About Katy Gilmore

Katy Gilmore is an artist (watercolors and artists' books ) and writer living in the Pacific Northwest. She is the author/illustrator of "The Year in Flowers: A Daybook." Katy has had more than 25 solo exhibitions, and her work is included in public and private collections. Her blog "Her spirits rose..." explores art and inspiration in the everyday things of home and garden, and her work is found at Bainbridge Arts and Crafts on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Postcards – Flowers and Vote Blue

I’ve been writing postcards this week – the last summer flowers to Sweet B – and postcards (with a whale image and “One vote can make a whale of a difference!” on the front) to likely voters identified by groups who have worked since the last election to flip the U.S. Senate and influence state politics.

A while back I expressed skepticism about the value of such cards – but I was wrong, and it seems a great idea to be doing something. My old friend, who lives here, has been penning postcards for the local Indivisible group for some time, and she told me how to participate.

The writing reminds me of being disciplined in school in the old school days, made to write 25 times on the blackboard: “I will not talk to my neighbor during class.” (That particular means of discipline is probably long gone, along with the blackboard – not a Zoom problem.)

During a first winter storm the last few days, I walked to pick up more postcards with rain dripping off my hood, stepping on fallen chestnuts, giant maple leaves, and around puddles. October always transitions us toward winter, but this year worries about a predicted COVID-19 surge and Election Day chaos amplify the seasonal dread of darkness and cold.

Fall is here. Winter is coming. The first debate is tonight. It’s all upon us. But it could turn out OK – let’s keep that thought!

It Takes and It Takes…

Some time ago (during my considering-only-myself attempt to visit Alaska, which didn’t pan out), our Alaska daughter-in-law remarked that she kept thinking about how much the coronavirus has taken from all of us. She put me in mind of the Hamilton lyric, “it takes and it takes and it takes.” The lyric refers to death, but in my mind it’s the year 2020. All of it. An ungenerous, vicious year.

And now one of our own has a big loss. A faithful reader, Susan, who lives in the Oregon woods near the McKenzie River, had evacuated from fire danger, and now learns from a search and rescue team that her house is spared, “undamaged,” but their lovely studio-guesthouse is gone.

Both grief and relief – thankfully they are safe, the house remains, but in an altered landscape a beloved structure is gone, leaving an awareness of how very close the destructive flames came. To her message, Susan attached a link in memoriam – a post her daughter wrote about the little house in the heady days of Red House West.

Proving the rest of Miranda’s lyric painfully true, “…death doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints” – the death toll from COVID-19 reached 200,000 this weekend, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died Friday night. The tiny giant of a jurist is gone. I love this tribute, an essay by Nina Totenberg, because they were fast friends for five decades.

Thank you, Justice Ginsberg, for all you did for the equal rights of all people. We owe you a debt of gratitude beyond measure, and oh, oh we will miss you.

Annus horribilis.

Seeking “a Kernel of F***ing Worth”

This past week I finally learned what the numbers attached to the AQI (Air Quality Index) mean: 1-50 Good, 50-100 Moderate, 101-150 Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups, 151-200 Unhealthy, 201-300 Very Unhealthy, 301-500 Hazardous. This morning as I write (and please let these numbers be better by Tuesday when this posts), friends in Portland have 294, further south in Oregon the numbers are all above 300 and hazardous, our Los Angeles family 157. We hover around 200.

The West Coast, except blessedly Anchorage 17, burns with unprecedented wildfires. Human stupidity (both in the big picture by failing to act on climate change and in small, careless ways, “wreckreation” and gender reveal parties!?) leaves forests and houses and towns destroyed, yellow twilit skies and acrid smoke, the number of deaths not yet known. Lies and rumors complicate already impossible firefighting. Heartbreaking stories tell of mass evacuations and homes lost, including those of firefighters. I can’t imagine the terror of waiting in a shelter or car or motel after evacuation, wondering about the fate of one’s home.

And that’s, of course, just part of what faces us. The Woodward revelations last week that Trump knew how virulent the virus was and how it spread. He lied about it and people died. Every day reveals the administration’s corruption and manipulation of the agencies charged with keeping us safe. And then there’s the danger that this mendacious man might win reelection.

