There is an easy listening pop radio station in Albuquerque that began playing Christmas songs when the world shut down in March and they are still playing them, though now in late November it almost makes sense. Their logic was that Christmas songs make (some) people happy, so why not play them as everything we knew was changing and crumbling around us? While some may have found it comforting, I thought it was eery and creepy to come across Jingle Bells in June. Just more proof that nothing was ok. But, as the year of years continues on with one jaw dropping event after another, I can now appreciate that radio station’s logic, though I doubt this is what they meant- Make it weird! Because it is!
I was recently working on one of the few movies that has managed to get up and going here during Covid. Our costume shop was set up in an old theater, one in which I have seen numerous concerts and plays and that was operational until a couple of years ago. As I pushed racks of clothing through doors covered by weeds and over cardboard covered carpet in a lobby where theater goers used to sip water or wine during intermission, I thought about how quickly things can change. Outside the grounds are covered with abandoned sculptures, remnants of the art school it once was.
As Covid continues to surge in New Mexico, our Governor orders another lockdown similar to the one last spring. Just in time for Thanksgiving. Don’t travel, whatever you do. Don’t gather, please. Stay home. Wash your hands. Again. Ok. I concentrate on next year and the year after that and let this one be what it will be. Weird. Chicken instead of turkey.
During the G-20 Summit, going on now, our President joins for a few minutes but opts out of the Covid talks, preferring instead to golf, attempt to overthrow our democracy, and tweet. Again.
Covid piñatas are the hot ticket in Albuquerque. Hand made. Order in advance. Two week wait.
Nothing about this year is normal, whatever normal is. The good thing about that is I have never felt more flexible. I used to really really really want things to be the way I wanted them to be: they way they had always been and were “supposed” to be. That doesn’t leave much room for adventure and inevitable change. A woman on TV says she’ll be damned if Covid keeps her from cooking for the 20 she always cooks for. Such rigidity looks painful to me now and I feel sorry for her. It’s not that I don’t want to be with my family this Thanksgiving or that I don’t want the world to reopen so that some semblance of life as we know it can continue. But, because it can’t right now, I am going to make the best of it and I am definitely going to make it weird. Because it is.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Hold on to that light. We’ll get there.
Yet again I’m reminded about how much better it is for me to get up and DO rather than sit and FRET.
On January 20th, 2017, I flew to Washington DC to attend the Women’s March with my mom and sister. As our new President was sworn in, we wandered around the city and checked out a museum, getting ready for the March. Back home, friends were despondent, sitting and watching, fretting. But as we crammed into packed DC subway cars on the morning of January 21st and gathered to march with over 500,000 people, the mood was one of optimism and action. It was amazing.
It was in that spirit that in August I contacted my County Clerk to inquire about becoming a volunteer at the polls for the Election. I’d just sat through two weeks of political conventions and was tearing my hair out at home, wanting to do something, anything, but feeling stuck and helpless. After filling out an application, I received a call back and accepted a one month long, six day a week, minimum wage job. And now with one day left to go in early voting, it has been great! Though, as you can probably tell from my lack of posting, exhausting too; endless interactions, COVID safe practices, and a sort of herding of cats.
But, I love voting! I love helping people vote and I love clapping for first time voters (some who are quite elderly and some who have just turned 18). I love the seriousness with which the polling stations are run, the layers of protocol and ballot security not visible to the voters. And I really love watching the people.
I watch as an elderly woman tightens the mask on her husband’s face. They both wear almost identical polka dot tops, though I don’t think they intended to match. It just happens after so many decades of marriage.
A young man asks if there’s anything he can do because only after inserting his ballot into the tabulator does he realize he forgot to vote for President. He was saving it for last, though why I’m not sure. He looks like he might cry. I would if I were him.
Kids in their seventies bring parents in their nineties. Friends line up together to wait, pods six feet apart.
I make it my spiritual practice to be extra kind and courteous to those I assume (though obviously I don’t know), are voting for Trump. I usher anyone elderly or sick to the front of the line. I chit chat with most. People order us pizza and bring donuts. TV news crews set up in the parking lot daily. The days pass quickly.
We break records. Over 80% of the 2016 total have already voted in NM, with one more day to go until early voting ends.
It is truly inspiring! And again I remember how much better it is to take action than to worry and fret.
