Category Archives: politics

Florida – Every Ash Wednesday from now til Death

This empathic piece of fiction was written in class this morning, the day following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. For the prompt, we were to select a postcard and I picked the one pictured above. I hope the recording isn’t too slow to load. I use video from my phone because to convert an iPhone audio requires a laborious trip through iTunes and a widget on WordPress which would cost me $13/month (?!!!). This time, I’ve written out the prompt-response as well. Virtually everything written here is made up and the fact that my imagined scene happens in a wintry clime ought to drive home that fact. That I can so easily render a scene like this speaks to the abysmal failure of our government to control guns.

 

Every Ash Wednesday from Now Til Death

Heather’s face made the front page. The ash mark more strike than dot, a face crunched in grief. A lost child. A lost child. Another headline. More bodies to count.

Bodies. Children. The teacher who dies saving a teenager or two. Even the sight, crisis over, of high school students filing out of the building with their hands up crushes the spirit.

This is who we are. This is it. Automatic rifles for everyone! Anyone! A soul-less party paralyzed by the Almighty NRA dollar. Let’s pray.

No really. Let’s pray. The profusion of lilies along the altar and lining the steps up to the altar sweeten the air to a sickening degree. The lovely trumpet shapes, the silky pure white, no defense against the death rot sure to come. To the petals, which will shrivel and brown in decline, to the child in the casket, who will shrivel and brown, and to the priest, and to each and everyone of us sitting there.

The priest comes out without his usual sturdy authority, climbing the lectern in a weary resistance. What shall he preach? That God has ways we know not? That He takes the good ones early? That faith will restore even them that despair.

Tilly and Glenda sit in front of me. They didn’t know Drew very well. I, not at all. The fact that I am separated by four or more degrees might make me feel an intruder were it not for the fact that the wreckage rained down by a hail of automatic bullets hit all of us, hit our entire high school body. While some, like Drew’s poor parents, pay a bigger and everlasting price, not a single parent of a child at the high school and not a single high school student emerged unscathed.

The priest clears his throat. Whimpers can be heard and choked sobs from up front.

“It is easy,” he says, “to have faith when the sun is shining. When the tidings are glad, how smooth the extension of our hands, one to the other. When our tables sag with bounty, it’s no challenge to acknowledge the bounty of Our Lord. But in times of darkness, when every message is soaked in tears or blood or both, that is when we are tested. That is when our faith must rise up and meet God’s mercy.”

I fought his every word, even as I was swept up in the intended goodness. It occurs to me that I cannot pinpoint when I stopped believing in God — or at least, in anything but a very remote Supreme Being, one that governs how molecules spin and bounce but has no message or care for any of us individually. How could believing in a God who lets senseless violence of this repetitive magnitude happen offer comfort?

We grieve for Drew. All the soccer games he will not play, the girls he will not tease or tempt, the glories of the flesh essentially unmet, the challenge of growing up, never to be confronted. Holidays for his family, ever after a nightmare. And, no doubt, there will be two excruciating anniversaries a year — the fixed one, February 14, Valentine’s Day, and the roving one, every Ash Wednesday from now ’til death.

What should Drew’s mother give up for Lent? What a hideous idea! Will she become a mother on the Grief Circuit, trying to effect political change? She might want to look at the blank page of Sandy Hook parents’ results before undertaking such a public and exhausting route.

Some parents will close their doors and lock them from the inside. Others will testify before Congress. Still others will go on as before, but hollowed out, a gutted replica of the life they were leading on Fat Tuesday. None of them will ever be the same.

The upstretched arms. The drape of satin embroidered with the old Catholic symbols. When did Drew last receive Communion, I wonder, and why on earth would it matter? Was it a source of contention in the household — one of many conflicts which will, in replay, seem so utterly inconsequential?

Is there any of us who can love our children so hard and so deeply that at this lily-sickened moment, there are no regrets?

Of course not. And anyone who suggests as much, I guarantee you will not be a parent, or at least, not a parent of teenagers.

By all counts, Drew was a good kid. Sam didn’t know him well — different circles and so on. But it was apparently only the usual and forgivable delinquencies — alcohol at parties (but never when driving), a little reefer now and then, a lot of enthusiasm for the school prank, and the usual amounts of contempt for certain teachers. He would’ve gone to college. Studied engineering or biological data collection. He would’ve fallen in love — perhaps for the second time, I don’t know. He’d have hunted for work, recycled, called Congress, made spaghetti. All the acts of a life gone dark.