“And still we go on…” – that’s what Patti Smith says in this clip from Smith’s Instagram account my painter friend sent last night: (https://www.instagram.com/tv/CE-uBSrAmiS/?igshid=8p1nrnzzbkbf).

In her quiet, unadorned way, Smith is so very articulate, just says what is. That we go on, feed the birds, drink coffee, make masks and jam, are thankful for safety (if we have it), but anxious and unsettled, made miserable by so much suffering.

She made me smile with her humanity.

Please stay safe.

 

 

Summer Revisiting

The beginning of September brought a return to summer heat, and everything is dry, dry. A handful of flowers remain to draw for Sweet B’s postcard project, crocosmia, tall purple salvia, tiny cyclamen. The lower leaves of sweet peas grow crinkly and pale, but a few stragglers still bloom up top. The old, indomitable rose bushes put forth a second flush of blossom after a mid-summer pruning. So many orange orbs of pumpkins show through huge and tattered leaves – nearing their allotted 110 days. Maple leaves begin to fall.

The solar twinkle lights shine and only a glimmer of light shows in the sky, when I take my seat by the window in the morning. And with the light, neighborhood birds appear – the tiny house wren who’s been near the patio all summer, often startled when we walk through the rosemary into her space, juncos, and lately a blue jay. Hummingbirds check out the last flowers and dip and dart into the little fountain. All summer I’ve heard mourning doves, watched them visit the birdbath, then fly high to the top of a huge fir tree. Their cry sounds like somewhere else or something sad.

The other day I walked through town to drop a package at the Post Office. Every other conversation I passed contained the word COVID, “if it weren’t for COVID,” we could do this or that. Masked tourists and locals queue by the ice cream shop, and masks cradle chins of people eating at outdoor tables, separated under umbrellas in the middle of town.

Winter is coming to this COVID year. Light bulbs reveal they are burned out, like light bulbs always do in the fall, but no gaggles of backpacked kids walk by our street. We’ll be more indoors, with flu and darkness. In my head I try to turn it around, what if we kept our masks on and didn’t get the flu, didn’t make each other sick with colds?

What if we settled in to enjoy all that’s newly on the screen? The brochure for the Seattle Arts and Lectures series came, and all lectures (including Maira Kalman and Tana French) will be available online. We missed Lord B’s birthday, but could watch our older son’s Zoom trial – with participants in different towns, even different states. My husband’s university classes are online – no long trek by ferry, train, and foot to the campus.

But I don’t think I can make it work – not with all the misery the government seems too broken or heartless to address, not with people dying, little businesses folding, civil unrest, and the threat of retaining the unspeakably bad president, with his political vaccine and cruel words and actions.

Oh, no way to end a post. What about bulbs – those hopeful packages – can we plant them now and picture a better time in the spring?

 

Blackberries

Forty years ago, when I first looked for property here, a patient realtor drove me around. Sometimes we’d stop and graze on blackberries in brambly thickets, warmed by the sun and tart, bits of wildness on a cultivated island.

Blackberries grow in bunches, a couple ready to pick, alongside others still red or pink – food for another day. Sequential ripening benefits scavengers of all kinds. On the bluff, shaded by huge firs they never fruited, but only stretched thick, aggressive canes armed with sharp thorns, over the salal onto the driveway.

Wild blackberries are often deemed thuggish interlopers, best controlled by goats. But in this summer of our discontent, I see them as a gift. On the big street near us, passersby stop to pick from a hedge thick with berries, deep purple stains the sidewalk below. One morning, when I asked what she’d do with them, a woman gathering blackberries along a quiet street said muffins – and to freeze and eat in the winter. She recommended a handful on the top of sweet lemon cake. My neighbor and another friend make freezer jam – and inspired me to try.

On a commuter path nearby, blackberry vines entwine themselves in the lowdown branches of a young cedar. I passed that patch repeatedly before noticing a dark spot, then another. The cedar boughs protect a little from the sharp barbs of prickles snagging clothing and skin.

The construction behind us (thankfully paused since early summer) destroyed giant tangles of berry bushes, but a thick patch remains – alive with birdsong all spring. North facing, those berries have been slow, but now, encouraged by weeks of warm sunny weather and one downpour rain day, they ripen.