What to say when the suffering won’t cease, the sun disappears, quarantine turns into evacuation, loved ones who are too young to die do, and houses burn to the ground? I haven’t written in over a month because what can I say? These are examples from close loved ones, people I know and love and, though that shouldn’t matter, they have shaken me from the numbness of months of horrifying news stories, one after another, about strangers; also humans, also neighbors, also loved by so many.
I normally find comfort in the idea that this too shall pass; the fun, the grief, the awesome, the mundane. That phrase has helped me to get through the dark and to appreciate the good, as it is happening, understanding that it will shift and change, change being the one inevitable. But, into what? Somewhere in that aforementioned numbness was the idea that things would eventually go back to “normal” and I just had to wait it out. I knew normal wasn’t working for many, it was not sustainable, and that things had to change, I just thought it was farther down the road. I thought I could believe that and know that and continue on my merry way.
Those days are over.
How to find the beauty in the chaos? How to appreciate where we are instead of wishing it were different? How to completely reimagine the world we are becoming and use hope rather than fear as our north star? It is hard! A series of tiny steps on my end. Tiny little itty bitty baby steps. Every day.
A freak winter storm just blew through New Mexico and left the air clear and cool. Though another reminder of climate change, I am grateful for the relief from 98 degree days. I went for a walk this morning. Albuquerque, a city I so frequently defend and which gets a bad rap nationally, looked so pretty. Cactus about to bloom, a mural around the corner that is finally complete, and sunflowers poking over adobe walls. I felt almost guilty to be on such a beautiful walk.
Over the years when I learned about horrible events in history (pandemics, wars, depressions), I always pictured those times in stark black and white, like the textbook photos I’d seen. It never occurred to me that the horror wasn’t constant and that people still ate dinner, slept, laughed, and lived their lives as best they could, in color. Sunflowers still bloomed. It is only now that I realize in the midst of crazy and hardship, life continues on. Forward.
I want to think that we will look back on these days, on 2020, the way we look back on so many other difficult times but, I don’t know. Is this just the beginning? Will we look back and realize how good we had it, even now? This present moment too shall pass, with all of its beauty, color, and pain. That I know.
2020. A year without the demarcations of time, ritual, or routine. I fall into bed every night, exhausted and unsure why.
I got a haircut in June. Went camping at the end of July. Haven’t been to work on a film set since February.
No weddings, no graduations, no summer trips. Five months of days blending into weeks into months and the questions persist; Where does the time go, what have I done, and how can I be so exhausted?
I was startled to see and smell Hatch Green Chile being roasted as I drove near a downtown market in Albuquerque last week. That delicious smell is one I associate with back to school shopping, cooler nights, and the return of routine after a summer without. And here it is… a new (so far mostly virtual) school year, the return of the monsoons, and roasting Chile. The seasons do their thing, flowers bloom, vegetables grow, and nature carries on.
I find it hard to do the same. Too much time in my head, hanging with the what if’s and the uncertainty. This does nothing but lead to lethargic low grade panic and stress. With each passing week and month, the reality of my/our current predicament(s) sinks in a bit deeper and the hole in which I/we find ourselves needs that much bigger of a shovel.
I am attached to my productivity. Without my doing and achieving, who am I? Without a schedule, a routine, accomplishments, or the need for a calendar, what do I have to show for the past six months, or for myself?
And then I remember the antidote to my fear. Find the beauty, have gratitude, and look for the helpers. There are so many beautiful things happening in the midst of our chaos; new leaders using their voices for the first time, neighbors helping, and creativity bubbling. Find something you believe in and just do that. You don’t have to know or do anything else.
My house smells like bleach. Not because I’m cleaning, nor am I drinking it. I’ve reverted to my punky 12 year old self and to keep from screaming every time the news comes on, I’m writing an anything I can with a Clorox Bleach Pen.
I sometimes feel that my belief in the power of words, and of Democracy, is naive and will never lead to anything but yelling at the television and disappointment. But, I keep at it. I have faith that it and we can be better.
I believe in the power of words, of fashion, of voting, and of peaceful protest.
If nothing else, bleach is an outlet, a pillow to scream in, and one more small thing I can do, in addition to writing letters to voters through The Big Send and votefwd.org and donating financially what little I can. On January 20th, I want to be able to say that I did everything I could to preserve what’s left of our Democracy and to defeat the sociopathic baby now in charge.
So, until then, I’ll just be over here with my bleach stick, pen, envelopes, and stamps, researching guillotines and trying not to scream.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
“It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that, government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” -Gettysburg Address (Everett Copy) November 19, 1863
Listening. Reading. Processing. Not feeling the urge to write or to speak.
