildly-delusional instigators of this gigantic journey, agree that this is the biggest travel adventure we may ever take—so barring unforeseen circumstances like pandemic year 2 or the US pissing off every other country in the world so thoroughly no one will let us in—we will make the most of it. There are small annoyances to deal with such as whether we have jobs (issues of time off and money) and manage to maintain our usual good-ish health but I’m sure we can work through them.
The big red circles on the map are where we may/will/hope to go. (Celia hasn’t approved Asmara yet…I may have to strike that).
I occasionally take breaks from the hard work of looking up things to do in Lilongwe and choices for the Garden Tour (no it’s not around some neighborhood with pretty gardens in some well-off suburb in some generally boring city) out of Cape Town or how far Glen Afric is out of Joburg. During breaktime I watch another episode of “Wild at Heart,” a completely enchanting British family drama shot in a game park in South Africa featuring mostly South African humans and animals. Celia’s watching it too; it has replaced our journey for this summer.
It’s nearly noon. My goal is to avoid the usual dark and dreary anger and sadness that are in the forefront or background of nearly every waking hour of every day…just for a few hours. I shouldn’t imply that all of my days are downers…they aren’t. I’m busy and healthy…etc. But it’s hard to keep the edginess of uncertainty at bay.
Yesterday I said my mom loved god, my dad loved the woods, and my school told me to love America. Sorry mom…couldn’t go the god route, and certainly nothing in my history as an American has convinced me that this country deserves unqualified love. While I treasure the geography of my land, I find it much harder to feel love for a number of my fellow Americans: the racists, the greedy, the purposely stupid, the violent and angry. As I watched the autopsy report on George Floyd being presented a few minutes ago my suspicions that we’re not an honorable nation were again confirmed. It’s sad not to be proud of one’s home I think you’ll agree. And I’m not. And I’m sad.
Fortunately I did inherit my dad’s love of the woods. Son Steven and I walked a restorative early morning five miles in the bosque, enjoying unqualified and prideful love of trees and the river and the early morning cool and calm.
While it’s important to be a skeptic of belief systems demanding worship; and essential to be angry, enraged in fact, over America’s inability to end its addiction to ‘isms’ … it is so fine to be among the trees for awhile…to find beauty and calm and unalloyed good down along our very own stretch of the Rio Grande.
Another day of sadness…except for my son and the cottonwoods and the slow blue water.
I was raised by a mother who thought god was great and a father who thought the forest was great. I was educated in a system that sought to teach me America was great. I’m now an elder and have long been disabused of the notion of god’s or america’s greatness—dad was right, walking in the woods is as close as any of us will ever get to what’s true and valuable and worthy of being called great.
And about this American-greatness bullshit. Is there any normal rational human being among us that isn’t sickened, saddened, and utterly demoralized by this society and its leadership at this moment in time?
But here’s the thing—it has always been thus…with rare flashes of hope…just enough to keep us in line. America was founded on racism and remains a hideously racist society. Columbus was a racist of the first order and those freedom-seeking Jamestown settlers were after their own freedom, not anyone else’s. And the founding fathers…high percentage of them slaveholders were they not?
Many intelligent articulate people are writing about this and I cannot truly know so let me share a few of their words. Roxane Gay and Trevor Noah say it loud and clear. If only we really listened.
In this morning’s (Sunday, May 31, 2020) NYT, Roxane Gay offers Remember, No One’s Coming to Save Us. She ends the article with the same lack of hope I feel all of the time: “Eventually, doctors will find a coronavirus vaccine, but black people will continue to wait, despite the futility of hope, for a cure for racism. We will live with the knowledge that a hashtag is not a vaccine for white supremacy. We live with the knowledge that, still, no one is coming to save us. The rest of the word yearns to get back to normal. For black people, normal is the very thing from which we yearn to be free.”
Last Friday night Trevor Noah used his Daily Show platform to share his thoughts. Google it/You tube..it will be the most valuable eighteen or so minutes of your week/month/longtime. Here are some of his words from Daily Beast:
To those who are telling protesters, “You do not loot and you do not burn. This is not how our society is built,” Noah said that if “society is a contract” then that contract is “only as strong as the people who are abiding by it.” He asked “what vested interest” black people have in maintaining that social contract when police aren’t holding up their end of the deal.
To those who ask of looting, “What good does it do?” Noah asked in return, “What good doesn’t it do?” He said, “The only reason you didn’t loot Target before is because you were upholding society’s contract. There is no contract if law and people in power don’t uphold their end of it.”
“There is no right way to protest because that’s what protest is,” Noah said. “What a lot of people don’t realize is the same way that you might have experienced more anger and more visceral disdain watching those people loot that Target—think about that unease you felt watching that Target being looted. Try to imagine how it must feel for black Americans when they watch themselves being looted every single day.”
“Because that’s fundamentally what’s happening in America,” he continued. “Police in America are looting black bodies.” While some might think that’s an “extreme phrase,” Noah assured them that it’s not.