Sweet B quickly learned to discern ripeness by a gentle tug, and with her parents gathered berries for pie from the hedgerow in our little neighborhood. On her dad’s shoulders, she reached high up, where dark clusters dangle, and her mom topped our blackberry pies with crusts of woven lattice.

It was summer.

 

If Only

What a difference if only a portion of hope expressed last week at the Democratic Convention could be realized. Of course, I’d rather achieve the whole array of positivity – inclusion, justice, decency, kindness, honesty, love, belief in science. We all know the litany of problems we face.

The convention both exhilarated and exhausted me. So many moments to tug at heartstrings – so much that was personal from the Bidens themselves, to the testimonials of ordinary Americans of all colors, religions, and sexual identities – healthcare workers, farmers, factory workers, small business owners, and lifelong Republicans. A young woman, who with barely contained fury, blamed her father’s death from COVID-19 on his only “pre-existing condition,” his trust in Donald Trump. A state roll call of American diversity like no other – and better – and because of the format, no balloons or interrupting cheers and applause, the speakers spoke directly to us.

Other democratic presidential candidates (the ones “voted off the island” according to Cory Booker) weighed in with good humor and camaraderie in a Zoom grid, and they made manifest the potential for a strong new administration. In his speech, Bernie vigorously warned of the danger we are in and the need to act together. Hillary quietly and ruefully addressed us, Nancy Pelosi asked what’s stopping us, then answered “Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump” (placing enabling Republicans atop the blame list), AOC reminded that there will be more to do, and Gabby Giffords showed the country what real resilience and perseverance look like. As always, Elizabeth Warren gave her all, smiling about hopeful plans. And, oh boy, the Obamas, and Kamala!

Even Joe Biden’s forceful acceptance speech seemed in the room with us. He called out Trump’s failed presidency, but articulated our yearning for normalcy. He enumerated the possibilities ahead if we tackle our problems with a return to American can-do – beginning with the virus. Can you imagine rapid testing, universal mask wearing – the containment of this plague!

Biden’s life story tells of devotion to this country and family. The speech was as a president’s should be, and perfectly preceded by the teenager who bravely described his encounter with Joe Biden (leaving no dry eye), and the importance of their commiseration about stuttering.

Commiserating – how do you feel about talking about the political side of what is happening – the rehash we do with friends and family? Sometimes we are weary of the whole thing, but often the fellow feeling is comforting.

A friend mentioned maybe feeling optimistic, another became energized by the selection of Kamala and by the convention, saying she’s ready to help change happen. One said while watching the convention she felt less alone, and realized how it might be different if everyone voted. And if our votes are protected, and somebody makes the replaced occupant leave the White House. Over and over people mention the strength that would come from being united.

If only.

(I’m hoping Sweet B would be OK with my addition to her drawing of the two of us riding a unicorn, because she made a Black Lives Matter sign to wave from her front yard after seeing a small protest in her neighborhood in LA. The unicorn with its kicked-up leg, looks energized!)

Put a Stamp on Your Letter

“Seven Little Postman,” by Margaret Wise Brown and Edith Thacher Hurd, was one of the many books scattered around our house after the departure of Sweet B and her family.

It tells the story of a little boy who writes a letter (with a secret) to his grandmother. Because he seals it with “red sealing wax,” we can follow the letter in Tibor Gergely’s illustrations as it’s slipped into a familiar letter box, arrives at “a big Post Office all built of rocks,” and moves through various modes of transportation (including a train where postal workers sort letters by hand “through gloom of night, in a mail car filled with electric light”). Finally, it reaches the seventh little postman who “carries letters and papers, chickens and fruit, to the people who live along his route.” At the last house is the little boy’s grandmother, who “had been wishing all day he would come to visit.”

The book dates from the 1950s, and I’ve been reading it aloud since the early 70s, but never have I cried. It was that kind of day. From teary farewells before the camper pulled out of our driveway, to the cleanup of toys, dollhouse, costumes, painting supplies, and crib – the sadness of a visit ending combined with grief over the crippling of our country’s beloved Postal Service.

Because of the fragility of nearly everything these days, no contact with distant loved ones gets taken for granted. Every single day held joy – the ordinary joy of children and grandchildren living nearby.

