SQ Diary… page 13

Self-Quarantine Day 18 – 03/30/2020

Had my first sleepless night since the pandemic broke. Couldn’t get comfortable, tame the aching, stop my thoughts. The person charged with overseeing the welfare of the nation is bullying blue-state governors, accusing doctors and nurses of theft, hoarding, and black market activity, because given the chance that’s what HE would do. My disgust and fury are off the chain. City ERs and ICUs are war zones, nobody’s working their own angle, for god’s sake! Their only aim is to stay alive long enough to make a difference.

Jeez, any wonder I can’t sleep? Top epidemiologists in the world and he consults Mr. Baseball…

I never really knew what hate feels like until landing in this era. I’ve seen its effects all my life, especially during the Civil Rights struggle, and I watched the white supremacists come out of the woodwork during Barack Obama’s time. SPOILER ALERT: They never left, they somehow gained influence and they’ve brought friends. I’ve been angry at people, furious, ready to fight to the end… but I’ve never known what it was to hate. I’ve learned. I despise every atom of Donald J. Trump with a white-hot cleansing fire. I find no honor in him, no respect, no character, no intelligence, no self-control, no class. It’s ALL about him, ALL the time. He displays not an ounce of empathy for another living thing on the face of the earth.

Family members, friends, their kids, the nurses and doctors of the world, are on the front lines doing what they’re trained and conditioned to do, with one hand tied behind their backs. They’re putting themselves at risk every hour they work, and they do it by choice because that’s who they are. For them to be slandered with accusations of theft and waste is so out of the norm it doesn’t bear thinking about. They’re reusing nasty old masks and other personal protection gear, strictly against regs, because there isn’t enough stuff lying around to STEAL in the first place!

Lumpy has no idea what those life-and-death hospital scenes look like – just as he has no clue what real Americans deal with day to day during GOOD times. Suit him up, send him in, let him stay on his feet for twelve hours breathing through a funky mask and standing in body fluids. And then send him back in there the next day and the next. With the same mask. And when he whines, slap him so hard his cousins fall down.

I’ve wondered over the years what it would take for me to get political on Facebook again and bring it to my blog. Answer: this. All of it since 2015. It finally reached critical mass and toppled of its own weight. It’s my battle and I’m up for it… but first you cry.

DISCLAIMER: SOME of the white people in red states.

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SQ Diary… page 4

Self-Quarantine Day 7 – 03/19/2020

Typing today’s date zips me back fifty years, to a hospital room, a long day of induced labor so we could outrun a blizzard, and a tiny blue-eyed, towheaded little guy.

That kid and his partner had booked a 10-day Paris vacation to celebrate his birthday this week, but the universe made other plans, so they found an alternate hideaway.

Fifty years. Makes me feel lightheaded. It’s been that long since my son was born… and I’d already lived a whole life before THAT happened. How is it possible to sit here in my same skin at 72… same on the inside except chill and settled now, understanding a tiny handful of things, knowing every one of those things in my life really happened, one by one… and acquiesce to a life spooling out. We’re candles.

Pouring rain this morning off and on… drippy… gray. I coughed all night, but that’s calming down now. Pretty sure it’s just from being closed up in this same air for days at a time. Our only windows are on the east side, so air flow is at a premium, and it’s been too cold to leave the balcony door open for very long. If spring arrives this year, it will never have been so welcome.

I wanted NOT to live in extraordinary times, but somehow knew I would… probably because my imagination formed stories from the things I learned, and the possibilities were out there.

And here we are. Making the most of the minutes while we have them.

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SQ Diary… page 3 1/2

Self-Quarantine Day 6.5 – 03/18/2020

Kansas weather changes can give a rookie whiplash, and true to no form whatsoever, the day has turned balmy. The sun broke through the cloud cover for a dazzling minute, and the air feels friendly at 63º.

Kim rode his bicycle to Stabby Dillons for a quick backpack full of groceries, and more vodka from On The Rocks. He isn’t wearing nitrile gloves yet on these errands, but… he’s quick and doesn’t inhale. 😂

His PickleBall buddy and actual friend Marcelo called and said he’d be over to go for a walk, so they’re out there somewhere away from the madding crowds and 6 feet away from each other (ha!) while they talk nonstop. Good medicine.

