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.
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.)
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.
This is Erev Yom Kippur. Ten days ago, on Erev Rosh Hashanah, we learned of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Before the evening was old, Mitch McConnell and the president declared their determination to rush to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat with a far-right judge, an intention they are working hard to fulfill.
So much, for now, for the re-cap. Just put that to the side for a moment; it’ll come back around again.
Every so often during the year — whenever there’s a Jewish holiday — I ask myself why I, as someone on the Agnostic-Atheist Spectrum, keep celebrating these holidays, but I know the answers. A lot of it has to do with being brought up that way, with maintaining an identity and a connection to my family, those living and those dead. (My idea of Pascal’s Wager is reminding myself that, if there is an afterlife, I don’t want to spend mine explaining to my Yiddishe grandparents why I stopped being Jewish. And then my Aunt Lillie would show up —— let’s not even go there.)
But aside from the fear-of-perpetual-guilt, there’s also an emphasis in Judaism on getting this life right, on cultivating right relations between people.¹ And that’s particularly true around the High Holy Days, when one is supposed to try to fix relations between one’s self and others one has hurt or done wrong before one can ask God for forgiveness. The making things right makes sense to me. Ideally, I’d just go around apologizing all year ’round, but I don’t, so I appreciate the yearly reminder. I actually take this ritual pretty seriously. I think I’m mostly a pretty innocuous person, but I have my moments, particularly when I’m angry or scared or just plain stupid, when I can lash out or not realize I’m saying the most keenly hurtful thing possible — either way, it’s important to me to make amends.
It was hard to start apologizing, to say “I was wrong,” but what really set me back was how hard it was for people to hear and accept my apologies. Almost everyone tried to turn the situation into a joke; some even got sharply angry with me, they were so uncomfortable. People reacted as if I were trying to wrong-foot them or as if I were exposing a soft spot for them to poke.
And this is where I want to start circling back to to the beginning of this post. We, as a society, have come to regard an apology — a sincere apology that signals a change of heart, a change of mind, as a fault, a flaw, a fatal error. And we avoid exposing ourselves to such judgement, to the power over us that an apology might give someone.
We see this attitude so clearly in politics. No politician wants to admit to being wrong lest the other political sharks start circling, letting blood, tearing out chunks of flesh. Constituents, too, may feel betrayed and lash out in anger.
We need to make it possible for people to apologize, to make amends, to change their minds. The decision to hurry Justice Ginsburg’s replacement onto the Court would be the perfect place to start. A majority of Americans² — up to 62% — want to wait until after Inauguration Day to seat a new judge. If you’re one of those Americans, write and call and e-mail your senators. If they’ve come out for replacing Justice Ginsburg before the election or during a lame-duck period (if there is one), tell them you’ll regard them more highly for listening to their constituents and for changing their minds.
Will it work? I don’t know. But please give it a try. And no matter what, sometime by the third of November — VOTE. *********************************************
And here, everyone who’s Jewish and is reading this, who was probably nodding along during the guilt bit, is sitting up to argue and explain at length why I’m wrong. It’s what we do. You know what they say: where there are two Jews, there are three opinions.
“A new poll showed that the American public agrees with him and opposes Mr. Trump’s plan to rush a new justice onto the court. Of those surveyed by Reuters and Ipsos since Justice Ginsburg’s death, 62 percent said her seat should be filled by the winner of the November election, including the vast majority of Democrats and even half of Republicans.” Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman. “Trump and Democrats Brace for Showdown Over Supreme Court Seat,” New York Times. 25 September, 2020.
What do we want to lose? Constant lying, myriad scandals, incompetent leadership, criminal pandemic mismanagement, misogyny, racism, voter suppression, global warming denials, ultra-conservative judges, misuse of the military…