“Christ be with you.”

“And also with you.”

I’m too far back to hear the words clearly. Murmurs only. Drew’s mother crosses herself, returns to her pew. Husband waiting for her. A non-believer.

Tilly turns and whispers to me, “It’s almost enough to make me consider going to Mass again.”

I mouth the words, “I know,” but I don’t know. Nothing can immunize against this loss. Nothing can fill the void it cracks open.

I’m surprised how many young people (friends of Drew’s) are receiving Communion. I would’ve thought they’d have fallen away already — the way each generation speeds up the progress of the former. In our generation, you went through the motions until college, where you went to Mass exactly once, never to return. Don’t kids these days refuse sooner? Maybe at the same time their recently Bar Mitzvahed friends stop going to temple?

We file out to crisp air and a pewter sky. People mill about, unsure how to be, unwilling yet to leave the group. But I don’t want to be standing awkwardly by when Drew’s parents emerge, so I head to my car, boot heels clunking on the cleared sidewalk in some sort of reassuring percussion — I’m alive. I’m alive. My sons are alive. Alive.

 

 

 

 

Fog

I woke up at 1:30 this morning still reeling from Maddow, wondering how a single couple — Murdoch and his ex-wife — could do so much damage. He with FoxNews and now she – a Chinese spy, perhaps? Targeting Kushner?

The fog feels fitting.

Today: more revisions and lunch out.

PS Make up brushes are wonderful cleaning tools for sewing machines, too.

PPS I’m going to post pix of “books to read in 2019” tomorrow. As a placeholder. I looked at Goodreads and it wasn’t as bad as remembered but still doesn’t draw me in. So forgive me while I figure this out.

Lament to writing prompt “burial”

These days, I could write a lament or a rant everyday (and some days, every hour). This one was a response to an in-class writing prompt on “things we bury”. At six minutes, it runs a little long (who do I think I am, anyway?). Tomorrow I’ll post the written version.

So just to place this in time. I wrote this four days after the Golden Globes and a few hours before learning about the “shithole countries” remark.

A couple caveats: the business about Oprah running for president is worthy of considered response. In this “Lament” there is merely a tossed off line about that. And though I’m sneering about the black gown business in this piece, I was actually moved and inspired by the solidarity expressed in the gesture.

Footnote: the Western referred to is “Godless“, starring Jeff Daniels and Michelle Dockery. Binge worthy Netflix viewing.

Apron strings


If there is something to sew on backwards, I’ll sew it on backwards. For this simple project, I lined one of the many woven rectangles lying around the studio to serve as an apron pocket and then stitched the waistband on the wrong side of the opening.

I thought I was so clever to simultaneously stitch the pocket to the apron and stitch the pocket turn-opening, thus making one line of machine stitching unnecessary.

Dismayed and generally averse to ripping out, I sewed the damn pocket shut and called it a day.  So much for feeling clever!

After a pause (the all important pause), I realized It wouldn’t be so bad to fix since I’d only have to rip out the length of the waistband. So I did. Opened up the pocket. Added some hand quilting.

For waistband Round Two, I used a contrasting geometric print instead of the same seer sucker as the apron. I like it a LOT better. The same yellow print lines the pocket.

To my mind, there is only one essential feature of an apron — it must have ties long enough to wrap around the waist and tie in front. That way, I can tuck the essential hand towel into the ties. A dish towel over-the-shoulder is a distant second for convenience.

Prefer 100% cotton, of course.

Pockets and bibs are features I don’t much mind but don’t seem to need, either.

Maybe the recipient of this apron will find good use for a roomy centered pocket. If not, it looks nice!

In case you’re wondering, I am also baking cookies, mailing packages, walking the dog, watching election results, emailing commissioners at the FCC, helping to plot my younger son’s next steps, and WRITING.

PS. Ninety inches (for this waist) affords enough length to tie the apron strings in front.

Nothing is simple

Such a crashing week of news. One terrible revelation after another. I am gritting my teeth waiting for this tax bill to pass. And that might not be the worst thing happening this week. The FCC. Tom Cotton? The hateful, incendiary retweets. Sexual assault wall to wall.

On a personal front, there was also disappointment: a work place slow down for one of my sons. Money and more money flowing out from here to there. Unsustainable.

Good news? Is there any? It could be that the writing is chugging along with a kind of sparking determination. I’m hard at switching the chapters told in third person close narrative to first person, did I say? There’s a lot behind that. Years of thought actually. And it’s happening with a kind of forward movement that is energizing. Lending coherence.