With the door to the outside world standing open, trees leafing out, birds singing, the approaching gloom has been swept out of the house again. C’monnn, spring.

Where it (officially) stands today… we’re in one of those counties bordering the red one. So yeah, stayin’ in… stayin’ alive…

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Oh, the places we could go…

It sounds so cliché and yet what IF? We all, if we’re lucky, live several lives from our beginning to our end. Our “tinyhood” is first, when we’re so new and unset that things mostly roll over us, leaving only small traces of what took place… if we’re lucky. Those memories fade as we move through other lives – our youth, our high school and college years with their general trauma, relationships, marriages, families, beginnings, endings, the pneuma – the creative energy – of life.

But all of it, as we roll or slog or trip or struggle through the panorama of our lifespans becomes part of who we are at any given time, a lot of it hard to shed, some of it buried pretty deep, most of it just outside the grasp of our conscious awareness, so how would we even start to deal with it? In simpler terms, how do we stop toting around all this pneuma? Just because we’ve accumulated it, is it forever ours by default?

We get older, hopefully we get smarter, we learn how to forgive and to let go of resentments and old scores. But whether we know it or not, the seed of every wound, every piercing, every time someone was able to make us feel less-than is still in there somewhere ready to trip us up if we let it. Maybe we have somehow been strong enough not to give it roots, but we don’t know exactly how to find it for full extraction, so it lurks and hides, the partial remains of who we were.

It would be so satisfying to dig up all of that accumulated rot and get it out of there – all those markers signifying “I go this far and no farther, so DON’T PUSH me.” “Here’s where the bad person/people hurt me, embarrassed me, shamed me, failed to love me enough.” “I can’t get rid of these, they’re my security blankets, my hedge against big-time pain, against things I never want to feel again. They help me remember where the lines are drawn.” I know, you probably hoped I was going to tell us both how to do that, how to ruthlessly excavate. So did I, but the answer didn’t miraculously appear as I typed the words.

And so the remains remain. But oh, what we could be and the places we could go if we could figure this out. It’s a worthy goal because it would change everything. I’m holding out hope to get there in my lifetime, sooner rather than later – while I still have time to enjoy the fruits. I’m still thinking about this…

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REALITY = a full-time job

My Muse has been kind this summer, and attentive. I no more think of something and BOOM, like somebody has ESPN, there’s a reference on a timeline or in an article I’m reading. In reflecting again lately on letting the past be the past, and having been marinated in Midwestern guilt from birth until the West Coast Wild Man (according to the locals) strolled in and stopped that shiz right in its Ropers, I’m well-versed in the dilemma represented up there in the meme. Baby Boomer girls make nice, talk nice, say everything but what we really think, if we know what’s best for us and want nice things said about us.

But if we ever once start saying what we really think, all bets are off. Because sometimes people see what looks like an opportunity to dig a little, and feelings get hurt, peace gets wrecked, doors get closed. It never feels good but you finally have to use what’s been percolating in your Boomer self since shortly after WWII and just stop the bleeding once and for all, say No, I’m not up for this, buh-bye, whatever we were we’re not that now, and memories don’t give you carte blanche to my life. But then, Midwestern guilt would tell us, it’s our responsibility to open that door again and make peace face-to-face, all nice, and start over.

You know what, no. That’s phony and it isn’t peace. I’ve tried it repeatedly and what I got was what most peacemakers get, which is taken advantage of. I’m not whining, I’m stating a fact. If you cut people slack they use it all. They decide you really are a good person who wants them to have it their way. And then they hit you again. From a different angle out of the blue when you’re weak and vulnerable but they didn’t know that, no, they just have great instincts.

I like things real and I subscribe to the knowledge that it isn’t on me to try to build a relationship with people who don’t even like who I am. It’s shocking and absurd that the exact things I was trying to figure out in eighth grade to keep friendships in balance are the same sorts of things that are still canceling the potential for genuine friendship in my eighth decade of living. It makes me despair just a little for human nature, but only a little, because I think of so many friends with their wide, wide hearts and their beautiful minds and their nonstop belief in truth and lovingkindness in the world, and I know arrested development didn’t claim everyone across the board, so sometimes it really is safe to trust. Whew!

