Thursday, January 21, 2021

Happier New Year

Somewhere, in me, is a lengthy, reflective, eloquent and succinct post about the days leading up to the inauguration, about insurrection, impeachment, and the eager of anticipation of change, of distinctly moving forward. It's somewhere, but I am processing. Joseph Biden is president of the United States, with Kamala Harris as our vice president. It's happened. And they went right to work, effectively even before they were sworn in, to run government, to lead with respect, by example, with skill. It is a lot to process, the last four years, and the last 24 hours, but there are a few things I am certain of... I do not want to get back to normal, because it never was normal, or at least, it was not fair, nor just, comfortable. Big matters of racism, and other discriminations, of injustice, and suffering have long been issues, and they are as much as ever problems that must be addressed and set right. For now, I am ready to enjoy this moment when it finally does feel like a new year, and I might have hope, I can reflect on the accomplishments and achievements, relish the art and beautiful voices, and simply catch my breath, after a long, truamatic wait. And then, we stay engaged, in the know, and we expect and insist on truth, on accountability, on mutual respect, on human rights, student loan debt relief, universal healthcare, the Voting Rights Bill, and more. So much more. There is work to be done.
Cairo's expression, brought to mind the last inauguration when after potus made his speech, Hilary Clinton said that GW Bush turned to her and said, "Well, that was some weird shit." Doesn't that describe all of the last four years? Is it over? Yesterday's ceremony, the speeches, and glances, the singing, and expressions of respect, and exuberance, the symbolism... it was all so beautiful, so full of the gestures and indicators of hope that I have longed for, even without knowing. Perhaps, after what we have been subjected to previously, I need more eloquence, more grace and signaling of good will, of progressive action, kindness, exhorting peace. I am happy, relieved, and still wary, a bit in disbelief. Part of me is sitting beside Bernie Sanders, with handmade mittens, in my warmest, insulating coat, surveying the scene, and knowing full well that we have some big matters to address. This ain't over. There is so much work to be done.
We've had a lot of windy weather, here, and across the country, too. Seemed fitting, stimulating. Now there is rain in the forecast, and we need that so bad! It's been dry, dry, dry. Hey, do you remember when I linked to a digital advent calendar, and I was so excited about it, because it had so many pretty graphics, and pretty music, and it was just this lovely, whimsical holiday treat? I even sent a few to friends. Well, I want to apologize about that... I mean, if you are as weak as me, a cotton headed ninny muggins. They got me with the art and culture, but they kept me coming back for the solitaire and puzzles games. I still want to play the shiny jewels puzzle game. If you only knew how good I got at it. I was about to go pro! Well, yesterday, I put the whole lot in the trash, then emptied the trash. Then vowed to never ever ever open an app like that, again. Ever. But I would love to play one more time, for like four or five hours. It seems high winds, a global pandemic, unstable government, waiting for an insurance/accident settlement to close, and personal doubts, insecurities and sadness are a perfect storm for falling prey to shiny game addiction.
Did I say I don't want to go back to normal? That's partly true. I don't want to go back to living as though being safe and content is good enough for me, so why fuss. I do want to go back to feeling optimistic, safe, to doing things that are meaningful, appreciable and appreciated. I want to feel confident, rested, capable of getting things done, and... I seem to frequently question, wasn't this easier, wasn't I better at this, didn't I feel like I could manage more things, and have long spells of peaceful, assured comfort? I miss that.
For the longest time we kept the live feed from the inauguration up on our screen, and we went on with our day, cooking a Thanksgiving dinner, Maria immersed in the work of finals week, Max resting his ankle, Geoff at work at home. We listened to the wind howling, checked the mail, hit like on the latest memes... and all the while we had this giant White House in our livingroom. The evening light softening, the fountain splashing, the stars and stripes waving calmly. Democracy, friendships, home, and hope. This is a good start to a new year, for a happier new year.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Growth


I am still fascinated by the treasures that fall from our Torrey Pine trees. And this time I found a pine nut that was split... I thought someone was tossing pistachio shells in my State Park. They're edible, not the shells, but the meat inside the shell. The Kumeyaay stoneground piñon, and chia, acorns, too, to cook and eat. And the pine needles can be woven into beautiful baskets. I wasn't thinking about any of this, sitting beneath the trees. I was still feeling shell-shocked by what we now recognize as a failed coup instigated by Trump, and supported by more than a few insiders at the Capitol. Between the rising death-toll of the pandemic, the long months of staying home, the still ongoing collision hassles, and my personal struggles with healing... no, I'll stop. I saw these shapes and textures, and sat there, appreciating their look, their feel, and very much wanting to feel better, wanting to move forward, to grow.

