A River of Anger and Rain

On the sixth of January, the president’s fevered incitement of his mob – promising his presence (fat chance) and admonishing them to be strong and “take back” America – led to their successful incursion into the U.S. Capitol. The ragtag, miscellany of mostly white, would-be insurrectionists (an assembly that would have been swiftly crushed had they been Black) terrified elected leaders and press, left death and destruction, many questions about security, and horrified most Americans.

Maybe most Americans, but “regular” Republicans have a part in this. Trump has signaled for years his contempt for democracy, his scorn for the truth, his vilification of a free press, and fondness for authoritarian leaders – with increasing specificity this year as he lied about a free and fair election.

For five years Republicans have accepted his behavior, where did they think the riling up and lying would lead?

No telling what happens next (accountability would be appropriate), and I am trying hard to see something beyond bleakness. A majority of Americans repudiated the current administration in the election, Biden and Harris will be inaugurated despite Republican obstruction – to voting and to counting. The people of Georgia (thank you Stacy Abrams) elected two exciting candidates, giving Democrats the slimmest of Democratic Senate majority. No more must we endure Trump enabler Mitch McConnell blocking legislation and appointments.

     Adding to January gloom, in Western Washington we have waded in a “river of rain” – an actual atmospheric condition bringing drenching, continuous rain, and plenty of time to read our Christmas gifts.

“The Wild Silence,“ Raynor Winn’s tale of what happens to Winn and her husband after the end of “The Salt Path,” is written with Winn’s impeccable eye for the natural world and our connection to it. Her specific struggles, leavened by beautiful language and love, bring respite from our pervasive malaise.

The friend who gave me “Code Name Verity,” by Elizabeth Wein, said, “it’s called Young Adult, but I say it’s for everybody,” and a good adventure yarn it is. The story of the friendship of two courageous young British women involved in World War II espionage, it snags the reader with unexpected twists, and made me think much about when the world faced Hitler’s dire threats to democracy.

And Erik Larson’s “The Splendid and the Vile,” with his look at one momentous year of the Second World War, between May 1940 and 1941, makes clear that January 1941 was worse than our January. The book’s uniqueness (in an ocean of Churchill literature) lies in Larson’s focus on the small details of life in wartime – he uncovers descriptions of day-to-day living amid food shortages, the constant aerial assault of the Blitz, and England’s growing fear of invasion.

     It’s a compulsively readable book (specially in this dire time), in part because Larson finds parallel stories to the oft-studied war record by researching original handwritten versions of diaries – as people “processed” their lives (we’d say). In addition to conventional histories, he uses subway bomb shelter records, the journals of Mass-Observation diarists (people who kept a record of how their own lives fared as part of a nationwide research project, an activity renewed in COVID England), archival documents, and now-released secret documents.

     That year saw “the end of the beginning” of a horrifying time (with more years to come). Rising above everything is the leadership of Churchill. A good reminder, as if we need it, that leaders – and their words – matter.

Our Dark Winter

     In the Sunday morning darkness, I drove to the grocery for the weekly shop, before an 8-a.m. dawn. Bright lights and stars stretched across main street and the colored lights on the Green’s Christmas tree still shone.

     Lights reflected in the wet parking lot around the store, and fresh green garlands and wreaths stretched out alongside pieces of tape that mark the pandemic-required six-foot intervals. Inside, nestled amongst the pots of poinsettia, I spotted bunches of red tulips. Instantly I was transported back many years, when in the snowy dark of an Alaska Christmas Eve, the florist delivered a totally unexpected bouquet of red tulips, sent by my father-in-law in Kansas. Red tulips are Christmas for me ever since, one of the small things calling forth thoughts of missing people and times.

So, we have memories and increasing light this week, as we pass the winter solstice, and prepare our distanced festivities in this bleak winter of a hard year.

     But no matter the year – maybe because of the year and the daily reminder of the fragility of life – I wish you good cheer, warmth, and light!