Welcome back to Blogging as Therapy this morning, and thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Reading…

 

A marathon it’s been, the best kind – three books in quick succession, by three distinct authors, and connected by one unbroken muscular thread – The People, as they have always called themselves – and their existence from time primeval.

First in the “series,” entirely by happy chance, was MAUD’S LINE, written by Margaret Verble and published in 2015, the fictionalized story of a young Cherokee girl becoming a woman in 20th Century Oklahoma. Its contemporary portrayal of a time just past hooked itself into my imagination from – halleluiah, page one – and delivered me directly to book two.

Which – I assume you’re taking notes – was LAKOTA WOMAN, by Mary Crow Dog and Richard Erdoes, published in 1990, and not fictionalized at all. The author was active and instrumental in the Bureau of Land Management and American Indian Movements of the 1970s and 80s with Russell Means, Dennis Banks, so many others, and her gritty recounting of all the seemingly unrightable wrongs that have altered The People’s reality since the White Guys got here burned itself into my consciousness, not to put too fine a point on it.

So when both a friend and an esteemed nephew recommended Annie Proulx’s BARKSKINS within hours of each other it was clear that lil’ Ms. Serendipity had dropped in again and placed a shiny object in my path. Off the top, let me quickly address a few negative comments I’ve seen: that perhaps Ms. Proulx’s focus is…unevenly focused…that she hammers, that she commits “stylistic infelicities.” Yes, I caught all of that, recognized it, owned it and read on. The scope of the story is so expansive, so unexpectedly gripping, that the combined weight of all the odd little imperfections adds up to less than that of a feather – notable by virtue of existence, but in the end taking nothing from the whole.

Annie Proulx, author of THE SHIPPING NEWS, for which she won a Pulitzer in 1994; BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, for which she won the prize called “We’re turning your book into a movie;” along with at least a baker’s dozen more titles, has at 80 years of age turned out an epic about trees, of all things, that kept me absorbed from first page to last. Aside from her colossally amazing book, I love that she’s even older than I am, has been described as “sassy,” and knows how to write like a mutha.

Annie takes us from 1693, starting with the French in what became Canada, to 2013 in what is still Canada – with side trips to London, New Zealand, what we now know as the continental United States, and points everywhere around the globe, the entire saga stemming from one family line and diverging throughout multiple others, from the French, to The People, to the Dutch, et.al. And the wonder is that she makes us care about the majority of those characters, even though we sense they are soon to be swept from the stage to make room for succeeding generations, each one more fascinating than the last.

I like big books and I cannot lie, and at more than 700 pages BARKSKINS was too short. Annie Proulx knows how to put us at the scene of the tale with a lovely economy of language; how to scatter engaging and/or redeeming characters into all parts of the story, avoiding what could have become a tedious litany; how to illuminate dilemmas that we would downplay if left on our own. If that shedding of light is “hammering,” we’re clearly in need of a butt-load more of it – the denuding of nearly all this planet’s original forests is but one ongoing dilemma of many.

BARKSKINS indelibly lays out the sins of the past and their consequences for all humanity while also serving up reasons for hope, that essential tool of survival. Hang onto it, you future humans, and may it save your hide since most of your forebears have never carried, nor do they (we) carry, their (our) fair share of responsibility for what your present might look like.

As William T. Vollmann wrote in his New York Times book review:

“Now our own world is likewise fading, thanks to climate change. The root cause of our self-impoverishment is thoughtfully teased out in BARKSKINS, whose best line may well be this: ‘My life has ever been dedicated to the removal of the forest for the good of men.'”  – June 17, 2016

 

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The Art of Humaning

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Like the world outside our doors the place I call home is endlessly quirky. Our daily lives are first off influenced and impacted by the commercial entities under us and the wheels of commerce send a hum upward through the girders that assures us the world is on track, a nap would be good. Above the hum, on floors three through five, independent thought rules. We’re a collection of young to old, friendly to cold, liberal to conservative, social butterfly to I-vant-to-be-alone, moneyed to who knows/cares – the quintessential microcosm in so many directions. A neighbor-sighting is rare for me, possibly because I vant to be alone.

