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Lessons learned in the past few years

I’ve been away from my blog for a while. I’d like to begin 2020 with a recap of the lessons I’ve learned in the past few years and ideas for the future.

Stuff that didn’t make sense in 2014

It didn’t make sense to me how the media members believed they were covering a story, but they were actually publicizing a fringe opinion. When the media exposed the actions of an extremist group/organization, they appeared to actually give them credence, especially when repeated ad nausium.

It didn’t make sense to me how polarized my country was, how relatives and neighbors could hold such opposite opinions. Even though we disagreed with many, we don’t want to shoot them like they do in other countries where people fight over politics or religion.

It didn’t make sense to me how people looked at land or location as a place to be exploited and not see the beauty of the place. It didn’t make sense to me how destroying a landscape, improves it;  e.g. why do neighbors bulldoze 100-year-old trees that protect fragile land to farm another acre more or build another grain bin.

What did make sense?

It made sense for a society to take responsibility to care for people unable to care for themselves (disabled, elderly, children and disenfranchised). It made sense to me that wealthy people should be taxed more to pay for roads, police, schools, health care, and even bombs. I often felt that I could do more than I do to help others.

It made sense to celebrate life’s events, like holding a Halloween party for friends and family whenever we are able. We may not pass by a person, group, of part of life again in just the same way – it made sense not to miss opportunities. This sentiment has grown stronger as I age.

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What made sense in my life?

It made sense to always support my children as they figure out life.

It made sense to bury the hatchet of conflict with others and let go of past hurts. This one was and is very difficult for me. I take injuries and hurts to heart, expect apologies that won’t be coming, and find it easier to live without hurtful people in my life.

It made sense to learn to forgive so I don’t feel the agony of resentment all the time. It made sense to bury those feelings in the soil, to plant new life internally as I plant flowers and tomatoes in the spring. I’ve been given another year, another spring to work on this and I was grateful to be alive, or as a friend used to say, “every day above ground is a good one”.

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It made sense to me to focus my daily life on things I could manage and control (like mowing the lawn when it is tall, cleaning the house when it is dirty, taking care of pets and livestock, giving my colleagues a place to vent about the very strange politics of the work-place, participating in groups that improve the little space of the world that I live in) and let alone the neighborhood’s, state’s, nation’s bigger problems.

It made sense to celebrate every sunrise, appreciate every sunset, savor the taste of coffee, the luxury of time to sip a couple cups in the morning, dinner with family or friends, finding time to stop, listen to birds sing and share the bounty of my life. I felt very fortunate to be in that place at that time.

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What makes sense in 2020?

This is the first time I’ve considered these issues in the past six years. It seems appropriate to revisit them again as 2020 begins. I noted in 2014 that Americans may disagree but at least we don’t shoot people. I’m revising that statement based on the history of the past few years. People in this country are more polarized now than six years ago.

In recent years people have started to shoot people they don’t like; target racial groups they don’t like, and pursue whole groups of people whose politics they don’t like. People shoot other people in churches, synagogues, and mosques. People shoot children in elementary and high schools, and at colleges and universities. People shoot people in nightclubs and at concerts. People shoot people in restaurants and corner stores. I understand this exhibition of hated even less than I understand the hate that fuels it.

Perhaps I’m looking through the wrong end of a viewfinder, but I don’t understand the continued exploitation of land and water in this country as if there’s always more land out there to move to, dig up, pump water from the ground via irrigation, build wind farms on, or clutter landscapes with mechanical equipment. It makes no sense to me to encase towers in fifty-feet deep cement platforms for the next generation to worry about removing.

It also makes no sense to mine oil from Canadian tar sands and transport it via pipelines to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico to be sold on the world market. Pipelines that cross the United States and pollute our land with every pipeline break seem nonsensical to me as well as being another source of ill-gotten revenue for the one present of ultra-rich that spend fortunes lobbying politicians to make it happen.

Stuff that does make sense.

Generosity to others and kindness continue to be important qualities. It makes sense to help others when possible. It makes sense to adopt shelter pets, like my dog Pickles rather than buy from pet factories.