Wish with Your Heart

   One evening last week, as they began to decorate their tree, the Californians called us on FaceTime. It’s strange to watch without being part – like viewing a familiar movie – but also jolly. An excited Sweet B unpacked the boxes we sent one ornament at a time – an ordinary family assortment, many homemade – some have stories, and some are good for making up new stories.

A small slab of painted dough, tentatively identified as an owl, is a figure of awe – a creation surviving some 30 or 40 years! To see the son who probably made that owl, lifting his five-year-old to place the star, is weirdly like watching life go on without you.

In the middle of the decorating, I told Sweet B I wished we could be together to decorate our tree. She paused a moment, then said: “I know what we’ll do – you close your eyes and wish with your heart!” FaceTime might be more reliable, but we’ll make it work. I want to embrace this holiday, be grateful for the odd and the familiar.

     And last week it began to sink in that a possible end to this pandemic exists – reading the New York Times’s timeline for vaccine dispersal, and hearing Dr. Fauci explain why the vaccines are both speedy and safe – I could feel spirits lift! Hope! Sacrificing togetherness, trading closeness this year for more years to come seems a worthy endeavor.

     But, before the vaccine, a bleakness confronts us this winter – hospitals nearing capacity necessitates a new round of closures – the outlook on all fronts is awful. We could close our eyes and wish with our hearts, and I’d wish for those who disregard science to open their eyes – and open their hearts to the suffering of patients and medical people. What a muck we’ve made of this. What a triumph we’ve handed the virus.

     To end on a positive note – back to the children and their holidays, both those in our lives and others, it seems a great year to up the support in all forms. I enjoyed getting things for Toys for Tots, in operation since 1947 and accepting donations until 18 December at drop off spots around our towns, or you can do it virtually. Books, art supplies, games, there is no specific list.

Ensure a little joy. This we can do.

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.

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.

 

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!

 

Sewing in the Time of COVID-19

Way back in The Before Times, in early January, time of resolutions and plans for the new year, I thought I would like to sew more. Thinking about how much I loved it – from the time I learned at 14, taught by my mother’s friend, through years of clothes making (my woolen wedding dress), screen-printed quilts, various Christmas ornaments, pillows, repairs, curtains, up to Sweet B’s cloak last Christmas. My 50-year old Singer, a gift from my husband when first we married, has stitched valiantly through all kinds of fabric.

But I had no idea what 2020 would offer by way of sewing opportunity! Since I began to get better, I’ve been making masks. I began for the Californians – using this Kaiser Permanente pattern and video: (https://about.kaiserpermanente.org/content/dam/internet/kp/comms/import/uploads/2020/03/02_COVID_Mask-Instructions_v9.pdf

I quickly used up all my stash – fabric I never thought would get used – and had to piece the ties from short lengths and mismatched patterns.

But now I have a bonanza! My old neighbor, generous-hearted owner of the Anchorage shops, Cabin Fever and Quilted Raven, sent me a dream stash! It arrived last Thursday – a bulging, large flat rate box delivered to the doorstep by our mailman (wearing one of my first masks, I was tickled to see).

It’s remarkable fabric, tightly woven with patterns whimsical and beautiful – a s’mores and a campfire print, multiple, colorful patterned Batiks suggesting frost, fish, or flowers, an eagle soaring over conifers, and blueberries!

I smiled hugely at the blueberries. On my first foray into the world – nearly four weeks since symptom onset and nine days past fever – I geared up and went to the grocery store! The precautions there are impressive, and most all the employees wore masks (a flowered one on the woman who mans the floral department). The Town & Country Markets network had put out a call for 1800 cloth masks, and I delivered my first 10.

After all that time of sickness and inactivity, and knowing there is so little to be done except for staying home, it feels great to be making. I probably would have been a bandage roller back in the day. This is close. Grocery store workers, delivery people, and mail carriers, come right behind the real front lines – the medical people and hospital custodial staffs. With no job to do at home or children to teach and entertain, I’m available – and it’s rewarding to work hard all day toward a goal.