Consensus is often hard to come by in the governance of the building, inside and out, concerning the simplest of matters. Many tears can be spilled over a paint color while the landscaping dies clean away. We are know-it-alls and trust-me-I-know-nothings. A lawsuit is for some the quickest route to satisfaction, while for others patient thoughtful communication is the only way to go. Some are quick to take offense, some know how to deflect it, and some truly do not give a shit.

We’re a civil bunch – in the hallways, the mailroom, on the street, we’re nice AF, voluntarily forgetting what he said about…what she told her…where they stand on… Life requires it because humaning in close quarters is deadly after all the civility leaks out.

Wherever two or three are gathered, there will be the basic building blocks of personality among us and those elements have to continuously mesh in order to prevent societal meltdown, whether on a grand or intimate scale. A spinning globe scabbed over with layers of bloodied inhabitants has no alternative but to stop being stupidly selfish and help each other. It really is that simple.

Nothing about our particular living experience is new, different, or unique to the world – this is who humans are and we will never align perfectly with each other. But forget perfect, we have to collectively make the whole thing work or let it all go down the sewer – we’re out of options. Will we figure it out? Will we keep ourselves from erasing all life from the earth? Or will we hold out for what we want, damn the consequences forever?

 

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I’m okay with real.

Summer water classes started on Tuesday so this chicky is in the swim again. It’s great exercise and a lot less dance-y than my initial plunge at another facility – this could work out. The instructor is easy to love and it’s all friendly funny women plus one cute shy husband. Other than a few younger women we’re all approximately from the same era, including our badass sweetheart of a teacher, so there are lots of Judys, Susans, Paulas, Lindas, Nancys, et.al.

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Other commonalities – surprise, surprise – would include hearing loss, bad backs, arthritis, sucky balance, and a laundry list of other choices. There’s a certain comfort in knowing I’m not the only person my age who’s falling apart, but it’s even sweeter to know that everyone in the class, including Token Man, cares about her/himself or they wouldn’t bother showing up. I see it on all the faces – “I matter. This part of my life counts big-time. Let’s keep it evolving upward.”

Humor is how Baby-Boomers roll, because DUH, without it you stop rolling. I advise you, boys and girls, to maintain a healthy personal space between yourself and humor-challenged beings – close interaction rarely ends well. And if you happen to be a libtard “feeler” like someone I know well, you’ll haul the sand from every encounter until it all finally sifts out through your sandals. Our happy lil’ class is populated by people who love laughing at themselves in the good ways – how does anybody keep putting one foot in front of the other without that? Yikes.

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Their sweet little downcast faces ^^^ would break your heart.

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For Krista

morning glorious

blue-sky easy-breeze

families farmers mowers runners riders pedalers

dogs kids coffee sprouts

players hangers-on sun-babies

he does so we can

precious spoons accrue

Fat Lady mute

JSmith 4/24/2016

 

{Thoughts while pondering The Meaning of Life on a Saturday, prompted by feelings about the artists who’ve helped us get through the night, know ourselves better, value our existence more, give ourselves tacit permission to be weird. Those friends of the heart are relentlessly leaving us, and not by choice. They got older along with us, and talent can’t necessarily buy extra time – so we have a sacred responsibility to own what they tried to show us, and keep the lights on. Life is a good thing.}

A gift to my niece because she asked. She is a true poet and I love her enough to put some words out, knowing it isn’t a contest. ❤

 

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On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in January …

So tell me you’ve been finding every opportunity to dance since last week — it’s such a good habit to get into!  By dance I mean sparks of any sort inside the person that is you.  You give your heart permission to feel not just okay, but fabulous, even if it’s only a hit-and-run, and should it leak out your fingers and toes, by all means … make rhythm out of it.

It’s a bits & pieces Tuesday.  Here’s a glorious bit that Mary Oliver wrote about her partner of forty years, Molly Malone Cook, that makes my heart dance.  “The dance” is often The Blues …

“She was style, and she was an old loneliness that nothing could quite wipe away; she was vastly knowledgeable about people, about books, about the mind’s emotions and the heart’s. She lived sometimes in a black box of memories and unanswerable questions, and then would come out and frolic — be feisty, and bold.” 

I love that so much.