Here is one of the native plants I added to the front garden, beneath those two Torrey Pines. It's sage, white sage, and for some of us it is sacred. My Mother showed me where it grew, how to recognize it, use it, appreciate it. It's a plant that I connect with my childhood, with good memories, and good places. For as long as I can remember I have had some around my home, around my fondest recollections. To have it growing in our own garden makes me feel happy, lucky. I am so eager for this plant to grow, and thrive. I will still visit the California foothills and mountains, and hope to bring the fragrance home with me, brushed on my skirt, swept on my open hands as I walk the trails, but I look forward to using what I grow, what I tend and protect, at home.
Look at Heidi. She's the one that looks like a big pigeon. She's such a sweetheart. Next to her is Pepper, our Silver-laced Wyandotte, who was once a chicken run bully, but has mellowed with age. I have to remind myself that it's only since late summer that we have the five new hens, Heidi, Willow, Dolly, SweetPea, and Thistle. Last spring, and getting our new chicks, Ventura, Maya, Puanani, Penelope, and Lucia, feels like ages ago! Now they all, mostly, mix and mingle, and display their unique personalities. Thistle, for instance, still likes to hop on my back or shoulders, so does SweetPea.
Speedy delivery! The first career I ever imagined for myself was to clean windshields at a gas station. I was six. It seemed like an ideal occupation, and I even figured out I’d need to bring a step ladder. Now I’m all grown up, and I want to deliver packages, be a travel blogger for imaginary trips, and operate a skating rink & movie theater.
In the hopes of shaking off the weight of worry and shock, of the things I cannot control, I am starting over, again? once more? Again, and once more... new lists, new goals, new hope, new plans, new determination. In the midst of the holidays, I ordered a journal my friend Susie published, and I admit I was thinking it would be a nice gift, and I liked the art, but I didn't pay too close attention to the theme. Well, it came, and I set it aside and promptly forgot about it, but that, it turns out was for the best, because it's a perfect gift, for me, now. From BoyGirl Party, "Growth," a journal to welcome personal change. Perfect. Timely. Welcome. Much needed. I cracked it open two days ago, and dismissed my aversion to ruining beautiful blank pages, by begininng. I wrote my name, added the date, turned the pages, and went right into responding to the prompts, making goals, reflecting, writing notes... starting over, for growth. Susie Ghahremani's book is turning out to be an ideal blend of open spaces for my own ideas and processing, and structured pages with quotes to inspire, prompts to guide, suggestions to motivate. The journal matches my readiness to receive guidance and structure, to make myself accountable, and simply start over. And I do mean simple. I am not aiming super high, not initially. Where it said, "Make a commitment here," I wrote, "Take down the Christmas tree." That was it. Just one thing, overdue, and basic. Furthermore, I gave myself stars and triumphant horns blaring when I got it done. This morning? Make the bed. I changed the sheets, and have laundry going, and I was very thorough and mindful, but it's a pretty simple accomplishment. More stars for me!
Feynman helped me make the bed, then Cairo came to give it his approval.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Remedies


There is a particular headache that came with the collision, a pain that persisted for months, and now shows up a few times a month, or after any prolonged time getting things done. It takes a heating pad, rest, sometimes an Ibuprofen, often just lots of time, to get the pain, the tightness, to retreat. It intimidates and depresses me, because I know that sometimes, if I can't rest, or find a remedy, it leads to my neck, shoulder and arm locking up, very painfully. I still can't turn my head fully left, but the headache is the first sign of worse to come, and I dread it

