Random Ruminations: Invisible Illnesses, U.S. Elections, and Dead Mothers

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.)

After that, I’ll be writing postcards:




These are for Postcards to Swing States — pretty, right?





And then there will be some for Moms Rising:


Also very eye-catching.



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.

Sarah Collingwood as Juliet

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.

Getting Out the Vote While Staying Safe At Home

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 please PLEASE 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.)

Inktober 2020: Day Thirteen — Dune

Dunes have to be sand dunes. Are there other kinds of dunes? Sand dunes are naturally kind of slippery because the sand slips as one walks up anyway; putting ooze on one is kind of painting the lily.

Therefore, to be possess’d with double pomp,
To guard a title that was rich before,
To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.

— William Shakespeare, King John, IV.II.10-17

Inktober 2020: Day Twelve — Slippery

I know, I know — “slippery slope” is pretty cliché. But it seemed to work here. The strained and inverted syntax is supposed to reflect the opposing forces of gravity and the climber’s desire to get to the top of the dune. I’m not sure  it works; I confess my choices were dictated by what I could draw. What I had verbally sketched out was

…And gnashing teeth —
Lodged in a lethal throw
Against hope.

The slippery slope she barefoot treads
Up the oil-slicked dune…

But I didn’t know how to draw “disgusting” on its own.

Inktober 2020: Day Eleven — Disgusting

I meant to start a new stanza, but I forgot to leave enough lines to skip any. “Disgusting” wasn’t as hard as “hope”; I’m not sure what that says about the way my mind works.

Inktober 2020: Day Ten — Hope

Ack. As if getting a verb yesterday wasn’t bad enough, today’s prompt had to be an abstraction. I mean — really? What are the options? There’s always the stand-by of Pandora’s box/jar; the potter could be throwing the container for the legendary woman who supposedly was endowed with all the gifts necessary to make a perfect woman. But I dislike the misogyny of the story.

Then there’s Emily Dickinson’s famous poem that seems to show up on home decoration plaques everywhere these days:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.¹
But the current ubiquity of the poem made the bird option seem trite. So I decided to go ahead and try an abstract representation. Right now, hope seems to me to be a fragile, fragmented thing, an emotion that is bright, but on the verge of disintegrating, rather like the lacy ice that forms on the edge of a pond or frost on a window.
1. Poetry Foundation, 19 October, 2020. Source: The Poems of Emily Dickinson Edited by R. W. Franklin (Harvard University Press, 1999)


Inktober 2020: Day Nine — Throw

Today’s word — throw — was difficult because my already unsatisfactory drawing skills don’t extend to comprehensible depictions of verbs. My first thought was to go with throw, as in throw rug or throw blanket, but I couldn’t see that going anywhere. So I pulled up the thesaurus and learned that throw also refers to a potter’s wheel. That option seemed much more promising than a blanket. So here we are:



Inktober 2020: Day Eight — Teeth

I had rather hoped to give this poem a bit more narrative structure, but I think it’s going to depend more on evocation of mood and feeling than on story. At least it’s Hallowe’en season, so I’ll try to keep it a little spooky.

Inktober 2020: Day Seven — Fancy

“Tell me where is fancy bred,
Or in the heart or in the head?
How begot, how nourished?”

(Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, III. ii. 63-65.)

If one is a rodent, I would guess Fancy is bred in the better class of trash can. Remember Templeton at the Fair?

Inktober 2020: Day Six — Rodent

Writing a poem like this, one word at a time, with the words already chosen, feels a little like trying to channel someone else’s free-association session. It’s an interesting mental/creative exercise.