And these two pieces made my brain boogie today …

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Is it just me or is there a connection in all these jangly bits?    Seriously, anything’s possible when your brain dances with your heart.

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Sweet winter peace to all …

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My girl Marilyn knew …

Marilyn Frame

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What scares you?

Not BOOGA-BOOGA pants-crapping scared, where your skin crinkles up and makes little screeching noises with sparklers on the ends.  More like what are you AFRAID of … that fundamental sense of dread that a cog will drop into a random sprocket somewhere and life will change.  Fear of loss is a keen motivator — what else drives us with that same force?

But what if life changed and you lived through it?  And what if that happened over and over ’til you realized how brave you were and then you just started doing things and saying things you didn’t know you could do and say?  What if people didn’t get any of that at all and you didn’t care?  What if you just started kicking ass, including your own, and life really did change and you wouldn’t change it back if you had the chance?  WHAT IF?  Not the question I want to be asking myself when I’m gearing up for the choir eternal.  What if I’d done all those things I knew I could do?  What if I’d let myself be who I knew I was?  And to quote Captain Obvious, what if I’d just been nicer?  Regret, let’s not go there.

Holy balls, I’ve survived too long to let fear force me back into the box, and by now he’s like an old friend anyway, sort of.  You know, keep your friends close, your enemies closer, and your powder dry.

“I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.”  ~Dawna Markova

 

William Stafford

 

 

i could have eaten that

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A Fairytale for Throwback Thursday

Once upon a time, there lived a handsome young man of steel who told a little white lie about his age, joined the Army at seventeen, fought at the front during The War to End All Wars on many fields of battle, came home intact in mind and body, swept a lovely fifteen-year-old store clerk off her feet, married her straightaway, and started a dynasty.  Thus reads the CliffsNotes version, you may thank me after the test.

But before that, a lot of other things happened.

And while those things were happening, the young man was growing steely because clearly he had good genes plus a step-father who was certifiably unhinged.  When the lad in our tale was less than twelve years old, his step-dad took him to the barren plains of eastern Colorado to “prove up a claim” and homestead it, worked him like a dog, left him there and went home to Kansas.  But not before taking a pot-shot at him off the porch that put a hole through his hat and knocked him flat in the hard Colorado dirt.

The boy lived out there in that little shack by himself, with the heat and the wind and the wildlife, until somebody came for him.  Whatever steel he wasn’t born with must have crawled into his bones in those months, and it never left him.  I know this because he was my grandfather and I know he never lost his metal, his discipline, or his looks.  He and my grandmother raised six sons and three daughters, all worth knowing in their own right.  Grandpa knew how to do everything and Grandma knew the rest, so there was always food on the table and a good roof on a house full of voices laughing, crying, arguing, singing, talking, yelling, but mostly laughing.  Smart funny people, this dynasty.

It’s my favorite fairytale to slip into on cold gray days because it’s all true.  And a thing to love is that with everything Grandpa survived in his years, he never got smelly and mean-spirited and old on the inside. He and my grandmother both figured out how to stay alive and BE alive and how to pass that on.  Pretty cool.

 

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If I’m lyin’ I’m flyin’ …

My grandma, who had to tolerate me a lot since I lived within rock-throwing distance and never knew when to go home, used to tell me that I was as happy as if I had good sense.  That is, when she wasn’t accusing me of lacking the sense God gave a goose.  Clearly she noticed a certain deficit in the reasoning department.  Time and experience have predictably sharpened my perceptions, but if I have to base my mood on whatever life’s currently dishing out, I’m done.  Hey, I KNOW things suck, generally speaking.  I’m perfectly aware we’re all headed to hell in a disintegrating hand basket at warp speed.  You know the drill: our atmosphere is imploding, our ground water’s drying up, our oceans are gunked up with plastic and sewage and a sick radioactive glow, the whole planet’s at war in one way or another, and disease and pestilence stalk the land.  But I can’t shake the feeling that life is good, gosh darn it, all indications to the contrary.  What can I say, things just have a way of working out, and it’s always too early to give up.  To quote the great Lucimar Santos de Lima (it’s okay, even Wikipedia can’t find him), “It doesn’t hurt to be optimistic, you can always cry later.”

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