I am not a constituent from Kentucky, but as Senate Leader, you have an obligation to all citizens of this country. I write to ask you to realize that, in light of the new evidence constantly coming in regarding the dangerous threat the insurrection of 6 January posed to you, your colleagues, and our democracy, it is imperative to recall the Senate and remove President Trump from office immediately. The longer he remains in the White House, the more his followers will be encouraged to disrupt President-Elect Biden’s Inauguration. Such a disruption is likely to have disastrous consequences. The message must be sent that the representatives of our country, those of you who are serving at the highest levels, will not tolerate such threats a moment longer. Please re-examine the evidence and your decision.
I think of February as the Month of Unknowing, because there was still so much I didn’t know and because there was so much that our elected officials did know, but chose to forget or ignore — to un-know. And that “unnocence” has cost thousands of lives and jobs, shattered health and families, and riven our country even further apart. I am trying to be hopeful that with a new administration in the White House and vaccinations in arms, we’ll be able to mend some of these rifts, but I do think we can’t expect politicians to take care of these problems unless we keep our eye on them and do some of the work ourselves. So be nice and play well with others, people.
Meanwhile, back to 2020.
The first of February, 2019, was the day my mother went to the hospital, the day we learned how ill she was, the day we were told she had little time to live. My mother, who had been an actress, had always wanted to play Hamlet; I always thought she should would have been a magnificent Cleopatra. At her funeral service, I quoted from the end of Enobarbus’ speech (the one about the barge) and, on the anniversary of the beginning of the end, my Shakespeare app served up the lines I quoted:
What do I make of this coincidence? Not much. It neither comforts nor upsets me. But I do think coincidences are usually kind of neat.
February also started off with a repeat trip to the Monet exhibit. We were lucky to get to go twice, but I happily would have gone a dozen times. I’d seen a few Monets here and there before, but this exhibition made me understand Monet’s genius and artistry and feel the emotion in his paintings. Suddenly his work wasn’t just another pretty face.
I hadn’t known that Monet had worked as a cartoonist. This drawing reminds me of my grandfather:
Grandpa is the adult in the middle.
Many of the same paintings made me stop and re-contemplate them,
but the second time, others got more of my attention than they did the first time through.
This is a scene of the beach of Trouville, which reminds me of Gigi.
My new plan for our yard (which is a little larger than the frame of this painting):
I was, again, often taken by the details in the paintings.
Some of the paintings reminded me of California.
It was almost impossible to get my camera to catch the colours accurately.
After the exhibit, we stepped out into an evening that was almost as beautiful as the paintings.
We walked over to Civic Center Park. It was one of those evenings when the sky changed measurably from moment to moment and each change was more striking than the last. (The Capitol was lit red for Women’s Heart Health, a good cause, but against the clouds, it did look a little ominous.)
It was the sort of sky that made me think of the word “firmament.”
Civic Center Park has a rather splendid colonnade,
one that was set off by the glorious beauties of that evening’s show.
The evening display ended on a somewhat ominous tone:
There were quiet days: more sunrises,
And then another trip, this one eastward, to Kansas.
No going over misty mountains this time. Those were left behind for the stretching plains of Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas.
There was an odd, event-horizon sort of sunset.
The cardinals were still living in the yard.
There were lambent sunsets.
There was a full moon.
The creek near us tried to catch it.
So did the trees.
The climbing ivy made some of the trees look green.
I did some cooking.
There were more sunsets.
I thought about my parents.
I rambled around at night.
The moon started to wane.
I rambled around during the day.
And then I headed home. The plane took off several hours late. This time the sunset was less event horizon, more nuclear:
And I was back to the view from my front door:
The old moon in the new moon’s arms.
I was still riding the bus, running errands, going to appointments, visiting the book store.
My indoor plants started to sense the coming of Spring.
The sun and moon did more of that rising-and-setting thing they do.
So it is another new year. I am having a hard time saying “Happy New Year” because, honestly, it isn’t. I hear everyone saying “Thank God 2020 is over!” but there’s been no miraculous, overnight transformation of the situations in which we all find ourselves. The Atrocity is still in the White House; McConnell still makes the Senate the Graveyard for legislation; COVID-19 runs rampant through the planet; here in the U.S., too many people refuse to wear masks or maintain a safe distance from others; people are hungry and homeless and losing health and hope. I think I shall feel a new year has started at noon on the twentieth, when Joe Biden takes the oath of office and the Atrocity in the White House has left the building. Maybe the end of the year will be happy, but right now, all I can wish us all is that we survive the first part of 2021. Then let’s see where we are.