I’m slow but try to be efficient, working in sets of ten, production line style. I’ve learned that to speed things up, you can sew the pleated side of the masks all in a row, and a pin in the ironing board the width of the tie’s turned-over edges makes that task quicker. Exploring this wonderland of fabric brings pleasure to the undertaking.

Queen Elizabeth’s speech moved me. No matter our useless head of state who tries to make the claim, the Queen has the best words. Encouragement for the future: “We will be with our families again, we will be with our friends again, we will meet again.” And inspiration for now: “I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge.”

It’s becoming more clear every day how much safer we privileged people are during this pandemic – time and space and health or health resources. Lady Gaga made me cry announcing her concert for kindness (https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-52199537), her way to support medical workers and those struggling in the face of the virus.

Maybe sewing helps too.

 

 

COVID-19 Close to Home

Three Saturday nights ago, out of the blue, I began shivering, fever followed chills, and I slept restlessly all day Sunday with fever, headache, nausea. By Monday I wrote both my regular doc and my pulmonologist (from my bouts of cryptogenic organizing pneumonia, called COP), and they scheduled a test.

Eight days later it came back negative, but those eight days I’d like not to do again – perpetual body aches, headache, nausea, fever, no appetite. In all I had 17 days of fevers above what Mrs. Hughes calls “doctor fever” 100.4°.

My pulmonologist, Dr. Steven Kirtland, VM Seattle (so expert and so kind if you ever should need such a person) called on the ninth day to say ignore the test, many false negatives, you have COVID-19. He said no Advil, take Tylenol (data cautioning against ibuprofen slim but concerning).

He called again the next weekend, checking on “patients I’m worried about” – said it wasn’t inevitable I’d get COP back, but very possible – and that would be difficult, because he couldn’t prescribe the usual treatment for it with COVID-19.

But thankfully I didn’t go there, after a wretched two weeks and more functional third week, I am Recalled to Life – and appreciative beyond measure. I recognize my good fortune in medical providers and access.

On Dr. Kirtland’s last call, he said he wanted to see temperatures below 99° for three days. I have learned a lot about fever these weeks – such a difference in functionality between 99.1° and 99.9°, let alone a night of 103°. Now I write this on the fourth of April – having been below 99° since the first of April.

I have this layman theory about why the coronavirus got me. I really never got over the California bug, still a little symptomatic on return, and got briefly exposed to the coronavirus someplace. Then that Saturday we attempted a walk by the water in a stiff wind, getting so chilled we turned back. Instead of walking I wish I’d gone home to a cup of tea and not stressed my immune system further!

A corollary story is my good-natured husband, who has managed to stay good natured (in the face of my failure to perform my “wifely duties” of cooking and cleaning), and also stay healthy. Dr. Kirtland always inquires about him.

My husband attributes his health to his new civic duty – to stay home and take lots of naps. I think he has a strong immune system. We also quarantined from each other as best we could – upstairs for him, and down for me, not in the kitchen at the same time. Wiping down the most used surfaces. You know the drill. Still, he was royally exposed.

Last week, as the fever diminished, I had what my local and beloved doc (Dr. Jillian Worth, VM Bainbridge Clinic) called “the last gasp” – a little conjunctivitis and swollen occipital nodes on the back of my head (who knew those were even there!). They’ve gone now too.

We all know how devastating the bad cases can be – but the mild ones offer no picnic. All the efforts to stay safe and be more sensible than I was will pay off! I write this because I read and reread the two accounts of COVID-19 I knew about, a younger Seattle woman who had fever for five days, a Bainbridge woman who had fever for 13 or so, and spent time in the hospital. I felt very disappointed to go past the five days, and very thankful to stay out of hospital.

My gratitude truly knows no bounds, grateful for our old friends on Bainbridge who brought food and still bring groceries, and our sons who text and cheer and keep us in touch.

I send this cautionary tale along with another guest illustrator appearance by Sweet B. This one, a view “looking down at the world” seems full of rainbow hope – and charming critters!