With wonderful weather we paid a last visit to the bluff, made meals using a huge store of tomatoes brought from the LA garden and ripened along the way, churned homemade ice cream to accompany blackberry pie from neighborhood berries, picked blueberries at a friend’s house, fed stubs of Romaine lettuce to the llamas at another’s. We kayaked and paddle boarded on Eagle Harbor, exploring coves I see daily from the shore. We visited new beaches and old, settling on a favorite and returning multiple times with sandwiches and beach chairs and plenty of opportunity to build castles and search for shells.

Sweet Brother began the visit limited to a quilt on the floor, often rocking back and forth on hands and knees but not moving. But by our last dinner – using an effective and endearing locomotion, a scooting combined with a hip hitch – he easily propelled himself past the table where we ate and into the kitchen or the living room. He’s a real person to us now – a sweet baby – ever fascinated with his sister. Her one set of tears brought a crumple of his little face into downturned mouth and empathetic tears.

And Sweet B – we ran out of time – so much done and so much more we could do. She drew and drew and drew – beginning every day at my worktable with some complicated picture or another. In a big step, she learned to operate the sewing machine with supervision, using the tricks learned from Lady B’s class last summer. She put together a little doll-size quilt – stitching around each square! She painted rocks for the garden, and with her dad painted a square of mural on a wall inside our garage.

We read so many books – old picture book favorites and chapter books, Kate DiCamillo’s “Because of Winn-Dixie” a hit. There we learned the word “melancholy” – just in time to use it to describe the last few days. It’s utterly greedy to want more, for the visit to last longer, to live closer together. But there you go.

When the letter with the red sealing wax is delivered, the granny finds out the grandson is “coming to visit on Saturday,” and that he is bringing one of his cat’s new kittens! (That’s too much to wish for.)

But I can wish we had a president with honesty, decency, and leadership – and wish that the Post Office could be like it’s always been in my mind (though now with mail carriers instead of just mailmen) – much as described in the poem ending the book:

                                           SEVEN LITTLE POSTMEN

                                Seven Little Postmen carried the mail

                                Through Rain and Snow and Wind and Hail

                                Through Snow and Rain and Gloom of Night

                                         Seven Little Postmen

                                         Out of sight

                                         Over Land and Sea  

                                         Through Air and Light

                                         Through Snow and Rain

                                         And Gloom of Night —   

                                        Put a stamp on your letter

                                        And seal it tight.

 

 

A Visit in the Time of COVID-19!

 

Back in early June, Sweet B said we’d have to give the proposal that I park a camper in her driveway “a little more thought.” And so she did – and her parents did – and yesterday afternoon about 4:30, an enormous RV pulled into our driveway!

Despite many weary miles of mountain driving, her dad emerged looking cheerful. The Sweet Bride (smiling broadly at the ending of all those miles) appeared with Sweet Brother – happy to be out of his car seat and bestowing single-dimpled grins on his unfamiliar (and ecstatic) grandparents! And finally, Sweet B, having momentarily retired to change clothes in her curtained bed over the camper cab, came down the steps and into my arms! Hugs – actual hugs!

In a phone consult earlier in the day, we’d discussed our protocol for masks and distancing. The camper has everything, bathroom, kitchen, water supply, and lots of food storage. Stopping only for gas and nursing breaks and spending every night in campgrounds with campfires and s’mores – they’ve truly been bubbled. And we live in a bubble. So now we’ve merged – just like that.

Sweet Brother was not enthusiastic about the journey, but Sweet B, by all reports, uttered not a word of complaint – she listened to stories on her “radio,” watched the mountains and valleys of the American West pass by her picture window, and slept well every night. On one memorable stop, after a little hike upstream, she floated down an Oregon creek with her dad. And now they’re actually here. It seems a total miracle to me, I am so grateful to them for making this journey.

I finished the painting I’ve been working on with crossed fingers since the plan was hatched, being sure that something would prevent this trip. But no – they made it, and we have a couple of weeks to savor summer together!

And it’s time for the August blog break. Thank you for reading, I wish August pleasures for all of you in our masked and turbulent times.