Yesterday, I needed remedies. To tackle the headache, I started with drinking more water, hydrating. Then I tried slow, deep stretches... my neck, my back. I took deep, slow breaths, closed my eyes. Not doing it. So I made a cup of tea, and thought about how I love the warmth, the cup between my hands, the steam, the mild sweetness, and familiar taste. I took deep, slow breaths, closed my eyes. Geoff convinced me to take a nap, take an Advil. So I went upstairs, stared at my bed, and felt a little defeated about crawling into it at midday. I opened the door to the balcony, and noted that the air was warm, the temperature of ease and comfort. It might feel like less of a deafeat if I napped on the balcony, I reasoned. I gathered more remedies around me... my atlas and bicyle notebook, more pillows, the tea, even a cat. I set up Audible to read aloud a sleepy story for 15 minutes, and I settled in, hopeful.
An hour later, with no relief, I decided to turn to my feathered therapists. Admittedly, I can't always tell what they are advising, but I am pretty sure they prescribed movement, sunlight, and distraction. This seemed reasonable enough, so I invited the goats to come out, too, because they provide plenty of distraction and humor.
Some remedies are a bit circuitous. But I appreciate that hearing the delirious squawk of happy hens makes me happy, and watching them settle into dust baths, foraging, and ambling merrily across the lawn brings me empathic bliss, and thankfulness. The goats provide an odd kind of comic relief, and they do "bad" things, but mild, innocent bad things, and it's oddly consoling, satisfying to face issues and troubles that can be addressed and managed. I can't fix the myriad problems in the world, but I can stop the goats from eating the bellpeppers. Success! I still have the headache, but I am laughing, feeling appreciative, amused, distracted. A kind of success!
I decided to fulfill a wish, a vision... to watch the goats visit the stone steps up to the deck. (If I could get a dozen or so large rocks, small boulders, in our garden, for them to climb and play around... that would be phenonmenal goodness.) Geoff was up there, making structural improvements to the benches. Come on, Goats! But the shy goats were hesitant, so I went into the pantry to get their favorite bribe. I keep a bag of Trader Joes Flaxseed & Veggie corn chips just for them. They will follow me anywhere for chips, or licorice. So, really I should call the chips a headache remedy, too.
The headache didnt retreat until overnight. It turns out time was the most effective remedy, well time, and chips and goats and chickens, and tea, an ibuprofen, a nap, an atlas, the pillows, a bike ride, chatting in the driveway, and laughing.

Friday, January 08, 2021

My Very Big Adventure


Here is the day I reached 2,000 miles riding a bicycle.
It took about 18 months, and frequently recommitting to be very, very brave. To get me out there took Geoff being persuasive, a bit insistent, very consistent, and patient, which in the first 9 months I responded to with fear, doubt, firm refusal, petulant participation, reluctant acceptance, and intermittent panic. I remember the first time I wanted to ride... really felt voluntarily eager and willing, and it was at night, last spring. Owls were hooting, bats were flitting, the neighborhood, that had been steadily filling with joggers, and walkers, and newborn athletes stuck in lockdown, was finally quiet, and I really wanted to get out of the house. It was exhilerating, terrifying, bliss. It made me squeal from the cold air rushing against my unmasked face, from feeling like I was riding on the edge of the world, with only my headlight to light a narrow way, and everywhere else darkness, shadows, silhouettes of spindly branches. The familiar homes and turns were turned strange, and the streets were wide and empty. I rode fast and laughed aloud, spiritedly. I am still trying to figure out why, when I am scared to frozen of falling, of being hit, of losing control, of sirens, of having flashbacks, of being struck by a panic attack... why do I love riding at night? It's scarier at night, sort of. I ride faster at night, a bit. I feel freer at night, and in spring, I knew where we would hear the frogs singing, when to look up and see bats. At night there are fewer people, fewer cars. More than once I rode down the middle of the street, and it felt like I was riding down a river, like trailing a silk ribbon in moonlight and above me an owl was leading the way, flying overhead, up the river, between the rows of tree tops. Owls in flight remind me of snow, because they both make a beautiful, audible silence.

It takes two, opposite and essential, processes for me to manage riding... I need to maintain absolute focus on everything, the traffic, the possible traffic, and the hypothetical traffic, and I need to not get scared, anxious, confused, too comfortable, nor uncomfortable. I am holding space for a lot, and a lot of it are conditions or states of being that are seemingly diametrically opposed. The best part of riding is when I forget everything, when I want to pedal harder, and sing aloud, and love the ride, and that is always when I am snapped back into total recall of being struck head-on by a drunk driver, and my brain and fear seize control, remind me of all the perils, all the risks, and consequences of being at ease, happy. I promise, I don't actually dwell on this. I have done many, many things trying to forget, or manage, overcome, heal, move forward. Maybe, if I write it down, if I say it aloud, I can make sense of it, demystify or dismantle it. As it is, it, the panic and other ill-effects, show up uninvited, unexpected, and I don't know how to make it stop. I guess this is why I am kind of, completely, actually, amazed that I have ridden over 2,000 miles, because it hasn't been easy.