Flattening the Curve

The other day I thought, well, we have a new routine, and the whole situation seemed easier with a routine, changed for sure, but knowing what’s next in the day brings comfort.

That didn’t last. On our island the closures grow, a week ago there were brave emails from the museum, library, and art center about staying open for solace. Now they are closed, and bars and restaurants, and pretty much everything. The schools sent everyone home to distance learn. Our storied yarn shop will take orders on their website to be handed out the door for knitters. With a photo of Hilary Mantel’s new book, “The Mirror and the Light,” Mrs. Hughes wrote: “might help social distancing.”

The grocery store makes heroic efforts. Workers clean carts after each use, checkers wear gloves and wipe down the keypad after each customer. These employees are on the front lines without the protection of social distancing, standing all day with whoever faces them. The recent report, about an infected person “shedding virus” at a higher rate before symptoms, worries everyone. A favorite checker said her asthma reacted to the sanitizer (being used, not being purchased because there is none). Customers are grateful. And anxious.

On Saturday night we tried a virtual dinner party with our old friends on Bainbridge – and it worked! At six p.m., setting up the devices across the table for FaceTime felt surprisingly like our familiar dinners together. No standing around the kitchen island for starters or sitting by the fireplace for dinner – but laughing and rehashing old times, and this strange new time.

Now I wish I could think of a way to be with the grandchildren virtually – an activity to do together. How about you? How is it where you are?

(But here is good news just received! Sweet Brother is growing and thriving – now looms large in the picture!)

Getting One’s Affairs in Order

On our island, across Puget Sound from the coronavirus epicenter, normalcy and strangeness coexist. Grocery store shelves emptied (but only briefly), patrons at the gym wipe exercise equipment with newfound diligence, and schools make plans to close. I’ve heard of just one confirmed case of COVID-19 on the island, but, given our close relationship with Seattle, it’s just a matter of time.

A few weeks ago before all this started, my old friend who lives on Bainbridge told me that she was in the midst of serious dostadning  (the Swedish word for “death cleaning”). My friend’s an orderly person, not a hoarder of the useless, so I couldn’t imagine she had much to do. We laughed about some of the items encountered, and moved on to discuss the political frets of the week. That was a lifetime ago.

Yesterday she sent a link to a poignant but realistic essay by Mary Pipher, “If I’m Going to Die, I Might As Well Be Cheerful About It.”

My old friend also told me how thankful she is that the coronavirus, so far, had not come for children – or even their healthy parents. I think of that with each piece of grim news – how terrifying to be worrying about the children or their parents – and I, too, am grateful.

And, as the acknowledged target demographic for this virus – being aged and having compromised lungs – it’s probably time to pay attention to what one would leave behind.

Recently, two different friends, after experiencing the sudden loss of their partners, strongly advised to organize what each of us knows – to share knowledge about passwords, bank accounts, bills, tv remotes, repair people, on and on – the unnoticed details of daily life. Oh yes, I thought, and then did nothing.

But now, gathering all this information seems an urgent task – not technically dostadning – but another way to make things easier for the left behinds. And be cheerful about it!

Returning To The Subject of Pumpkins

My post last week confused things – written quickly early Tuesday morning, in the euphoria that immediately followed unscheduled but successful surgery – I didn’t make it clear that my good-natured husband was the patient!

During this recovery week (he’s really recalled to life now), we’ve watched the season shift. One day the north wind blew, the temperature dropped, and it hailed! The autumn signals sound – mice move indoors, colds and flu shots happen. Trees blaze gold and red against blue skies, alongside the flashy colors of late season flowers like cosmos, zinnia, and lantana. Suddenly the puffer jacket and watch cap dress code applies, and what the Seattle paper calls “The Big Dark” – rain and wind and glowering skies – settles in.

The seeds Sweet Baby and her dad planted in our little patch on Mother’s Day produced 25 pumpkins and a dozen delicata squash. I harvested the pumpkins, pulled their shriveled leaves and stems, and uncovered a cascade of orange and yellow nasturtium blossoms from the seeds they also planted.