Meanwhile, I have been going through my photos from last year. I take photographs as a way to remind myself to notice the world, to see the beauty, the memorable, the stirring aspects my small space, as a way to distract myself from my depression. Sometimes it even works. I have monkeys-and-typewriters¹ approach to photography: I figure that if I take enough photos, statistically, some of them have to be half-way decent. It’s one of the few theories I have that seems to pan out.
If you like, come with me on a review of what I chose to see through my cameras last year. Here are some of my photos from January. I have come to think of it as the Pre-Pandemic Month, because even though SARS-CoV-2 was making its still insidious way into almost every corner of every country, we had no idea that there would soon be a pandemic. I was too busy hoping against experience that our president’s impeachment would lead to his removal from office.
One the first day of 2020, I went out into the world beyond my yard. I saw mountains,
and the ponds along my bus route.
There were graceful wisps of clouds and the moon up early in the day-lit sky.
I was out with my family, and we lingered until evening. The mall was still decorated for the season,
and the star that’s lit on the the mountainside every year was still shining over the town.
Our tradition is to visit the Boulder Book Store on New Year’s to take advantage of their Readers’ Guild inventory sale. We did not go this year, and I find missing that visit to my happy place has sharply reminded me of how my life has changed.
We went out for dinner. We sat inside a restaurant. We didn’t worry about it.
I tracked the phases of the moon.
I tracked the changes to the pond (note the ice and all the geese).
I watched the sun set. And I watched the moon rise…
AND THEN — I went to the Monet Exhibit at the art museum. It was astonishing —
especially the details.
I saw a whole — shoot, I can’t find the word (stupid aphasia; I’ve had it since the time I was on Prednisone years ago) — phase? group? category? set? of Monet’s work of which I had been completely unaware: the winter scenes:
I don’t have the artistic vocabulary to describe techniques or effects properly, but what struck me about these paintings were the co-existing qualities, the way they were simultaneously subdued yet vibrant, misted in frost while brightened by it, exciting and calming. The chill of the icy blues was almost palpable, but so was the warmth of the coral tones.
Some of these qualities were apparent in other paintings,
One prosaic note about the exhibition: the paintings were so numerous and the galleries so extensive that it took up two levels in the museum and, half-way through, visitors were allowed to take a bathroom pass, leave the exhibit, and return. I’ve never been to a show where one was allowed back in after leaving. My only complaint about the experience is that the museum was very firm in its policy of not letting me take any of the paintings home.
I haven’t figured out how to make movies work in my site, but I think if you click the link below, it will show you one of the “trees” on display in downtown Denver that evening:
It rose in a burnt-yellow colour, but brightened as it climbed the sky.
One of the books I got at the Book Store sale was Take Me With You, by Andrea Gibson:
I’m not entirely sure to what genre it belongs; it was on a sale cart. But several of the author’s observations stayed with me. This one seemed apt enough when I read it, but in retrospect, it now seems absolutely prescient:
I think, after last year and the beginning of this, we are going to have to learn to to say this and then find ways to speak our revival.
Some random shots of what caught my eye:
We took a trip to San Diego for a family gathering.
(“Far over the misty mountains cold To dungeons deep and caverns old We must away, ere break of day, To find our long-forgotten gold.” —J.R.R. Tolkien)
And spent a bit of time at the beach (though not long enough).
I saw this person walking along the beach for quite a while, collecting things in a basket. I wish I had known how to approach her (?) and ask about her gatherings without being forward. I feel there’s a story in this photo.
Look where we went:
Proof I really was on the Surprise.
Unfortunately, it was being renovated, so I didn’t get a lot of good pictures.
Back over the Misty Mountains…
to the familiar light of home.
We attended the symphony. It’s almost frightening to think how dangerously reckless we were to go somewhere in such a crowd, but, like almost everyone, we had no idea was coming.
There were the usual interplays of light and shadow, real and metaphorical,
Sorry about the long hiatus – again.* My accustomed afflictions raised their unlovely heads — again. You’d think they’d get bored with this game, but no; they are constant companions, committed to keeping me off kilter.