It hasn't be easy, but I like it. I like riding my bicycle. I like feeling stronger. I like smelling all the good dinners cooking in the homes we ride by, homes that are lit in the evenings with soft, warm lights, flickering televisions. I like bringing home limes from the neighbor, finding pinecones I can load in my basket, dropping off surprises. I like seeing holiday decorations going up, and watching children play in front of their homes, and waving at neighbors, meeting new friends, noticing the sunset, the newly painted house, the dogs that are out, the cats in windows, or darting across the street. I like going passed our house, back and forth, until the odometer hits 10.0 miles, or 12, or 20, riding down our driveway, and then Geoff and I groan dramatically as we step off our bikes and laugh about our sore butts. I like my bicycle bell, and my bicycle light, and how cold I get, and how nice that feels in summer, being cold. And I really like imagining that I am going somewhere, like a real athlete, a daring adventurer.

It was fun to start sharing my daydream schemes with Geoff... to pretend that I am riding somewhere distant. I enjoyed revealing all the many details I was working out, and looking for him to confirm that it wasn't silly. Maybe it is a little silly. I am more and more an advocate, an activist, for silly, for idealism and make-believe, for imagination, and play. The more I dare, the better it gets. So, what began as imagining riding to the market and carrying home groceries, grew to pretending that a twenty mile ride wasn't just loops around the neighborhood, but that I'd reached a county park, was getting close to the foothills of the mountains, I could soon reach a cabin in the woods. I could bring a picnic, a small tent. I could reserve a cabin, and go further the next day, then the next. And I started tracking my miles, and asking where could I be today? Then I really leveled up, by taking notes, bringing out an atlas, and envisioning an itinerary. I know, I wrote all about this, already. But. Ah, it's so much fun! I am having so much fun... thinking about train schedules, and riding my bicycle through the redwoods, along rivers, into favorite towns, to see friends, and up to my Mom's front door. Sometimes, even in this perfect make-believe scenario I begin to worry, to what-if, then I think, calmly... it's no problem. Rent a car, take a ferry, use the electric assist, visit a spa, find a quieter route. Every problem has a solution, often a very comforting or appealing solution, in a make-believe adventure.

Planning the imaginary bicycle adventure between my home to my Mom's home in Oregon was easy. I found a lot of enjoyment in mapping familiar routes, then opting for some new directions, like getting to Mendocino. Then, just outside of Salem, I was hesitating. Which way? I'm headed for Portland, but what's the best route, what do I want to not miss? This is when I posted to Instagram, an appeal for guidance, an invitation for anyone to play along with me. And then it got really fun. A sister-in-law of a friend (we haven't met, yet) gave practical advice, and made excellent suggestions. So, on a make-believe bike ride, to real places, I will be hypothetically dropping by her parent's home, "during happy hour, they love company." I can't wait.

So far, my only regret is not starting this in a larger notebook, but I am undaunted! Sometimes, I get on a train, or a ferry. Sometimes, I will probably skip the plan, and head in another direction. The final destination keeps moving, first Portland, then Boston, Michael Colletta added Paris, Rome, Ruth hopes we will ride in Hawaii, and Kristy wants to join the ride from somewhere in Northern California. Maybe there isn't a final destination. I hope more friends will ride along, or suggest good sights, ideal stops. I'd like to drop by, and I won't be any bother. Last week I used all of my accumulated miles and (not counting miles on trains or driving) I can get to Laura and Gary's place, in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. But then, I decided on extending my time on the Empire Builder, between Seattle and St Paul, getting off and on again for Glacier. My notebook is a mess. That's alright. I think, when I start booking hotels, and pitching tents, when I stop at State Parks, or visit with friends, then I will need a bigger, notebook... a journal, with pockets for pamphlets, and postcards, space for pictures. This first round of planning is figurative (it's all figurative) but soon I hope to deepen the vision, the research. In the next, more immersive level, I want to think about places to stop for lunch, what I could for a flat tire, or find pictures from the deck of a ferry going to San Juan Island. I want to read the timetable for catching a ride to Prince Edward Island. I want to pack. Will I try to bring every last imaginable thing I might need, or simply a toothbrush, change of underwear, and my imaginary platinum card? Some of this, if I must be honest, is entirely impractical, and that doesn't matter one bit. On this adventure I can be bold and nothing has to out of the question.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Wild Precious Life

First, with this accurate and inspired art, found through Joy-Ann Reid I am going to give Thanks. Thank you, Stacey Abrams, and Fair Fight, for vision, persistence, eloquence, and the good trouble you have lead, inspired, stood for. In our home you are admired, supported, and appreciated, and it's your grace with fortitude that comes to mind when I am disheartened, discouraged, and I determine to push through. Thank you for having courage, vision, and resolve to do the hard work that may save our democracy. Our day, yesterday, began as a celebration of what you helped achieve: The election of Reverend Raphael Warnock... United States senator-elect Warnock! And the election of senator-elect Jon Ossoff. This was no small feat. And we cannot lose sight of the significance of this historic moment. We can, and will celebrate!