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I wish sensible actions and attitudes combined into a longer list and perhaps I need to remove my rose-colored glasses and view the world with a different lens. However, I love my country and its multiplicity of residents regardless of our political divisions. We are all more than our political opinions. Please, let’s stop shooting each other!

It also makes sense to me to record events and attitudes as I experience them. This time and place will not come again. I’m still grateful to be alive at this time. It continues to make sense to celebrate life’s gifts.  I hope the world will be a better place for future generations. If each of us demonstrates one kind gesture toward another and befriends folks rejected by others, we will have a beginning.

 

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High Summer

It’s late July, high summer season for garden  harvests, flowers and mosquitos.  It’s also the general timeline I gave myself to make a retirement decision.  I can busy myself picking green beans,  husking sweet corn and pruning flower beds to avoid difficult decisions.  It’s been a great year for green beans.  This is an early harvest.

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Plentiful rain results in beautiful flowers.

IMG_20180708_211918_073 The flowers are pretty even when shared with another of Mother Nature’s creatures.

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Tending to nature’s bounty is a peaceful way to consider options.  Time on the lake fishing is another kind of peace.  My pole’s in the water on a foggy morning.

Lin's fishing pole

This view and the cover photo are of Lake Oahe in South Dakota. http://sdmissouririver.com/follow-the-river/the-four-lakes-and-dams/lake-oahe/

A HORSE IN EVERY ROOM

Greetings, I’m beginning this blog with a confession. I spent too many hours of precious free time during my working years shopping in antique stores. Many items ended up packed in boxes and now have little value for resale.

Early in March 2020 it became widely recognized across the United States that we needed to make dramatic changes in every part of our lives to reduce the spread of COVID 19. Many of us began to shelter at home. I looked at my house with a more-than-usual critical eye and tried to declutter.

Snow and cold outside

I had planned to fly to Ireland the third week in March and realized the trip had to be cancelled about the same time that the United States started closing her borders and flights were cancelled. Ireland also closed her borders to tourists at that time.

I was disappointed to miss this opportunity, just as many others across the world also had to change plans, and began to deal with days, weeks, and now months for some of us, in the confines of our homes.

One of my ways of coping with so much time alone has been to rearrange the furniture several times. It felt like I traveled when I return to a room that looked different than it did or I went to a different part of the house.

Finally warm enough to go outside.

I’m lucky to live outside city limits in a rural county where I have a couple of horses and board a few more. It has been easy for me to be outside and be socially distant from others at the same time. My heart goes out to those without the “outdoors” option.

Munching prairie hay

During multiple furniture re-arranging, and feeding the horses in my care, I hit on the idea of having a horse (representative) in every room of the house. I framed photos of horses, found tucked-away equine paintings, and discovered other horse-connected ephemera purchased and forgotten.

Early spring green grass

I was also working on a quilt top with several large plain-colored squares last winter and felt it needed some embellishment. I was re-reading Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt at the same time. Considering I was now sheltering at home and thinking about equines, I made use of the time to applique horses and other items mentioned in Black Elk’s dream to the quilt top.

Vision Quilt

The “horse in every room” project helped to pass the time during the winter pandemic months. Both the project and the quilt are nearly finished and will be concluded with addition of one more horse item for the back porch and quilting the top (pictured) to its back.

DRY SPELL

This part of Nebraska and many other states are officially in drought. If our eyes can’t see the results of this dry spell, the nightly weather forecast provides a daily update from the National Drought Monitor that shows the extent and severity of drought in our part of the country. Wildfires are raging across much of the western half of the United States. Smoke from those fires reduce air quality for millions already stressed by the effects of COVID-19.

I’m choosing to add photos to this blog from earlier in the summer when gardens and pastures were green and trees bloomed with great promise.

I’m also in a bit of a writing dry spell. The pandemic has shut down most face-to-face interaction. My writing group did not meet for four months. Some of us are now meeting virtually, but as all of us surviving zoom meetings know, it’s not the same experience as an in-person gathering. I dearly miss the people in my writing group, our conversations, and in-person writing feedback. The monthly writing group meetings provided me with valuable discipline to bring new and/or revised work to our meetings. Now, I still write on a schedule, but it feels like everything is in draft form, never finished.