Already I’ve given away a lot of pumpkins, stored some in the garage, and made several pies, including one to pack up for Lady B and her brother – carried back to Alaska by their dad who came down to help and cheer the hospital stay and the patient’s return home.

Winter begins – with hopes for health – and pies aplenty!

 

Spring Survey Two Years On

Last Christmas our young friend and her parents gave us a tall prayer candle refitted with a photo of Robert Mueller looking thoughtful, surrounded by tiny, glittery stones. We’ve burned it most evenings all winter. Now the wick is hard to reach to light, the sides smudged with smoke, and that beacon extinguished.

Today I’ll just post a spring image from a more hopeful year – this spring doesn’t care, never held out hope for answers anyway. Flowers still bloom in our gloom – for now.

Wishing You A Fine Fourth

Do you remember the song, from around the time of the Bicentennial, with the line: “We must be doing something right to last 200 years!” Optimistic, patriotic, and oh so American in its celebration of just 200 years.

The line comes back to me every Fourth of July, because the Bicentennial is the only Fourth I remember well. Our family and my painter friend and her family – a backpack child each – hiked up to Lost Lake on the Kenai Peninsula. Planning to meet and spend the night, we each went up a different route, and we arrived to find a frozen lake amid snowfields. From the distance we could see the dad wrestling with a broken camp stove, and their energetic two-year old repeatedly circling the tent – both tiny in the mountain landscape.

We spent a cold night, and in the morning drank instant coffee and ate, by the handfuls, the cake with red, white, and blue frosting I’d carried up the trail in an aluminum pan. We packed up, walked down, and never forgot that Fourth.

This year is memorable for the wrongs the current American administration is doing. I Googled the lyric and found it used ironically in the opening scene of Robert Altman’s “Nashville.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TP94wyr5KB4)

I’m failing to tie this together. But I want to wish you a good holiday, and I’ll end with a hopeful phrase Lady B’s mom might remind me of: “This too shall pass.”

The Naming of Things

These days I move furniture around rooms in the new house using a marginally accurate graph paper drawing or a map in my head. The rooms have pragmatic by-purpose names.

By labeling book boxes to indicate destination, I hope to direct the movers to the bookcases on the landing, in the living room, or my workroom (more a space than a room). The upstairs bedroom will be my husband’s study, a guest room, and the television space (known in some circles as an adult lounge). For now I write “upstairs bedroom” on the boxes.

And there are so many boxes of books – my new neighbor came one afternoon, and we filled 19 boxes, a number since doubled. Piled up in stacks, they surround little islands of ever-shrinking comfortable regular life.

In a recent adjustment to my mental map, Granny Trudy’s desk will go on the landing. My father-in-law shipped it to us in Alaska, and it became the place for family business. The slanted, drop down desktop made a good place to write checks, back when we paid bills with paper.

Thinking about that desk being forever Granny Trudy’s desk made me consider how families identify things. We had “Jake’s cabinet” in the house in Anchorage, glass-fronted shelves with drawers below, built long ago by Jake the carpenter. In that house, ownership of bedrooms shifted around so many times that names changed frequently (sometimes rooms are identified by cardinal direction no matter who occupies the south bedroom).

A wicker chair, always Frances’s chair, is now downstairs, substituting for an armchair gone to a clever seamstress to be slipcovered. Inspired by Mrs. Hughes’ advice and the designer Anna Spiro, the newly covered-in-ticking chair might be called after Spiro or maybe Simone for the seamstress!

Traces of the past will remain in the garden nomenclature here – the Buffalito bed, the bride’s garden, the quad garden. Front and back of this house has always been difficult to label – is the front toward the drive or toward the bluff? There is a clear front to the new house, car parked right near the front door.

Some impulse to fill the new house in comforting familiarity operates on me, but it is countered by reminders to enjoy the chance to rearrange – and rename!