Life in the Time of COVID-19

Maybe I could turn into my mother. I always marveled at her good cheer as she coped with the vicissitudes of life, especially as she aged. A lifelong social worker by proclivity and training, she never seemed to grow discouraged with her clients or her situation.

She adapted to my father’s questionable schemes – lighting out for British Columbia with two little girls to build and live in a log cabin out in the woods, then a move to pre-statehood Alaska. She loved Alaska, but happily ended up in Washington, and toward the end of her life, when I called her each day while cooking dinner, she’d tell me about her day. Little things cheered her – 15 minutes of sun on a Washington winter day sufficed. Except when she’d watched too much CNN. Then I would lecture her about succumbing to the anxiety created by news she could do nothing about.

That sort of news inundates us now: the horrifying rise in COVID-19 cases, the shameful attempts to discredit Dr. Fauci, the idiotic fighting about masks, the looming threat of another shutdown, the dismantling of 50-year old environmental regulations, the corruption and incompetence in the allotment of our money meant to help the victims of the pandemic, the Rose Garden turned into an arena of political theatre and lies, the absolute disgust born of watching Trump hawk a supporter’s food products from the Oval Office, Federal agents in riot gear (unwanted by local authorities) patrolling Portland streets and harassing peaceful protesters, the threatened evictions of people who’ve lost their jobs, small businesses closing forever, the death of John Lewis, Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s fragility. The ubiquitous virus itself.

You can’t counter any of that with happy talk, and it isn’t good-cheer-no-matter what I’m searching for (as I fight the CNN part of my mom). I think I want to not let the everyday things that are part of a small safe life go unremarked.

Sometimes it’s as simple as order: the kitchen counters cleared and wiped that greet me in the morning, a stack of completed masks ready for mailing, their colorful ties dangling off the ironing board, the bags and boxes of possessions from the bluff dispersed, the linen closet organized, so, instead of chaos, the folds of patterns and faded colors greet me when I open the door, the refrigerator clear and ready for the privilege of weekly provisioning, and, before it’s time to wear them again, a stack of winter sweaters finally washed and put away.

Sometimes it is pure joy: when a FaceTime call rings, I picture the sweet face that will fill the screen. And I try to note fleeting summer pleasures: bare feet, eating breakfast and lunch outdoors at a wobbly table under an umbrella next to St. Francis, fresh raspberries, corn, tomatoes, flowers to paint.

And, as I write, it’s rain – a good thing – warm rain at midsummer – just when we need it.

 

St. Francis Leaves the Bluff

When we moved to Bainbridge two years ago, we wanted to make sure the move was right, so we didn’t sell our house, but leased it. Planning to visit often, we kept access to the guesthouse, the Buffalo. But the universe conspired to prevent visits, and time has come to put the property on the market. (I recognize this as a tale of privilege. Several times that’s stopped me from writing, but the blog began on the bluff, and now that part of the story ends.)

Only 900 square feet, the Buffalo is still a complete house with the utensils, bedding, linens, art, photos, books, and furniture of a house. And, because of a big closet, extraneous things got stored over the years – all our photo negatives packaged in labelled shoeboxes, beloved aged backpacking tent, sleeping bags, extra kid equipment. An empty file cabinet became the repository of my mother’s things when she died, her purse, her files and photos, and little stacks of expired passports and driver’s licenses.

In her book of essays, titled “Everywhere I Look,” Helen Garner quotes a clergyman’s wife on changing houses, “Every time you move you have to work through your whole life.”

Because we never really lived there, the Buffalo’s emotional weight blindsided me. In the first few of many trips to clear out, I thought it would be just sort, give away or toss, pack. But things speak of their provenance to a person packing up, voicing memories and original hopes.

A lot of the things I hoped for came to be. We built the bigger house and a garden and moved there, our sons came willingly to visit, and one married there in a beautiful ceremony. Eventually the Buffalo sheltered their growing families, and always it made it a pleasure to have guests.

In the drawing below, done early in the garden’s life, it’s orderly. But this spring, nature occupied every available space. Thuggish plants crowd and engulf plants once cosseted. Buttercups invade the beds, water suckers ruin the shape of the enormous Sambucus, the paths are clotted and choked by grass. I used to fantasize it was “contained abundance” – no longer.

