Sunday, November 27, 2016

EXTREMISM



I vow to fight off EXTREMISM with quiet isolation. I will take vaccines of turned off screens and paper books, newspapers, magazines, conversations, dirt, grass and the company of oak, pine and maple trees. I will not allow the Internet to infect my mind, mouth and ears. For it is a deafening disease, EXTREMISM. I capitalize the letters to show you how big and scary it is. EXTREMISM makes it nearly impossible to think for oneself; let alone to empathize with others. It doesn’t allow conversation, but yelling with covered ears. It is seeking for same and destroying, humiliating and denying anyone different. EXTREMISM is growing, spreading rapidly. The widespread World Wide Web, I think, is partially to be blame. For EXTREMISM is quite contagious. It spreads by rhetoric but hides inside stories and ideas and opinions. They convince and collect believers by the billions. And what happens when one clan of EXTREMISM attacks an opposing clan of EXTREMISM? I fear the answer is war. Because if no one is listening to the shouting, then both sides will seek to silence their rivals with bullets, cannonballs and atomic bombs. So please, be wary. Don’t believe everything you read, hear or say.









Thursday, November 17, 2016

To Baby,

Your newest word is happy.  You keep saying it, aaaPeee. That's how it sounds.  It feels like a sign from God or my heart or the whole universe - because while it is an important word, it isn't a common one in our house. So it feels like you or something or everything is telling me: Be it. Go ahead, be happy. I know it isn't always easy, but as best you can, be happy. 

Well, that's easier said than done, baby, for you don't know it yet, but the world is a frightening unpredictable place and I can't figure out how to fix it. I'm sorry. Once you were born, I tried. I did everything I could, but I've been completely unsuccessful. I haven't been able to eliminate nuclear weapons. Nor am I able to adopt all the wandering, homeless refugees. I can't feed all the hungry people either...not even just the starving children. And I tried, I swear I did, but I couldn't pick all the plastic out of the oceans nor could I rub all the pesticides off the produce. I couldn't blow all the smog away either. I couldn't save the rain forests or the rhinos or the honeybees or the children in Aleppo. I couldn't cool the atmosphere or end bigotry, racism, homophobia or bullying. I can't even convince anyone of anything, which makes me feel silly for trying.

But you're right, I can still be happy. And I can suck all the air in from around me and throw it back out again. I can rake the leaves, while you kick the piles and fall in the dirt and carry sticks, pine cones and rocks in your small hands.  I can wash the dishes. I can clean the floors and I can feed you. And when I feel frightened, I can suck all the air in from around me and throw it back out again. I can call my mother. I can hug my brother. I can kiss my father's cheek and I can soothe my sister. And I can suck all the air in from around me and throw it back out again. I can walk the dog. I can sing and dance and bake and teach and read and laugh and make you laugh. I can smile. And whenever I'm scared or sad or cross, I can suck all the air in from around me and throw it back out again. I can weep. I can fight. I can fail. And I can run, leap and stomp. And I can suck all the air in from around me and throw it back out again.

Tonight you stand on our hope chest, built seven years ago by a dear friend, and you jump onto our bed where I've piled blankets and pillows, giggling as you land on your belly. I help you to somersault and I tickle you and kiss your face.

I can't do a lot of things I'd like, but I can try to be happy. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Seriousness and Silliness





This year Bob Dylan won the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature. This timing is so good. We need to remember and sing his songs of protest, injustice and peace. Recently someone told me how it feels like we're back in the 1960s. When I see the protests now, I think, Look children, this is how you stand up to a bully. Sometimes it takes parades and protests, handwritten signs and song. It takes face paint and walking sneakers and courage. It takes so much courage, such bravery to tell a bully 'NO'." I've decided to share this video of me playing Dylan's tune, The Times They are a Changin'. I film it Sunday, five days after the election. Here, my daughter wears white like the suffragettes and squeals as she crawls around me on the couch. I am so grateful for her gaiety. This little taping is an accurate snippet of my life right now. While I worry and search art and the news and my heart for understanding, she lives, blissfully unaware. I need her now more than ever, to distract my seriousness with silliness.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Election Night


I put our little girl to bed; wash the dinner dishes and go to the Internet. Polls are closing across the country. It is Tuesday, November 8, 2016, Election Night. I am watching and waiting for states to turn Blue, but when many go Red, I abandon my screens. My heart feels like a cassette tape unravelling, tearing and tangling my breath and blood into a mass of illegible scribbles. My stomach aches. My hands shake. My head is so full of thoughts I worry they might burst through my skull and skin to spill out into the air like a jumbled mess of wails and incomplete sentences. I stand up and go downstairs. The dog follows. I lift my guitar and play. I need a drink but all I have are these cans of hard cider. It's too sweet, but I gulp one down anyway. My anxiety doesn't leave me then, but it prevents fear from completely pillaging me of my hope and sanity.