When you hear the phrase, ‘make America great again’ ask yourself which ‘great’ year or decade you want to emulate. The years of slavery and genocide. The years of reconstruction, lynchings, depressions, destroying Vietnam, the Gilded Age with the 1% at their most powerful (until now)…just which ‘great years’ do we have in mind?
End of April, first week of May, friend Bob and I were going to be doing Broadway…he being a serious aficionado of Broadway musicals and me loving the modest number I’ve seen over the years. Bob Dylan’s Girl from the North Country was the central attraction but Dear Evan Hansen, West Side Story, and Hadestown were awaiting our presence as well. Spring in New York/New York, music, food, wandering…doesn’t get any better than that. Or it wouldn’t have gotten any better than that had it not been for the evil virus disrupting everyday life and special occasions with equal disdain.
In 2011, Sara and I went to The Lion King on Broadway. It was an adventure…from a night in a slum-hotel (in the theater district with okay reviews) over to our only night ever at a Ritz Carlton hotel with a view of Lady Liberty. We took trains and went to the top of the Empire State Building and ate pizza. Last week Sara turned 21 and we were supposed to be going to Africa this summer…next year it will be…or 2022?
I had many things planned for the year…to commemorate them I’ll post a few related photos and think happy thoughts about next year…in New York, Cuba, South Africa, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Uganda, Morocco, California, New England…and Roswell perhaps. I’ve never been there. Happy thoughts about a better-normal world. With fingers tightly crossed.
Back in the day. Sara in NYC.
Trees are the best plants of all. In their variety, their beauty, their practical and life-saving contributions to every other thing on the planet. I grew up spending long summer days roaming around in the woods, often with a book. I am a Dendrophile (a person who loves trees, forests.)
Dead trees: battered trunks, broken branches, fallen logs, scattered limbs…in some ways more fascinating in their stark jagged shapes…almost threatening…prickly sticks and twigs all underfoot.
I looked for poems about dead trees. This one is about autumn and I am presenting an April photo. It’s nice though and appropriate anyway.
The fallen tree lies still
Amongst the hush of autumn morn,
And dwells within a weeded tomb
Upon an amber bed,
The silence stirred from slumber
Crunching leaves beneath my feet,
When once they flickered in the breeze
They now lay cold and dead.
The fallen tree lies still
Amongst the nettles that remain,
And wrapped within an ivy shawl
That’s dampened by the dew,
It winds around its brittle trunk
And grips its winkled bark,
Its leaves are shining in the sun
That’s slowly breaking through.
The fallen tree lies still
Amongst the mass of broken twigs,
As beams descend through branches bare
In sadness it does dwell,
To light the wilting bracken
On the long and winding path,
That gently waves as I do pass
And bids a last farewell.
The Fallen Tree (Andrew Blakemore/poemhunter.com)
A mysterious poem…for a slightly sinister scene.
The branches looked first like tepees,
but there was no emptiness.
Like piles of leaves waiting
for fire: at the foot of
the wisewoman trees,
at the foot of the broken General,
next to the tree of the veteran girl
who died this summer slow red cloth
Tooh-ba-aadi is an ancient Navajo word for a south flowing river. It flows through Tejas like a carancahua red cloth, it cuts through chihuahuas, coahuila, Nuevo Leon and tamaulipas like an Anasazi arrowhead.
The Rio grande is an ancient river that was flowing before all things were given names and the universe had a song in it’s heart. The Rio grande was here before a box of holy relics was bestowed upon an heir by three wise kings. The Rio grande was here before cathedrals, monasteries and chapels were built to cage the gods of man. The Rio grande was here before man enslaved man, a freely flowing river emptying it’s burden into an ocean claimed by no one.
The Rio grande is 1800 miles of blood, sweat, fear, hate, greed, envy, avarice, mercy and grace. The Rio grande is the bridge to the heart of my people and expresses it’s beauty everyday with its brown muddy waters.
And I remember you rio grande, when your strong undercurrent pulled me into your embrace. I remember you rio grande when my cousin drowned at your shore. I remember you rio grande and all the people who call you freedom, and I will remember you every time I close my eyes, clench my fist and raise it high into the air as I pray and mourn for my people.
More time on bosque walks. Many delicious quotes and poems. Many photos. Many miles. Another morning in the woods tomorrow. This pathway through the pandemic.
“With the first step, the number of shapes the walk might take is infinite, but then the walk begins to define itself as it goes along, though freedom remains total with each step: any tempting side road can be turned into an impulse, or any wild patch of woods can be explored. The pattern of the walk is to come true, is to be recognized, discovered.”
– A.R. Ammons, A Poem is a Walk
“That’s the best thing about walking, the journey itself. It doesn’t matter much whether you get where you’re going or not. You’ll get there anyway. Every good hike brings you eventually back home.” (Edward Abbey)
“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)
“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see.” (John Burroughs)