Happily, I’ve had several poems published in journals this year. I wrote most of the poems before the pandemic. It gives me hope that although we meet virtually for now, eventually we will figure out how to meet in person, in ways that are safe and meaningful to everyone.

I water my vegetable gardens and flower beds. I decided to let the lawn tend to itself. Mostly only weeds grow in the lawn. It needs to be periodically mowed even though the grass has gone domant. Today it’s 95 degrees, too hot to even weed. These temps are expected to get even hotter as the week progresses.

Gardening is a process that helps me cope with both emotional and physical dry spells. Nature provides endless inspiration for me to write, photograph, and occassionally paint.

My poem Garden Therapy was published in Nebraska Life Magazine in 2019.

GARDEN THERAPY

A recent study proves

what I’ve known

for years:

digging in the dirt

treats depression

as well as

or better than

Zoloft

There’s something magic

about bending, reaching,

kneeling on soil

that stretches us

out of our bad backs,

cures headaches,

helps us forget troubles

Gardening is a break

from social media,

a fine way

to chase away

a day of frustration

with government

paperwork, website

roadblocks

When my sheepdog

Pickles drops

a frisbee

in front of me,

it’s time to stop

and play for a while,

heal

Language

I approach this blog entry about language usage with trepidation because grammar is not my strong suite. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by English majors; all the members of my writing group are English majors except me. My son, daughter, niece, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and ex-husband also hold various degrees in English. Many of them are writers and published authors. Flower photos will punctuate this blog with color.

Tulips

However, I’m so excited by the uses of language to express everything from infatuation to nervous anticipation, I’m twitterpated. I’m especially fond of the word “twitterpated.” It’s rarely used in descriptions of passionate love, daily life, or politics and more often found in wordsmithing novels.

Language usage is a “thing” among my family and friends. Family remembers mentioned above have been known to spend hours debating the use of apostrophes to change a word ending with “s” to plural. Should one add an apostrophe at the end of the last letter like xxxs’ or should it be xxxs’s or xxxses? Many sources tell us more than one is acceptable. To some this may seem like a wasted opportunity to communicate about important issues. But during this pandemic when so many of us are isolated from each other, I believe it provides a venue for communication, bringing us together when we often disagree about politics, religion, and social issues.

However, there are occasions that call for other descriptors like this morning as I was preparing to leave for work, the garage door malfunctioned refusing to open with the car still in the garage, leaving me flummoxed about a solution and I won’t soil your day with the list of inappropriate swear words I uttered under my breath.

Word Choice

Day Lili

Regardless on one’s thoughts about the use of misused words, I’m not a fan of the nonstandard “irregardless” so often used in conversation. When someone says irregardless, it sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard to many of us. What should you or I do, ignore the misuse, casually suggest a correction, or use the word correctly, restating the issue? I believe the correct response depends on our relationship with the speaker. This brings us back to the connection between language usage and human connection. Or, we can just get used to it as irregardless has been in use for years and is recorded in dictionaries as NPR describes in this article. https://www.npr.org/2020/07/07/887649010/regardless-of-what-you-think-irregardless-is-a-word

Apple blossoms

There are many languages in use around the world, and many more dialects within them. I’ll close today’s blog with my poem, Language, published by Story circle Journal. Be well and communicate in your preferred style.

LANGUAGE

Paris, city I haven’t visited, whose cathedral I didn’t see,

people I don’t know, faced their city’s waterloo

as they bade Notre Dame’s famed spire adieu.

The little French I recalled from my high school degree

and four college classes failed me, but like an emcee, 

evoked ancient cries like, oh, mom Dieu and, sacrebleu

and stumbled over the important question, parley-vous

Anglaise ? Fermer la bouche, bizarrely, stayed with me;

Madam often told our class to shut up and learn punctuation.

Mon nom est Lin, translates my moniker, as flax, or linseed

in French; being called a seed or a plant fits my behavior, 

whereas Linda, my birthname, doesn’t have a translation 

in French, but is bonito or beautiful in Spanish, indeed,

a language I should learn to talk to my neighbors.

Dignity for All

This is the first blog entry I’ve attempted since my failed attempt at humor at Easter this year. It’s difficult to write anything meaningful in these stressful times. I’ve written poems this spring, but since my writing group isn’t meeting, they sit in draft stage waiting for an opportunity to be workshopped. Regardless of topic, poems all relate to life before, during, or after the pandemic hit the United States. This blog is no exception. Here in the middle of the country, COVID-19 arrived as other parts of the U.S. started to see a reduction of new virus cases. Infections continue to rise in my part of the state. Writing a blog on any coronavirus- related topic, like wearing a mask or not, is problematic as every stance has been politicized.

I retired at the end of 2018 from full time work as a college counselor and started a part-time counseling business with a colleague. We just finished a year in business and were beginning to develop a caseload when coronavirus arrived here. Our Public Health district shut everything down the first week of March. My colleague and I see a few people via telehealth but haven’t gained any new clients. We suspect this will change as people feel safe to renew old activities and begin new ones. We believe and many mental health experts speculate there will be an increased demand for mental health services as people try to recover. Health and Human Services in my state provides PPE (personal protective equipment) as it becomes available to agencies like ours. We received a shipment of gloves this week and wear homemade masks.

It’s been a very stressful time for everyone, doubly so for those with immune system concerns like my daughter, older citizens including my colleague and me, and the data shows that people of color are the most susceptible. At this point there are many speculations about why minorities might be more likely to experience serious illness if they test positive for the virus. This ranges from poorer health care throughout their lifetime, more likely to live in multi-family homes, commute to work together, work in crowded environments, like packing plants, etc. It will be some time before researchers who study how the virus spreads will have any definitive results.

My state and several surrounding me host beef, pork, and chicken processing facilities, usually called packing plants. As an avid gardener, I’ve never quite understood how a mass processing of meat, or a collection of factory building has anything to do with plants. Most of these facilities hire large numbers of minority workers because there aren’t enough white workers in the area and recent migrants are recruited to come to these small towns for the jobs. The work is difficult, work weeks are often six days long, but the pay is good, and workers can work overtime to earn more money. It was reported that a South Dakota packing facility employs people who speak fifty-seven different languages. Informing such a large workforce in every language about how the virus works has not gone well but more effort is going toward communication.

This part of the state is also home to three Native American tribes. Many Native people have compromised immune systems and the infection rate among the tribes also continues to rise. I selected the photo of Dignity to pay tribute to Native American people. Although the statue of Dignity was designed as a tribute to the Dakota and Lakota people, she seems to speak for many.

Knowing that one is more likely to become seriously sick if infected, is stressful on its own, but then to watch a black man die under the knee of a white policeman, is overwhelmingly frightening to many. The courts will sort out the guilt or innocence of the four officers involved in this latest Minneapolis death. Charges have been filed against all four of them. I can understand that people of color have little trust in the legal system that often discriminates against them and incarcerates them at a much greater rate but don’t pretend to be in their shoes. My late friend Jan was a passionate supporter of human rights for all people. If she was here and well, I can see her protesting to support the Black Lives Matter movement just as she protested other injustices in the past.

Jan died a year ago, and as the anniversary of her memorial services approaches, I find that everything reminds me of her. Jan was an avid traveler adventuring to every part of the world. The enforced confinement necessary to reduce likelihood of being exposed to COVID-19 would have been a real challenge for her. She counted time in days on an adventure.

I took the COVID-19 test and tested negative this weekend when my state hosted a testing site nearby. I didn’t think I’ve been exposed but I’d really wanted to know for sure before I participate in the re-opening of economic life. I’ve been ordering my groceries online and driving to pick them up. Grocery bags are delivered to my car by young masked workers.

Like many other people, I miss hugs from my children and friends. This is a real issue for many of us who live alone. The New York Times has come up with hugging guidelines to help us out.

The example is accompanied by this quote from the author, Tara Parker-Pope — the Well columnist.
“A brief hug, as long as we stay out of each other’s breathing zones, is probably less risky than a long conversation,” she told me. But she added that we should still limit our hugs. As one scientist told her, “I would take the Marie Kondo approach — the hug has to spark joy.”

What is the point of this blog you ask? Good question. As an older Caucasian woman who lives in a mostly white world, I have no solutions to these very serious problems, only observations. It’s a conundrum to me that wearing a mask to protect others, or not, labels one as either liberal or conservative. it often appears that Caucasian folks are frightened they/we will have to give up the privileged status they/we have always enjoyed as the white/non-white population balance shifts as it inevitably will.

I can and do donate money to causes that support people of color, volunteer to help when possible, work to be a role model for positive action, and try to live by the virtues of my garden signpost.

It’s clear these efforts are not enough and I’m writing this blog to make sense of an emerging new normal where we learn to listen to more voices and show dignity to all. Trista Tippet’s Letter this week says it well, https://engage.onbeing.org/_notice_the_rage_notice_the_silence?utm_campaign=20200607_the_pause&utm_campaign=20200607_the_pause&utm_medium=email&utm_medium=email&utm_source=onbeing&utm_source=onbeing

HOLY WEEK AND SOCIAL DISTANCING

Dear Reader, this blog is a tongue-in-cheek look at Holy Week.

PALM SUNDAY

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Jesus won’t be riding into Jerusalem on a donkey this year, triumphantly or otherwise. Palms will still have their leaves as trees won’t be chopped apart for his fans to lay branches across his path. We might see palm trees as far north as England if the trees mature and seed at will. As a matter of fact, Jesus should be sheltering at home like the rest of us.

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He’s still living with Mary and Joseph. They were at their wits end about how to get their thirty-something-year-old son out of the house even before this quarantine. Jesus and a few of his friends sit around the family’s courtyard and talk for hours every day and expect Mary to feed them. She wants him and his friends to get their own hovel, but no one will rent to a bunch of single guys.

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To please his mother, he gathers twelve friends he calls apostles, encouraging the few still working at fisheries, to quit and walk along. The men wander the desert searching for a free place to live, hope for a snug, dry abandoned cave near the sea. Who doesn’t?

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Jesus was exposed to COVID-19 on one of his many journeys. He hasn’t been sick, but he’s likely a virus carrier the way he mingles with poor people and then lets them touch him. He’s would only be able to meet with nine apostles at a time and they’ll have to sit six feet apart to honor the social distancing constraint decreed by the King.

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Let’s say Jesus is trying to be fair to all the guys and meets with six apostles first and then the remaining six. You know how those guys can gossip. By the time the first six leave the meeting with their leader, they start spreading their notion of what was said to the others. When Jesus calls the second group in for their briefing, they think they already know what he’s going to say. Judas makes a side deal a few days later with an online banker posing as a peacemaker to sell out Jesus for a few pieces of gold.

GOOD FRIDAY

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Jesus decides to go off and meditate in the mountains for a few days as he needs to distance himself, so he doesn’t spread COVID-19. He also wants quiet time occasionally away from his rowdy buddies. His friends take this opportunity to have a few drinks at the new canteen and listen to music from a group of minstrels that wandered into the village square.

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The young guys are notorious gossips and wonder which of them is going to get sick first after hanging out with Jesus, who had tested positive for the virus. From their street-side table, the apostles see a squad of official-looking Roman soldiers march into town. They whisper to each other, “what are they doing here?”

Jesus let his friends know he was back and wanted to meet them for supper. They always showed up for a free meal. Jesus set about washing their feet. The guys were taken aback by this effort. Peter even refused to participate. Jesus chewed him out about being prideful and encouraged the men to wash each other’s feet. Clean feet are good and well, but some effort should have been made to wash their hand, too. Hand sanitizer was in short supply and not available to replace a little effort with soap and water. Eventually, dinner was served, and they posed for pictures around the table.

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After supper, the soldiers showed up on a tip from Judas and arrested Jesus for spreading disease and misinformation. They hauled him away. Crowds of people who turned out to see him earlier in the week suddenly turned on him, afraid they would catch whatever he was carrying. it went from a misinformation campaign to a death sentence in hours.

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Mary has had time to leisurely check her social media accounts since her son and his friends weren’t always pressing her for more food all the time. She sees that someone is posting about a crazy guy sentenced to death for his uncompromising view of life and religion. With a mother’s intuition, Mary just knows this is about her son. She jumps in the old blue pickup and frantically races into town to bail him out of jail. She’s too late and joins other mourners at his feet. God only knows why Joseph isn’t here.

 

 

 

 

IN THE AGE OF FIRSTS

Listening to the news this month started me  thinking about the idea of “firsts.”  It’s the first time so many nations around the world have faced a deadly virus like COVID-19 in such a short time period. It appears to spread like the seeds of a dandelion in the wind. Most countries are not prepared to treat so many sick people at the same time. This notion of firsts sent me down the rabbit hole of events in the past sixty-plus years I experienced for the first time.  The following list included those personal and political events that were and are significant to me.

Dear Reader,  your list, oftentimes depending on your year of birth or your belief-system, will likely be different than mine. If you are averse to looking at political opinions that may be different from yours, please stop or read this blog at your own risk. Commercial photos borrowed from online sources and one personal picture are included. I often escape into the world of Star Trek to imagine another way for the world to be.

My timeline of ‘firsts” recalled.

JFK’s assignation, blood spatter on Jackie Kennedy’s pink suit

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Rural District 60 that I attended closes for three days to give us a chance to watch his funeral parade

Johnson’s rise to power, Lady Bird’s roadside flowers bloom on today

Vietnam war – veterans still battle PTSD

Black Power – urban riots

Women’s Movement for equality – fifty years later women still make a fraction of men’s income

Peace marches – draft numbers, veterans and college men burn draft cards

1968 National Democratic Convention violence

National Guard kill students at Kent State in 1970, sobers the country

Star Trek provides another vision of peaceful exploration in space

I begin freshmen year at UNL – Johnson’s Great Society programs pay for my undergraduate degree

Move to Syracuse NY for grad school

Watch Nixon’s “I am not a crook” speech, stoned in a hotel room

Watergate break-in – Nixon’s resignation

Ford, a place holder pardons the crooks

Began first post-graduate school job same year Carter is elected President

Carter’s one-term marked by Americans captives in the Middle East

Reagan’s election begins nation’s slide to conservatism

My son was born and my daughter three years later, both during Reagan’s presidency

Liz & Zeke 1987

HW Bush serves one term, starts a war with Hussain and calls it Desert Storm

Clinton’s legacy forever tainted by the affair with Monica Lewinsky, ruins Hillary’s political aspirations in the process

911 attacks change the national psyche

Islamic terrorists rise to power

George W, nicknamed “Shrub” by Molly Ivans, elected President, blames Hussain for 911 and escalates Middle east hostility fighting his Daddy’s war

2008 recession Stock Market plunge – greedy inside traders, risky banking practices

My marriage breaks up after eight years of George W, divorced as Obama takes office

Obama rescues economy, pushes progressive agenda, the healthcare overhaul gives my daughter health insurance that covers pre-existing conditions like her Type I Diabetes

“The history of the Affordable Care Act – The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. It is more commonly known as the Affordable Care Act (or ACA) — and it’s most commonly referred to by its nickname, Obamacare.”

I retired in 2018, start living on a pension

The Donald elected because he is White and obnoxious from my perspective. His election is the US retaliating against Black President Obama

Lost and ill-prepared, Trump dismantles everything he doesn’t understand, including pandemic planning office

COVID-19 spreads around the world – National response shows our country unprepared, Trump wants to be center of attention, NYC becomes the epicenter of US 

Reuters

A deserted Times Square is pictured following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo AllegriREUTERS

Stocks in free fall as economy shuts down, pensions drop

States are on their own, some better than others respond to the crisis – death toll rises

Need international cooperation to beat a virus that doesn’t recognize borders

Senators learn about the virus before they tell the public and sell off stocks making millions in dirty insider trading – politicians both sides of the isle bought and paid for by lobbyists

Get past this national illness, file charges against crooked Senators

Head of UN calls for halt to all hostilities worldwide, establish health corridors between warring parties, countries, factions – unite to fight the virus

2020 Summer Olympics postponed a year

Star Trek Picard finishes a second season moving war off-planet

Some people may be naturally immune to COVID-19, scientists investigate

Time and Quiet

Sometimes I need quiet to free my brain of daily distractions to put pen to paper or fingers to my keyboard. There’s certainly a lot to distract us as we search for good news amongst the mostly bad news about COVID-19 that is on TV, social media, and in newspapers. The reader will see a few random “quiet time” photos from my collection in this blog to break up the text.

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In retirement, I work two days a week and live alone. Before the recommendation to shelter at home, I’d spend my workday breaks running errands and/or meeting friends for lunch. On other days, I attended volunteer organization meetings, planned dinner parties, and went out to local bars and restaurants to hear live music and eat out.  Nearly everything is now canceled or closed. The State Department just announced that US citizens should not travel abroad during this pandemic and everyone abroad should come home. I canceled a trip to Ireland planned for the end of this month.

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This blog entry is a celebration of the enforced quiet many of us are experiencing due to our time at home. There’s a real benefit to social distancing. I wrote copious journal entries in my adolescence. After I started college, studying took all my time and I let it go. During graduate school, I read The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing.  I credit that book to a personal awakening and renewed interest in writing. A new job, then children, again put the idea on the back burner. A painful divorce eleven years ago freed me to consider writing again.

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I read an article recently that likened writing to a form of worship. I’m more inclined to think of it as a daily meditation or therapy. Writing with a writing group helped me recover from divorce. I established a daily writing routine that I continue to maintain.

The writing group’s monthly meetings keep us all working to bring new work to a shared critique. I’ve made longlasting friends in the process. As a decidedly nice side-benefit of my writing time, I’ve published poems in journals, magazines, and anthologies. I’ve published two chapbooks and a full-length poetry collection has been accepted for publication.

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My take-away from enforced solitude, listen to the quiet and allow your inner voice to guide you forward.

Growing Up on a Farm

My poem, Farm Sale, tells about the day my parents held a farm sale, prior to their move from farm to a house in town in 1982. The poem was published in The Sea Letter Journal 

farm sale_Jim

The photo is blurry because it’s from 1982, taken on a tiny point-and-shoot camera and because my hands shook watching my parents’ lives auctioned away. Many people from the community came to the sale. Cars and pickup trucks lined the road that March day.

farm sale road

I also took some pictures that day of the pasture where I spent a lot of time day dreaming during my adolescent years.  Those photos are clearer.  I took more time and steadied my hand to photograph the waterways I loved.

Clearwater Creek 2

Clearwater Creek 5

Mom liked living in the town they chose.  Dad missed the farm.  He missed the cows and working in the fields.  He passed away two years after moving to town.

Transitions

September Sunset

September is glorious sunrises and sunsets, warm days, open-window cool nights, and a sense of time stretching forever. It’s a time of transition from summer to fall, air conditioning to heating, garden harvest to preserving food for winter.

I had a large apple harvest this year. I made a lot of applesauce.

http://dish.allrecipes.com/how-to-make-applesauce/

Weather changes affect mood

In Autumn, September’s warm, balmy days switch to October’s variability. October can be a glorious display of tree colors, visits to pumpkin patches, and bountiful fall harvests. October can also turn into soggy, overcast dreary days stretching into an early winter. October is a time of Halloween parties, fun decorations, and playing dress-up for kids of all ages. October is usually a combination of all those transitions moving us gradually or suddenly toward winter in the northern hemisphere.

We move from fourteen hours of daylight in August to ten by the end of the October. I move my houseplants back in the house after a summer in the bright light. Most of them have adjustment issues in the dimmer indoor light. When plants have difficulty adjusting to less light, drop their leaves, and become semi-dormant, it’s an alert that people face the same challenge.

Depression is a difficult mental health condition for many. With the lowering of light levels during the winter months, depression can heighten for those already challenged. Known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, winter depression affects people who feel fine in the summer months but lapse into depression in the winter. These folks often dread winter for many reasons. Getting up in the dark, shoveling snow, traveling on icy roads, and coping with everyday challenges is heightened during the dark months ahead.

Help is available

Counselors can help their clients make these transitions and prepare for low light conditions. Knowing that last’s years depression can return with the change in light level, helps people know that it’s time to check in with their mental health professional, begin to care for themselves, and consider adding extra light to one’s routine; e.g. setting a timer to your bed side light so it lights your room before the alarm begins your day.  Each person’s situation often has multiple challenges. It’s always a good idea to talk over your issues with a professional.