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!)

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.

 

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.

Optimism in the Time of COVID-19

Did you hear the NPR piece about whether optimism is learned or innate? After reading a transcript, I’ve been thinking about the psychologist Martin Seligman’s comments about optimists and pessimists – and wondering if alternating between these two ways of being explains my changeable reaction to life right now. Seligman says an optimist assumes the problem is “temporary, just this one time and controllable,” a pessimist believes bad events are “permanent, pervasive, uncontrollable.”

Controllable – whether the pandemic is controllable or not – that’s the fluctuation and uncertainty. If we knew more, I might indulge my fantasies about motorhomes (new for me). My first notion (mostly as something to talk to Sweet B about) was the proposal I rent an RV and park it in her driveway. I threw that suggestion out on FaceTime, and Sweet B said, “hmmm, my mommy’s car is parked there.” She was quiet for a minute, then said, “we need to give that some more thought.” Indeed.

When we next spoke I proposed the LA family rent an RV and drive it up here, and we discussed the logistics of such an journey. A pleasant distraction for people to whom planning (and controlling or at least arranging outcome) is a pleasure no longer available.

Creative projects can be controllable, but these days the big blankness at the beginning intimidates me. I’ve liked watching other people’s creative moves though: my painter friend makes little water media paintings that I picture as big oil paintings someday, and as a daily discipline, my old friend who lives on the island makes postcards to mail to her three grandsons. She includes riddles, odd facts, and lists the things she is grateful for. The Wordsmith grows a garden destined to be bountiful with food and beauty.

Some have used the time to teach and to learn. My friend who paints in the woods posts video tutorials about her work methods on Instagram, another friend, a woodworker, whose daughter expressed interest, makes furniture with her – imparting skills to last. My physical therapist completely gave in to his teenage son’s long held obsession with llamas, and together they built the llama barn and fencing required to adopt two llamas, Ned and Giovanna. My good-natured husband (certified optimist) continues his pursuit of the Greek language – ancient and modern.

But I often retreat to the repetitive, familiar, doable task of mask making – more than 150 now, sending them to the project initiated by Washington’s Lt. Governor and the United Way, where mask makers are matched with volunteer organizations like shelters and food banks.

Sometimes I wonder if I’d have done more creative work if I didn’t make masks, but maybe I’d just be doing more “doomscrolling.” (What a great new phrase to describe that which we do too much of!)

One heartening thing has been to see the ever-changing costumes of Lord B, like the one below. I asked for identification of the knight – Mrs. Hughes replied, “just a run-of-the-mill knight.” But the ballcap and basket lid seem inspired.

At least we can control our outfits and accessories, if not the outcome of our current plight.

Life Still in Lockdown

My thoughts flitted all over this week, always recognizing the need to keep them corralled and forbid awfulizing. And I’m in a privileged world with work and loving families in secure situations – for now. Maybe that’s it. We have no idea what’s coming – some recovery? Or the “darkest winter in modern history?”

To think I began the year imagining us walking along the remains of Hadrian’s Wall this summer – knowing Lady B would love that. She’s very interested in history these days, her prized possession a fat history of the world from prehistoric times to “the year my mom graduated from college.” My only concern then was how old Sweet Brother would be for traveling. “We were so naïve,” a friend said yesterday.

The other day I walked down to the ferry dock just to remember leaving the island and was shocked to see the totally empty parking lots. I can read about things, but seeing the vacant tarmac startled me.

I walked home thinking about the administration’s frighteningly successful attempts to dismantle our democracy, and their chaotic and pathetic response to the virus. What if this pestilence that’s touched the entire world had been some universal good circling the globe, sudden outbreak of fair treatment and kindness – a virus causing reasonableness.

At my age will I ever see the grandchildren again in real life? What will happen in the election? That’s what my mind does – goes a little way down the path of despair, and then remembers how lucky we are when getting through the day and the month, is a challenge for so many. Countless lost lives and livelihoods.

And then my mind veers off, into dailiness or into the legitimate enjoying of what is still before me. I can’t hug the grandkids (although I really loved the tale of a grandpa donning full motorcycle leathers, helmet, mask, gloves so he could hug his grandchildren or the family who erected a plastic barrier with plastic sleeve tubes so a grandmother could hug her little people), but I can talk to ours, engage with them on a screen.

We could be there virtually at reading time when Lady B discovered the dictionary definition revealed when you press a word on a Kindle – and learned the magic of looking up Stonehenge and seeing what the index of her history book can do.

We admired Lord B’s costume of the day (Artemis, goddess of the hunt, with tropical shirt and shorts) and viewed a favorite book of his about trucks and excavators, followed by his rendition of “Henry the Explorer.”

We’ve seen puppet shows and live performances (every detail planned by Sweet B), including “Sunset Performance” – staged in the garden and set to classical music as she twirled and posed in ballet moves, including lifts by her tuxedo-clad dad.

And Sweet Brother – he’s the one who has changed so very much in the lockdown – transformed in these months from newborn to chubby, cheerful guy, cuddling against his dad in matching gray sweats and blue t-shirt.

It’s greedy to want more. Being thankful for what is seems a better idea.

 

 

 

Another Postcard Project in the Time of COVID-19

But first – the time has come for a name change. I started to write that recently I saw a photo of Baby Brother wearing a helmet and sitting on a rock by scrubby grass on a spring bike ride with his family. He was drawing in a large sketchbook. He’s no baby anymore. He’s tall and smart, and has an astounding vocabulary. Therefore, henceforth, in keeping with his sister’s title, his name here shall be Lord B. He might like that if he ever knew, certainly like it better than Baby Brother.

And it’s time for a project with him. I asked his mom if he might like to do a postcard project, she said yes, and added that when he draws, “every scribble comes with a story.”

So, in postcards north I plan to ask about those stories, and maybe receive a drawing and story in response (this will require some dictation to his parents).

Lord B excels at costuming – one of the highlights of our three-times-a-week reading sessions with Lady B is the initial brief appearance of Lord B in the day’s outfit – firefighter jacket, mask, and sword, or police hat and cape – ever varied.

My first postcard depicts Lord B (or a boy looking vaguely like him) drawn from a photo where he’s dressed after the protagonist in “Alexander, the old Town Mouse.” I didn’t know that book, but looked it up and the re-creation is spot on. Alexander has a green sash, and to mimic this Lord B used his Super G cape slung over another cape. Perfect.

I hope I get to hear the story.