My friend the wordsmith (who has been the most amazing help and support, making a sometimes hard thing cheerful) says it looks like the garden of an abandoned English estate. Kinda. The realtor will have it cleaned up for listing, and I’m hoping for a new gardener to love it.

The wordsmith’s husband muscled our statue of St. Francis (it stood for years in the center of the foursquare garden) into my car. I remember the first time Lady Baby spotted him and stood nearby, seemingly shocked he was taller than she. He looks contented now, in his tiny pretend Tuscan courtyard, surrounded by rosemary and welcoming hummingbirds who visit a nearby fountain.

 

“Hamilton” Redeems July Fourth in the Time of COVID-19

Probably I should drop the “…in the time of” business, because it’s all COVID time – our reality in perpetuity. Only the degree of infection changes – and it roars again now.

And didn’t the celebration of the nation’s birthday seem like a party that wasn’t, like an ill-behaved child’s birthday party cancelled, or maybe this is also apt, the child got sick? At least that was my Fourth of July. Only the president seemed to spend it in his alternate universe where a lethal virus and heartfelt protests don’t coexist, where he is threatened by all of us wearing masks and wanting fairness and health – frenzied hoards in his selfish, petty mind.

Gloomy weather and gloomy spirits on Saturday – until the evening, when we joined Disney, and, with millions of Americans watched the unparalleled, “Hamilton,” on television. What a gift from the creator, Lin Manuel Miranda. Oh, I know he’s already made a fortune, but watching all those performers – the dancing, the singing, the stage, the lighting, the humanity of the show – that should earn buckets of money.

And anyway, Miranda has now given it to us (for $6.95) – to watch and absorb how inexhaustibly creative it is – so clever, so witty and wise. And beautiful, and joyful, and tragic. It rewards multiple viewings (on top of all our listening to the soundtrack).

When I saw “Hamilton” two years ago (a lifetime ago), I kept thinking of the line, “immigrants get the job done!” (Even more true now in the time of essential workers.) This time I saw the inequities built into the whole American endeavor from the beginning. And registered, as the new Americans begin to create a nation (mocked by the glorious King George), the partisan fighting, the negotiating, the compromises.

On television it’s more personal, but it lacks the electricity of real people making this happen in front of a live audience (remember those times, sitting close to strangers!). But filmed during a performance in the early days on Broadway – now we get closeups of faces, beautiful Phillipa Soo as Eliza, singing her heart out in joy and grief, Miranda himself as Hamilton, expressive face alight. I would never have imagined it could be so luminously transferred to the screen – preserving the magic for all to see.

Firecrackers boomed across our island as we watched, and I finally felt slightly celebratory – for the creativity of Americans, for Black Lives Matter protesters (along with pain that this is still necessary on this 244th birthday). And maybe a glimmer of hope that we won’t “give up our shot!”

Walking in the Time of Covid-19

Well, Americans won’t be walking in Europe! Not just because the worldwide pandemic makes travel dodgy – but because the EU has banned Americans. While European countries largely contained the coronavirus, as we know the U.S. did not. American (presidential) incompetence and recklessness allowed unnecessary and tragic COVID-19 infections. A bad situation, getting worse. Denial, lies, and obfuscation prove poor tools for virus fighting.

Exclusion from Europe is just one way American esteem has fallen in the world under this administration. Aside from other bad presidential moments – George Bush in Iraq comes to mind – Europeans always greeted us and our tourist ways with friendliness and curiosity. This, too, shall pass, and if one isn’t too old, travel will happen again – a new president and a controlled virus will encourage summertime in British gardens, hot nights in Italy, train rides through countrysides, and walks in Irish rain.

Ordinary days merge together in routine, but trips with walks leave indelible impressions. For a decade, with our increasingly complex family – first adding wives, then one child, then two, then three – memorable moments of stress and joy accompanied those trips. Selfishly I’d so hoped for more with all four grandchildren.

But meantime, in a treasured second life of travel – trip memories come on my daily walks this summer – footfalls as madeleines. My island walk has variety, and, in some form of compensatory thinking, invites remembering – stirred by my footsteps on pavement, outdoor café seating (lots of that now), and flower filled window boxes. Beside a body of water, I stop to gaze over the harbor as we might have stopped over a promontory and considered the valley below.