For years, writing the enslaved characters from first person seemed an impossibility. I built in some distance out of respect. I thought. Then it started to seem like cowardly avoidance. Respectful/Cowardly. Back and forth that went. The debate about Sofia Coppola’s remake of the Civil War movie “The Beguiled” (in which she wrote out the black character, thinking she wouldn’t do the character justice) was a tipping point.*

* the specific debate that was most compelling can be heard here on the podcast “still processing“.

Writing this after midnight.

Here, too is a link to It’s Crow Time blog, where Mo posted about my pennant’s progress for the “I Dream of a World Where Love is the Answer” project. How her summary and the comments uplifted! I want them handy for the next time I sail into the doldrums.

Today, I stitched more than twenty red beads onto the walnut-dyed covering cloth. They look beautiful.

Mouse droppings and global humanity

When you live in a 200 year old structure with a stone foundation, you share your life with mice.* It’s just a given. I draw the line when and if one of two things happen: I find teeth marks in the butter or I catch the smell of dead bodies.

Mice like pistachios, it turns out. Note to self: put the bowl of nuts away at night.

Weeks of catching whiffs of that distinctively fruity and repulsive stench of death got me going. There I was down in the basement sniffing at the joists and lifting up the sump pump well cover to stare down into its depths with a flashlight. Nada.

But this morning, my hound-like powers of detection pinpointed the source of the stench. It was coming from under the fridge. We pulled the appliance away from the wall to a horror show of dust and grime and mouse droppings, urine stains and yes, pistachio shells.

No dead bodies, though.

A thorough cleaning has not eradicated the smell. Could a few little grey corpses have slid along the undercarriage of the fridge when we pulled it from the wall?

Ugh. Now what?

Meanwhile, I’ve been piecing up a whimsy (when I should have been folding up the ironing board and putting some of my piles into closets to get ready for company).

But hey.

I’ve picked up our 15 pound organic, free range turkey from across town and stirred up the brine. And my apron is on and recipes located for candied yams and maybe? — a chocolate pie (others are bringing pumpkin and apple). Before I get to it, you might like to hear this.

Today’s Indivisible Group tele-call became dispirited with news regurgitation. We’d somehow strayed from the more usual constructive format of sharing possible action steps or venues for education. One member said, “I can’t take this. I get enough with the news. I’m going to sign off”.

I piped up that I completely understood but could she hang on a minute more if the talk turned positive? Then I shared about International Peace Day … about love being the answer and peace pins and peace leaves and about making peace a daily conversation. My voice shook, for some reason.

But here’s the thing — the tenor of our call was radically transformed. I have many of you to thank for that! I sent links to some of your websites to the group and to my own and for the first time wasn’t compartmentalizing political and artistic work. Until this morning, I hadn’t even realized I’d been doing that. It was liberating, somehow.

In that positive second half of the call, this event came up: starting on December 2 there will be a 24 hour global vigil for humanity. You have to register but it’s free and you can show up for any part of the 24 hours.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends! This week, love and food will be the answer — especially if that food is made with love.

P.S. I’ll take this moment to be grateful that most of my family doesn’t bother reading my blog (who says they should? but then again, why don’t they — at least once in a while?). With this post, it’s probably a good thing in terms of keeping their appetites for Thursday’s dinner!

*autocorrect turned my first attempt at typing “mice” to “love” … Does that mean even when dealing with a mouse infestation that love is the answer?

Wow and wow

First wow : I was the lucky winner of Deb Lacativa’s birthday lottery. My selection of “precious bits” and thread came in a crocheted pouch — didn’t expect that! I haven’t purchased any of Deb’s cloth in a long time (or much cloth at all these days) and I’ve never used the magic threads, so I’m psyched!

Whole worlds live in some of these scraps.

Using even a little bit of this fabric elevates a composition, so how luscious would it be to construct an entire house with them? Imagine!

The second wow : the weather. You cannot believe how the wind and rain swept through here last night. It pounded and blew with a furious insistence that seemed to express the mood of a nation anticipating the Mueller indictments. I couldn’t sleep, so I padded out in the downpour around midnight to clear the sewer grate, weirdly happy to be reminded of my mammalian place in this world. The elements. A bathrobe getting saturated. Then I made popcorn and watched TV until two. Distraction is something to feel grateful for as well. Nearly every square foot of the backyard has a fallen branch in it — some moderate-sized and some small, but everywhere!