Yesterday I have the final of three Zoom poetry classes which I’d enrolled in back in May, back when the Pandemic was the headline, when we yearned to leave our houses but had no reason to because the world was still closed. In the month since, a new headline; this one turns out to be the bigger of the two stories, intrinsically linked to the first.
As I try to conjure that poem, several young men sit in the shade of a tree just outside my front door, on the other side of the property line I share with a church parking lot. They speak of gangs, prison, women, a kidnapping, fatherhood, and of being thirsty. One of them keeps breaking into song. I can’t help but listen as I try to write an epistle ( a poem written in the form of a letter. I didn’t know that word until yesterday). These are the real poets, I think.
On Monday night, a man is shot as he tries to topple a statue of the Spanish Conquistador Oñate in front of the Albuquerque Museum, nine blocks from my house. I hear the helicopters but don’t think too much about them, there have been so many lately. The man survives and the Mayor has the statue removed the next day.
Today it is hot and very smoky because of a fire burning in another state. This reminds me of the next crisis, the mother and father of them all, just around the corner. Actually not around the corner at all but sitting here on my porch with me in the hazy, yellow light. It smells like a camp fire. I water my garden and notice that the snails have eaten all of my peas.
A friend comes over for dinner and we sit outside, six feet apart. We laugh and eat and drink. What is normal any more? This is good. I smear brie on a piece of baguette and sip my margarita like concoction.
My world seems to have shrunk while at the same time my interconnectedness with the macro has become undeniable. Four months ago I flitted about, traveling, working, consuming, but paying little attention to the role I played in my neighbor’s health, to the fact that my airplane emissions contributed greatly to climate change, or to the privilege that allowed such flitting. In the world but not of it. I said I wanted to be more present, but spent much of my time deep in the future, planning and fretting.
And now that fretting has been turned on its head. Had someone knocked on the door on New Year’s Eve, maybe right around the time I finished writing about my word (vibrant) for the coming year and decade, and told me “Oh, by the way, let me tell you about 2020…” I would have stood mouth agape, unable to imagine.
But here we are; waking up to the parts we play within both our micro and macro worlds and to all of the ways those are inextricably linked.
Born in the late nineties and early 2000’s, your childhood and lives have been marked by September 11th, the birth of the iPhone, digital age, and social media, a recession, ongoing war, climate change, and the election of Trump. And, whether from college, high school, junior high or elementary school, you now find yourselves graduating in the midst of a pandemic and in a time unlike anything the world can remember. Full of promise, looking out at what can only be described as a fairly bleak and grim landscape, here you are. So, a bit of advice from an almost middle aged adult looking at her own life and telling herself the same.
Always take the trip. Choose the adventure. Buy the ticket. I’ve only ever regretted the trips I didn’t take.
Hug your parents, when you can.
Appreciate the good times as they are happening. Look up from your phones and devices. Moments of happiness are not the beginning of ongoing happiness, they are happiness and it is happening right now. It will pass and then come again. Don’t miss it*
*Always remember that this too shall pass (the good and the bad).
Realize no one knows what is going on. You have just as much ability to become one of the “adults in the room” as anyone else does if you put your mind to it. Let this motivate rather than scare you.
Find a hobby that feeds your soul. You never know when you will be locked in your house for nine weeks and need something that is fun, creative, or relaxing to fall back on.
Let go of the “rules” of how you thought it would be or how it should look. This is one that most people seem to finally realize in middle age, but the sooner you get there, the better for you!
Literally never take anything for granted ever, it could all change in the blink of an eye. Haircuts, toilet paper, child care, visits with family, nights out with friends, cozy restaurants, pedicures, school days, employment, sporting events, handshakes, dancing at concerts, graduation ceremonies, vacations, your health, having anything feel casual and relaxed, going to the movies, parades, amusement parks, swimming pools, job markets, saving accounts, museums, air travel………
My wish for you is that you see the beauty found here and now, as it unfolds, and appreciate it as it does; that your generation will never take anything for granted, always remembering how quickly everything can change; and that you never forget, even as you strive to move forward and upward in your own lives, how interconnected we all are.
I have faith in your generation and that the trials you have been given as young people and children will only serve to grow your creativity, compassion, motivation, ingenuity, and empathy. I’m sorry that previous generations are just learning these lessons now.
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“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”