Category Archives: democracy

At 3:00 am

When I rise in the early hours, I love to look out the window on my way downstairs. It’s quiet out there. Dark. Unlike a sunshine shadow, a streetlight shadow carries an air of mystery and force, as if it might unhitch itself from its creator (in this case a bent maple branch) and walk off — probably to work mischief somewhere.

Last night sleeplessness might’ve been caused by an unshakeable sense of unease about not going up to Salem this weekend (a feeling my sister graciously dispelled this morning). Or, it might’ve been the bombshell NYTimes reporting late yesterday about our president being under surveillance as a national security risk (which sounds like the same old same old but certainly isn’t).

But mostly, it’s this body I inhabit, this time of life. Sleep just doesn’t come sometimes.

After reading twitter and watching Maddow, I finished reading this debut novel in the wee hours. Tommy Orange graduated from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts and is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.

One of the characters tells us early on that Gertrude Stein grew up in Oakland, the novel’s setting, and upon her return after being away for many years, said (in her inimitable style): “There is no there there.”

When those words are quoted by a white gentrifier in passing to one of the Native characters (who is both Indian and native to Oakland), it takes on the weight of history. “There is no there there” could be the catch phrase for genocide. The Oakland Native character is well read enough to know, too, that Stein used the phrase to describe change and not really to say something about the place itself and so the remark is both insulting and ignorant. That gives you a feel for the book’s themes and occupations.

The novel is haunting, sad (really sad), and at times funny. Family is central. There are parents who vanish and parents who are doing the best they can but falling far short of the mark. There are the lingering scars of a devastating history. In one review, Orange said, “We are the memories we don’t remember.”* The book’s main and final event, a first-time powwow in Oakland, provides a canvas to explore a range of relationships to Indian culture — from celebratory to ambivalent to predatory.

There were a lot of characters to keep track of, so this novel would benefit from a second read. By the time of the denouement, I had trouble remembering who everyone was which makes me think this story would make a better movie than novel.

But it’s a good novel.

* NYTimes review by Colm Toibin.

Pages turning

Ran to the store near the lions to get my new calendar. Does that make the new year official?

Yesterday, some of us stood on the corner near Rep Kennedy’s office. I dashed off to writing class, late, while others met with our rep. Does that make the new political season official?

Also yesterday: Pelosi was sworn in as Speaker of the House, ushering in a season of HOPE and accountability.

(Year-end review produced this gratitude-soaked realization: I’ve needed no major dental work for the last two years. Ahhhh!)

Time to get back at it. It’s easier to pick up the needle than the pen, but both are in hand again.

Reading for the new year will be facilitated by the generosity of others. I’ve devoured three from this glorious pile already.

Cornball meets irony?

OMG. The Hallmark movie producer must’ve said to scriptwriter: Get racy! Because instead of the usual egg nog or ubiquitous cocoa, the obvious couple-to-be drank wine! And instead of our heroine being a Gold Star Widow or a widow whose husband died on Christmas Eve or the single sister of a veteran serving overseas or the big city career gal in relationship with a chump who narrowly but conspicuously misses being handsome and who fails to appreciate either the spirit of Christmas or small town values (said spirit and values being interchangeable in the Hallmark universe), she was — gasp— divorced.

But we had many of the usuals: big toothed child fervently wishing for her parent’s happiness, the small town with over the top decorations, small town and better beau lining up so that to choose one is to choose the other, the town festival in jeopardy.

(Yes, I created Hallmark Christmas Movie Bingo — don’t judge!)

And don’t ask how it all came out. As much as I keep recording these narrowly disguised Christian homilies and watching them the way one might a road side accident (curiosity, horror, but also irony), I also take inordinate satisfaction in hitting “delete” halfway through.

My excuse? The same one I use for not sleeping well and to explain a rather pernicious inclination toward gloom: the news. What else?

But wasn’t yesterday an exciting one? It was one of those days where I broke down and watched CNN (I’m more of an MSNBC gal).

We now have Trump, his family, and his campaign gathering dirt on HRC from Russia while actively pursuing a business deal in Moscow and lying about it. “Where I come from, that’s collusion.”

Eric Swallwell

Gloomy Sunday

Oh but look what awaits on the glossy sidewalk.

Blue for the NYTimes. Translucent for The Boston Globe. There will be a fire again, postcardstovoters scribbled, and a roast chicken for dinner.

During yesterday’s hours in the studio, two old pieces caught my eye. I may work on them some today, too.

Happy Sunday, wherever you are.

Collaging to the news

Soul Collage, when you listen to back podcasts of the news, can’t help but feature the vulnerable.

This next one came in response to a story that keeps coming back, not unlike a virulent STD. I’ve included a close up to make the reference clear, but since the script is still small, let me tell you. After one line, find penned two words, “altar boys.”

And because Halloween is about a week away, this next one.

I also spent a considerable amount of time clearing about six square feet of floor. Wish there was a “before” picture but you’ll just have to take my word for it. The recycling bin will be full this week.

Question: what are you guys doing to stay sane in these last days leading up to the midterms? I’ve got my weekly call with my Indivisible group and postcards. Tomorrow a friend and I will hit 200.

A fire is nice, too.

Solace and tyranny

It seems a lifetime ago now but recently I was lucky enough to wander through the Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon. In a trip replete with beauty, this ranked right near the top. Never have I been in a crowded public space that was so serene. That speaks volumes about the healing power of trees and plants and beautiful design. Enjoy the pictures.

That’s all – unless you’re interested in two memories.

One: It was my first year of law school. Constitutional Law. I raised my hand (something I didn’t do much) and asserted that I wished Roe v Wade was better decided. There might have been gasps. This was a Jesuit school after all and I had a reputation already — the Women’s Law Center, etc. But what I meant was simple. I didn’t like how vulnerable the holding was because it relied on the fundamental right to privacy under the Bill of Rights (particularly open to attack by strict constructionists like Kavanaugh). Furthermore (even then), the holding was on a collision course with medical science, as interventions continued to push the date of viability earlier and earlier in pregnancy.

Two. It’s a panel with Ram Dass and Marilyn Ferguson. He: a Buddhist, she: a radical Christian. I think the topic was climate change. She offered her passionate hope that we get it together in time. He said, why should it matter to me that humans continue?

Or words to that affect. Omega Institute.

I’m not laying aside my rage or activism (such as it is), but here we are — entering what by all counts appears to be a period of misogynistic tyranny.

Taking Ferguson’s position, I say: we will need strategy, devious adaptation, and each other.

Taking Ram Dass’s position: get used to it. This is how it is now. (Different from non-attachment, I know– but also miles from the passionate hope for social justice and sensible government).