What energy I have had has gone into writing more Get Out The Vote letters, this time for the Georgia Senate run-off races. (Just when we thought is was safe to go back in the water….) For now, I am writing letters for Vote Forward:
These letters have to go out ON the seventh of December. Apparently that’s a magic date. I’ve managed to write one hundred so far, and will plug away as best I can until the seventh. If anyone wants to join in, I believe it’s not too late to sign up and download letters of your own. (If you’re a fountain-pen user, invest in some sugarcane copy paper. It’s much more welcoming to fountain-pen ink than run-of-the-mill copy paper.)
I have no idea whether there’s a chance that the Democrats might take those Georgia seats; in fact, I rather doubt it. But if they don’t, I have no idea whether our new president will be able to effect any meaningful change or get any useful legislation passed. So I’m writing.
And in the midst of the pandemic and the politics and the personal perturbations, there was Thanksgiving week. When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was a simple holiday, purportedly celebrating the amity between Indians and the settlers in the “New” World. Now the day is rightly complicated by the realization that the stories we were told as children were heavily skewed to support the colonial hegemony about to displace, enslave, and murder the indigenous populations, to justify the actions of the white people who would corral in reservations the Native Americans who survived, while attempting to eradicate cultures, languages, and identities of the civilizations that were here for millennia before any Europeans stumbled upon these shores. And yet my family celebrates the day because it is a family occasion — except not this year. And that was hard. Zoom just doesn’t replace prescence.
Moreover, this week, for us, held the anniversary of the death of my husband’s mother, the wedding anniversary of my parents, and the birthday of my mother, so it was a week of remembrance.
And here I must segue into a mention of an app that provides me with a Shakespeare quotation for each day. Why do I have such an app? Well, aside from the fact that everyone should have such an app, my mother was a Shakespearean actress at the Pasadena Playhouse in her youth and she passed on her love of Shakespeare to me. I majored in English lit, emphasis in Renaissance drama, and so, between my mother and my major, I must have this app. It often serves up eerily appropriate passages, like fortune cookies that seem to have an uncanny awareness of what is happening in the lives of those who area about to consume them.
And so, into this poignant week, on the very birthday of my mom, the daily Shakespeare quotation was
which pretty much sums up the last eighteen months for my family.
*A perpetual question is whether to apologize for something that isn’t my fault. I certainly didn’t choose to have depression or M.E., and a number of my fellow-sufferers say we should not apologize because doing so makes it seem that we are choosing not to do whatever it was we were supposed to have been doing. Nevertheless, these conditions affect other people, too. So, in case there’s anyone out there who might have been kind enough to hope that I would have posted something new sooner: apologies.
I didn’t used to be a particularly political person. I was raised in a moderate family; my parents never voted a party line. Growing up and into early adulthood, I didn’t find politics particularly consuming, though I have been an avid, informed voter since I turned eighteen. Until relatively recently, I was able to understand both sides of political points of view. The irony is, now that I am eager to become more involved, to do more to return our country to some kind of sensible, civil normalcy, my own health issues and the pandemic limit what I can do.
But the Sierra Club gave me an option that allowed me to help get out the vote from home, when I had the energy to do so, even in the middle of the night: writing letters to voters who tend to vote on Election Day, rather than during early voting.
I had hoped to write an even hundred, but we were told to print rather than to use cursive because so many people can no longer read running script. I hadn’t done any extended printing for maybe twenty years, when my second child was learning to write. I had to think about each letter as I wrote it and I could feel different muscles in my hand, ones that had become accustomed to a life of ease and indolence, coming into play. I was surprised how much printing slowed me down. I managed to write only seventy-five of these letters (they came in sets of twenty-five), so I was a little disappointed with my output, but am still very grateful have found a way to have, I hope, persuaded some more people to vote.
If you’re eligible to vote here in the United States and haven’t done so yet, please pleasePLEASE find your ballot if one was mailed to you and send it in or get out and vote in person. Lives hang in the balance.
Note to fountain pen users: After I wrote my first set of
letters, I realized that I wanted more fountain-pen-friendly paper on which to print out these letters. I found recommendations for sugarcane paper on BestFountainPen.com, reddit.com, and MountainOfInk.com (see the comments section for MoI). I got a ream and it was a vast improvement. Not only did my inks show their sheen and shading nicely on this paper (not to Tomoe River levels, but still noticeable), but also, when I used the paper in the copier, the print was both sharper and darker. I’m pretty happy about it. The brand I got was Treefree from Staples.