We also must not lose sight of another significant happening... an act of terror, of treason, and treachery against the United States of America incited by the 45th president and carried out by his supporters. It was carried out in broad daylight, televised, broadcast, Tweeted, boldly displayed, flouted, for all the world to see. Yesterday, spurred by Trump, the mob was met, as usual, with almost passive resistence, allowed entry, there were selfies, it was like a safe space for white people and their hate, vandalism, and crimes, for Trump's people. Today, some people are refuting what we saw, rewriting the narrative, lying about what happened and who is responsible. We cannot, we will not, let the terrorists, the armchair racists, and conspiracy addled citizenery cover this up, whitewash it! It wasn't antifa. It wasn't BLM. It wasn't unfortunate, or a protest, concerned citizens. And it sure as hell was not "very special" people who climbed the walls, broke into the capitol, intimidated security, terrorized lawmakers, looted, and literally professed, "We're storming the capitol, it's a revolution." No take-backs on that statement, and no down playing nor putting spin on the man who has been at the helm of lies, hate, and treason, all along. Impeach this pos potus. And arrest the terrorists that can't get over losing the Civil War, nor the 2020 presidential election. Dan Rather, "To my colleagues in the press. Words matter. Do not use euphemisms to explain away what we all saw yesterday. This was an attempt to undermine American democracy by a defeated president of the United States. This was an insurrection, domestic terrorism, an attempted coup."

There is so much more to address, to be mindful of, and concerned about. When I consider the number of people I personally know that espouse Q conspiracy, that rally around Trump, that believe he is a Christian, that foment hate, and confuse skepticism with critical thinking... it's clear enough we are a long way from things settling down and even further from seeing justice prevail.

I am tired, sad, angry. I admit, the racism I have met, all of my life, has been something I can deal with, something we learn to avoid, or deflect, or confront, or manage. But racism is there, for me, for my children, for friends, for my ancestors, and it's wrong, it takes a toll, and it makes me feel more empathy, more anger, and grief, for everyone that cannot walk away, overcome, be "all right." It makes me scared, too, because the hate is escalating, and where will it stop? Rev. Jacqui Lewis's words resonate with me, "So damn tired of living in a country that treats Black grief as a threat, and white rage as a sacrament," as do these words of care, and wisdom from Terence Lester, "If you are a person of color, make sure you protect yourself from racial trauma. Turn off the news. Self care. Hold close those around you." I am frequently second-guessing whether or not to share pictures of flowers, of chickens, of my success, of my proud achievements, or even the things I struggle with... I don't want to appear to be indifferent to hardships, or as if I am unaware of the struggles and injustices going on. But I am beginning to appreciate that living my good life, celebrating our joy, protecting my joy... these are not only a gift, but they should be honored, and I don't owe anyone an explanation, or justification (which, I realize I am doing now... trying to explain and validate why I am about to share pictures of eggs and goats, and justify my eagerness to retreat and recover from news, from anxious fears and anticipating what next?) Here I am... an Idigenous, Latina woman, a blogger, and mentor, an advocate for children with Autism, a daughter of an immigrant, a pocha, a girl too dark to be white, too güera to be de aqui. Here I am, still trying to feel like I belong, still feeling the need to explain who I am, why I might be welcome here, or there... and I want to enjoy my blog, share my happiness, show and tell my own, unique stories, and rest, too. And be angry, then joyful, and be seen, be included, even left alone. Isn't it odd, or ridiculous, that I still don't feel in touch or comfortable, natural about holding my own space? Maybe someone else struggles, too. Maybe we can talk about that, maybe I will grow, heal, and be comfortable in my own skin, and stop apologizing, just hold close those around me, be protected from trauma, and let my joy be a sacrament.

Maybe it's time to make my birthday cake, and imagine beautiful places, travel, and think of good things to do, like bicycling around the world, and twirling in pretty dresses. Maybe I only need reminding that I belong here, where we've built robots and flower beds, and hosted celebrations for the sun, and stars, and been thankful, mindful, inspired by books, and ideas. Otherwise, I am at risk of wasting something good.

The Journey

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice–

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.

–Mary Oliver

Poem 133: The Summer Day

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean—

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver