Category Archives: democracy

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).

Villages and lies

There has been something compensatory, soothing even, hand stitching on two village quilts while listening to the Kavanaugh hearings.

But perhaps not compensatory enough. I felt sick last night while going to sleep. Worried about it a little. It is the first time since November 2016 where I truly thought I might need to stay away from the news for a while.

The gasbags of the patriarchy, otherwise known as the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, were no easy listen. I’ve tweeted, posted on FB, talked with friends, texted and DM’d in real time. Thank goodness for those connections. That humor. That shared outrage.

But this morning, waking to the first sun in ages, I’m typed out about it all. Here are a few highlights.

(Well, certainly not a “quarters game”).




It was a good week to send my first 20 postcards to voters.

Enjoy your weekend, all. Today is a day to get out in the fall air with K and the dog. Tomorrow we’re seeing a play called “The Niceties.”

The way a narrative can change

So, that I lose things is well known. Recently, it was a blue plastic dog grooming glove. PFFFT – just vanished.

I’d bought it at the behest of Infiltration Advertisement and I loved it! The ads were true! It pulled off fur super effectively while offering the dog a calming petting session. Since Finn is shedding the equivalent of an entire vacuum canister of fur per floor per day, I was thrilled.

I’d last used the glove outside. It was a pleasure to watch the fur float in clumps toward the street, knowing it wouldn’t be gathering along the base of the bookcases or at the bottom of the stairs.

That was before the weekend. I spent Saturday and Sunday looking for it. Had I dropped the glove in the garage, perhaps? Had it joined a coterie of gardening gloves near the back door – a place it likes to socialize now and then? No. And no. It wasn’t in the mudroom or near the side door, either, where other dog things are.

I kept looking out at the front lawn. Hadn’t I, in fact, left it outside?

On our Wednesday walk, to my utter astonishment, I found the very distinctive glove on the road around the block and down the street a little.

It was baffling.

When I found another pair of gloves a few yards away, I thought, “maybe not so weird?” but really — still weird. And then a dead squirrel caught my attention.

Still enfurred, but with skeleton exposed — was it a victim of a car accident or an attack?

Finn and I continued on. Coming back up Daniel Street, Finn was eager and curious about the telephone pole in front of The Ocher House. It didn’t seem that unusual — after all, dogs spend a good portion of every walk taking a rigorous smell inventory.

But then I found out otherwise. Pausing to talk the occupant of The Ocher House, a man I’ve never before spoken to in spite of being neighbors for over 25 years, I offered, “Too bad about the pine.” This was in reference to the recent loss of a majestic 40′ spruce after the house next door changed hands.

He was philosophical, “Yeah we were bummed, but then realized it could’ve been worse. Developers could’ve bought the place, torn it down, and built a McMansion.” Such things are not unusual around here. I then shared how my disappointment about the loss of two neighboring mature oaks had turned into gratitude now that we’d been able to plant a beautiful pine in that corner.

And then, it got interesting.

“I noticed your dog sniffing around the telephone pole,” he began. “Coyotes killed our cat there a couple of nights ago.” Turns out, he’s been tracking their movements for years. Recommended I not walk without a large stick, “or at the very least, an umbrella.”

“Ive seen them too,” I said, but then noted how they don’t come in our yard because of a four foot fence. “Not that they couldn’t jump it. They just don’t.”

Tiring of the coyotes tracking through his backyard, my neighbor had a four foot fence installed along the rear lot line. He described how this actually may’ve contributed to his cat’s demise, because it foreclosed some of her hiding spots.

You could spend a lifetime worrying about unintended consequences. My most recent and morbid version — imagining flying C from California to help his brother in Colorado move next month, only to have both of them die in a car accident. (DAMN YOU JOHN IRVING! See, ‘A Widow for One Year’).

Please don’t worry about me. But these next two morbid thoughts will bring us closer to connecting coyotes, dead squirrels, and Helsinki.

One, I sometimes worry in an abstract and almost self-pitying kind of way that I might not live long enough to meet my grandchildren. Two, I also sometimes worry in an eager and tense sort of way that I might not live long enough to see the full results of the Mueller investigation.

Because I am on the edge of my seat. Trust me!

Here’s what I concluded after my neighbor’s testimony: coyotes strolled through my front yard, smelled Finn on the shedding glove, mouthed it for a while, and carried it around the corner. At the prospect of killing a squirrel or nosing an already dead one, they dropped it in disinterest. Then, they perhaps dashed away at the sight of a cat down the block.

Just knowing what happened at that telephone pole in front of the Ocher House allowed me to construct a plausible narrative for an otherwise inexplicable finding (the glove on the road).

Barring obscene violence or successful anti-democratic acts (i.e. impeaching Rod Rosenstein), Robert Mueller will produce more indictments. There WILL be a report. Manafort’s two trials will take place. Flynn will be sentenced. Maria Butina’s going NOWHERE. Cohen has more tapes. We WILL hear them. Carter Page’s role, the Deustch Bank money, the Alfa Bank communications with Trump Tower, Kushner’s debt and pressure on Qatar, the involvement of the Saudis, Erik Prince and George Nadler, the money laundering Russian oligarchs — it will all come to light. The pee tapes are the least of it. A side show. But someday we’re gonna know a lot of what Mueller knows.

We know corrupt and craven acts took place. We know trump owes no allegiance to any one but himself. But someday we will better understand the whole destructive mess on a coherent time line. How the glove got around the corner and deposited in the middle of the road, in other words.

Mitch McConnell will go down in infamy. Paul Ryan will skunk away, never to reappear. Giuliani will shut up (well, maybe not). There will be such a run on orange poly-cotton blends!

Even though so MUCH is going down the tubes — civil liberties, environmental protections, the soy bean industry, consumer protections, necessary bank regulations, freedom of the press, the possibility of a non-partisan Supreme Court, allegiance to fact, voting rights, American diplomacy, alliances built after WWII and sustained for decades, national parks — I really, really do believe that at some point we will know what happened. Who, what, when and where.

When I learned about coyotes killing a neighbor’s cat, the strange misplacement of our blue glove suddenly made sense. Similarly, our special prosecutor and other attorneys are going to help us construct a narrative.

I can’t wait.

The River Lethe and Mercy

Lately, I’ve had an overwhelming and sometimes irresistible need to sleep — I’m calling it, “the Helsinki Reaction”.

Imagine my shock upon turning over in bed Sunday morning to see that it was 10:30. 10:30! And WITH A NEW YORK TIMES CROSSWORD PUZZLE on the stoop, no less. That was one thing, but then to polish off the puzzle WHILE DRINKING A CUP OF COFFEE and subsequently lie down and sleep some more?

(K. has the excuse of jet lag. I don’t).

Yesterday driving home from Salem in stop and start traffic with a hot summer sun blasting through the windshield, sleep arose as a weird and disturbing possibility. Oh, to close the eyes for just a second! Just a second. This, even with the AC going full tilt. This, even while listening to Pod Save America — a news podcast that I find addictively funny and informative. It’s not normal, this need for sleep.

Aside #1: Jon Favreau is my pod crush, what with that big, big brain of his and the charming space between his front teeth. A fellow fan warms to Tommy Vietor and though I’m less inclined toward blondes, I get it: all those clean cut good looks in a neat preppy package.

(I made it home and don’t worry I wasn’t really gonna fall asleep while driving).

I’ve ticked through the list: am I coming down with something? (no); is it the Sun traveling though my Twelfth House, triggering the Underworld corner of my Grand Cross (perhaps, but this is an annual event and one I often find energizing); could it be my thyroid? (alas, no– recently checked — which is too bad because it’d also account for a recent 15 lb weight gain); could it be the collision of the dew point and scorching temps? (well, maybe? but I’m mostly inside with AC). Wait, did you say ‘collision’? That’s getting close to the nub of it, I think.

When I turn to the Tarot, “Logic” comes up. Three times. Anyone who has a relationship with a deck knows this means: PAY ATTENTION. But Logic? Logic as answer to the question, what do I need, what can I lean on now for succor and strength?

I no longer view logic as mere sturdy upholder of truth and argument, but rather as a potent gateway to mercy and justice. I can thank former NAACP President and CEO, Cornell William Brooks, for that insight.

Aside #2: At the inception of the BLM movement, or to be more precise, at the time All Lives Matter rose up as a stupid and reactionary hashtag, Cornell Brooks made this elegant argument: If All Lives Matter, then perforce, Black Lives Matter (which is to say, if you believe that all lives matter, you should have absolutely zero problem with the assertion that black lives matter).  Conversely, if Black Lives DON’T Matter, then it cannot be true that All Lives Matter (so if you’re siding with “blue lives” at the expense of black lives, you don’t really believe that all lives matter). In the realm of illogic serving up racial animus, it also bears saying that believing in racial equity does not automatically make you anti-police. (I unfriended someone over that asinine argument).

Is this logic in service of Mercy or Justice?

Aside #3: A recent sharp edit by storyteller extraordinaire and generous beta reader, Deb Lacativa, brought this very question into focus. How are Mercy and Justice different? When are they the same?

To those who’d say, take up the arms of resistance to beat back your stupor, I say, not right this second. Did I mention: I want to go to sleep?

When I input my zip code into Swing Left’s ‘get involved’ page on Monday and New Hampshire came up, I thought, “NO! NO! Not going there again.” Getting high school students down the street registered sounds more like my speed especially because I don’t think my day of canvassing in the fall of 2016 made any difference at all, unless you count settling my conscience (which is not nothing and there’s no reason to assume that 2018 would be the same as 2016, but still… ) Post cards. I’ll write post cards. But only if someone hands me a list.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday’s Indivisible phone call, I listened to others’ laudable efforts — one networking with folks from Free Speech for People (drivers of #impeachdonaldtrumpnow on the basis of the emoluments clauses), another collaborating with Quakers on international measures protecting justice, and a third taking part in a celebration with a faith community that has housed and nurtured a family in sanctuary for a full year. This comparison is only to highlight how fucking tired I feel and not to otherwise feel bad about myself.

Okay, so could it be the dog? (Now you can tell me that I’m being ridiculous). But how restrictive a presence he is — making a trip to the beach difficult, causing a visit to my ailing father-in-law to require more planning than I have the wherewithal for right now, making even a trip to Macy’s in Framingham feel like it’s pushing it at times, for Christ’s sake. That I spend my dog-free hours on trips to Salem is just another indignity of that situation and puhleeze don’t get me going on that (yesterday was a difficult one).

Aside #4: It’s a wonder that a creature who imposes such regular restriction also offers salvation, for there I go, twice a day, out into the neighborhood, always the better for it. And later, there he is, modeling sleeping and relaxing as a Correct Way of Being. And, every time I stand at the cutting board, there are his liquid eyes, such attention affirming that we are connected, that he notices what I’m doing, and that he’s learned how to get stuff from me, all incredibly reassuring somehow, even as I’m also lambasting myself (just a little) for making a food beggar out of him.

So, it has to be the news. Of course, it’s the news. Even for this prolonged and shocking shit storm, the Helsinki Summit came as a drastic and soul-wrecking event.

Part II of this Lament: tomorrow. It’s all of a piece but this post is already too long. I promise it won’t just be about politics. Look for words about coyotes, unintended consequences, and how we construct narratives.

A screen grab from almost a year ago

PS The River Lethe is one of five rivers in Hades. Ten seconds of research produced this relevant passage:

“those who drink from it experience complete forgetfulness. Lethe is also the name of the Greek spirit of forgetfulness and oblivion.”

(picture above by Thomas Benjamin Kennington)