I climb hills, lots of hills, and down again through a new neighborhood catching glimpses of lived lives, lush gardens and inviting porches. I discover commuters’ connecting trails –– and a root-riddled path through a patch of woods, trees and undergrowth close, for a moment like a forest in an unknown place. I try to stop the internal fret and let my mind go – rainy days bring the sound of wind and rain flapping my hood, poles hitting the ground – and hot days, sun on my back walking up a hill, I expect vineyards instead of 50s ramblers and basketball hoops.

It works a little. I’m very grateful for all there is and all there was – but for sure, I’d rather be walking with Beowulf.

Masks in the Time of COVID-19

No agreement existed about the benefits of masks early in this pandemic, and conflicting advice confused everyone. But now the science is clear – face coverings provide a serious impediment to the spread of the coronavirus. It’s both considerate to others and safer to wear one.

It seems tedious and disheartening and idiotic that this has become another national divide. If we now announce our political leaning by our PPE, I’m glad to be on the common sense, science-supported side of the debate. (And I don’t have antibodies – whatever felled me in March didn’t give me superblood.)

In this interesting discussion of mask wearing by Rachel Sugar, writing in Vox, psychologists weigh in on the social ramifications of losing easy smiles and revealing only the top of faces (where we signal anger and fear), and designers discuss masks as fashion statements in our sure-to-be-mask-wearing future. (https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2020/6/8/21279725/masks-face-psychology)

I’m still making masks – more than 200 now, thanks to fabric from my generous Alaska neighbor – working through her second stash of colorful patterns, including grizzly bears and moose. Through the Lt. Governor’s initiative, I mostly send to Volunteer Kitsap, which coordinates helping organizations in this part of the state.

And friends still request them. Right at the start of the Black Lives Matter protests a friend asked for six more masks, and offered a donation to a favorite cause in return. She contributed to a Go Fund Me for a vandalized Atlanta dress shop, and her sister, who received some of the masks, also donated – to a protest bail fund. Another friend sent to Obama’s Meet Anguish With Action fund.

That seems a good circle.

When they send photos, it’s fun to see how people wear the masks. Cotton masks wash well (and help eliminate some of the mounds of waste generated by disposable masks) – but can offer a conundrum for comfort. With a label I tried to explain how to determine which side up and out for best fit over one’s nose.

And the ties present difficulties (but also launder better than elastic, which is still rationed at our fabric store). People adapt – ponytail or bun wearers do best, top string tied jauntily on top, and a friend wears his with the top tie over his ears then both ties fastened low down on the back of his head.

A useful and clever suggestion comes from a teenager (of course). Her mother showed her the masks, she said, “that won’t work,” and proceeded to knot permanent ear loops exactly to fit her – then tie both strings at the back of her head under a shiny teenage mane!

 

Happiness in the Time of COVID-19

Writing in Slate, (https://slate.com/technology/2020/06/advice-on-reopening-activies-er-doctor.html?utm_source=pocket-newtab), Amita Sudhir, an emergency doctor, discusses what’s permitted now that states begin to open, and analyzes what and why we might choose certain activities. She’s clear-spoken and kind, and I appreciated reading her words as we grapple with acceptable risk going forward. While weighing pros and cons, she admits: “We are all in need of a little happiness right now.”

Dr. Sudhir considers the possibility of in-person family visits, and while I’m beyond grateful for all the electronic interchanges (and painting Lord B’s outfits has been a very real source of lockdown happiness), like all grandparents, I’m nostalgic for adventures of the past and wondering about the future.

Tiny Triumphs in the Time of COVID-19

Back in the Before Times, I wrote about Austin Kleon’s book, “Keep Going: 10 Ways to Keep Creative in Good Times and Bad.” In his recent newsletter, Kleon quoted from a letter he received: “Every time we make a thing, it’s a tiny triumph.”

Maybe now, after last week, there is a glimmer of political hope, racial justice hope, but probably not COVID hope, and while I ask myself what’s next (a friend suggested earthquake) – I relish the idea of registering an ordinary accomplishment as a tiny triumph. Making a mask, yes, and a rhubarb crisp or dinner – or a flower postcard.

And joy is to always get a flower postcard in return!