(For what it’s worth, this post contains no affiliate links, no one asked me to post my opinions, and the opinions here are my own.)
“That’s just the trouble with me, I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
“If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men’s cottages princes’ palaces. It is a good divine that follows his own instructions: I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching.” ― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
Like Portia, Alice, and (I bet) a whole lot of us, I don’t always listen to the advice I give myself or “follow mine own teaching,” BUT BUT BUT — here’s an instance in which I did:
I’m fortunate enough to live in Colorado, where voting is pretty easy. All voters who register on time get a ballot in the mail. We can register on line. We can register by mail. We can register in person — even on Election Day.
We can mail in our ballot. We can put it in a secure drop box. We can vote in person, early or on Election Day. If we make a mistake, we can go get a new ballot. We can even do it more than once if we, say, fill out our ballots when we’re so tired we don’t track the bubbles properly and need to go twice to trade in our ballots and then finally decide to vote in person so that if we make ANOTHER
mistake we can get a new ballot on the spot. Not that I know anybody who’s done that. (We do have to trade in the original ballot to get a new one. No voting twice.)
I wish all eligible voters had the options we have here in the Centennial State. To everyone who has waited or will wait in lines for hours or even for the whole damn day, who has to face down intimidating “watchers,” who has to travel for hours to get to a drop box, who has to contend with any of the myriad obstacles that are placed in your way because of your race, your politics, your address — YOU ARE HEROES. And all I can say is “Thank you.”
“I hate ingratitude more in a man than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness, or any taint of vice whose strong corruption inhabits our frail blood”.” ― William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
Another Open Letter to Colorado Senator Cory Gardner
Senator Cory Gardner 1961 Stout Street, Suite #12-300 Denver, Colorado 80294
5 October, 2020
I see that you voted for the bill calling for the Justice Department to to withdraw its support for the lawsuit that would end the Affordable Healthcare Act. I also see that you have introduced your own bill that putatively would protect those of us with pre-existing conditions. I thank you for your vote and hope that it portends a turn toward listening to and caring about the needs and opinions of your constituents.
However, your record of voting against the ACA makes this vote suspect. After the election, if you are returned to the Senate or during the liminal period between the election and the Senate’s new term, will you continue to support the ACA? Your own brief bill, which at first glance seems so promising, does not guarantee that insurers must accept applicants with pre-existing conditions, nor does it it spell out what kinds of coverage a plan must provide, nor does it contain a provision forbidding discrimination based on gender or sex. There are too many loopholes to bolster the impression you seem to want to cultivate that you are ready to stand up for health care and affordable insurance for all of us.
The most effective way to convince us that you do, in fact, care about the lives and health of your constituents, and of all inhabitants of the United States (we’re all too connected, as COVID-19 has taught us, to pretend that we need only be concerned with the health of our neighbours) is to oppose seating a new Supreme Court justice before the Inauguration. The push to put Amy Coney Barrett on the highest bench in the land before the tenth of November is motivated by the intention to destroy the act that has brought affordable insurance to millions of Americans. Commit to voting only for a nominee who will support not just the ACA, but who will also protect women’s health by preserving our reproductive choices, including our right to control our bodies, our lives, and our destinies through access to safe, affordable, and legal abortions.
If you vote for the Justice Department to step away from the legal challenge that is trying to eradicate the Affordable Healthcare Act, but also vote to confirm a new Supreme Court justice to sit in Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat, a justice who will strike down the ACA and overturn Roe v. Wade, then you are merely attempting to have your cake and eat it, too.
Last, and possibly the most important reason to cast your ballot: every vote counts. EVERY VOTE COUNTS.
EVERY VOTE COUNTS.
In the 2017 / 2018 elections, there were two state races, one in Virginia and one in Alaska, that ended in a tie. The Virginia race was settled by drawing one of the candidates’ names from a bowl; a recount in the Alaska race found that one candidates had a single vote more than the other. In both cases, the Republican won. In both cases, legislative control was at stake.
ONE more vote in the Virginia election would have created a balance of power; ONE more vote in Alaska would have led to a coin flip.
EVERY VOTE COUNTS.
YOUR vote counts. But only if you cast your ballot. Remember that if you’re thinking of not voting. The fate of our country may be in your hands.