Late into Election Night, I am folded at the belly, holding my knees and weeping. "I feel like someone's died." I say to Scott as the news commentators tell us how unlikely it is that Hillary Clinton will win. It is midnight, the start of my 33rd birthday.

Upstairs, at 2am, baby cries for me. As soon as I hear her, I decide that I'm done. There's nothing left for me to see or do tonight. I need to try and rest. Scott stays in the basement and falls asleep on the couch. I sleep with our girl until morning. I get four hours before the sun rises and she wakes me. We all go out together to walk the dog. We are slow, dragging our broken dreams behind us in sacks full of sleeplessness, disregarded history books and harassed progress.

We go out to breakfast. It is my birthday, after all, and we need to see people. The restaurant is quiet, but crowded. We hug our waitress. Scott worked here a few years back, with her. She wears black. She looks like she's been crying, but she manages to smile a little. She tells us she's in shock. We all are, we assure her. We are all tired too, sick and tired, but we need to eat and we need company. We need each other. Our 14-month-old baby girl is happy, walking around, opening and closing her soft hands in waves and pointing to the paintings on the walls and to the pictures in a book. By the time the food arrives, she's hungry, grabbing at the banana, oatmeal and egg I cut into bits and place onto her plate. I have to keep taking deep breaths to slow my heart from rattling me unconscious. I eat my breakfast and drink my coffee.

"I think, more than anything, we all need to love each other harder right now." I tell our friend, hoping it will somehow heal us.

Later, when she clears the table, she says that we're all set, that she's taken care of our bill.

What? No way. We tell her, feeling guilty and grateful.

"Love harder, right?" She says before walking away.

Yes, love harder.







Sunday, November 6, 2016

Heard in my Privacy

I trim her hair for the first time while she sits in soapy warm water. She has wispy strays that pass her ears and form a curly little tail in the back of her neck. Just a teeny trim is all I want to do. I am giving her a midday bath because the egg yoke on her lip won't wash away with a wet cloth and I'm cold and tired and sad and don't feel like leaving the house for awhile. My coffee is on the bathroom sink. It is my third cup, I think. Baby is splashing and I am singing little songs to her about boats and turtles and bubbles.............. My mind goes and goes: I know the history of my home and yet this feels like an alien occupation. I want to hide inside with my cell phone turned off, but I keep turning it back on because I am addicted to my fear, searching for a cure to calm my nerves by scouring the burning internet for camaraderie and reassurances. I want to hide and I want to seek. I want to stand on my roof and preach into every microphone and telephone and ear on the street. I want solitude. I want celebrity. I want to be heard in my privacy. I just want us to try for equality. And I want so badly for all the people that I love to understand me. I want them to listen. I will listen if they want to talk. I can't not write about this election. Even when I try to write a few simple sentences about bathing my baby, here I am again. If there is a revolution, how safe are we in these woods? If there is a civil war, my dog will not be able to protect us from bullets and looters and the lynchings of liberals. Should I keep quiet and never write again? I'm not breathing properly. It's as if my stomach has shrunk even though I keep eating nervously. They tried to tell us. Black Americans have been begging us to see the racism that is still here, but many of us whites hadn't seen it or we didn't believe that it was, or rather, is so widespread. But this disease of supremacy is real and it is like a plague except it is a disease that doesn't die with death for it is passed to children who have children who have children who have children... I wrap my child in a towel and hold her close. Her fingers and toes have wrinkles. Her teeth chatter. I hold her in my arms and take her upstairs; diaper her bottom and zip up pajamas (I'll dress her when she wakes). We read books in her bed. She is smart and strong. People say she's pretty, but I don't really care. I care mostly that she's smart and strong. So she drinks my milk, then sleeps for hours in the middle of the afternoon. When she cries, I open her door and lift her up.


It is midnight now. I wish I could sleep, but those three cups of coffee are looting my insides and stealing all my hope.