Monday, November 28, 2016

A lovely piece I have to re-post here as I struggle with what to write myself. Straddle fear of going on too much about the election (after having been accused, on Thanksgiving, of not being able to talk about anything else) and fear of complacency, business as usual, daily offerings, even inward focused, art-making and what that might signal, the danger that might be contained there, even in gratitude. I have found myself wondering if gratitude is even okay but then reading One Blue Sail I remembered, became convinced or remembered or both, that art and gratitude are always okay.

Here is A Call to Make Art by Sarah Bousquet. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Church Bells Ringing

I read way, way, way too many articles these days. 

Some favorites:

Gloria Steinem "We Will Not Mourn, We Will Organize"

Kirk Noden Why Do White Working-Class People Vte Against Their Interests? They Don't.

 Damon Young "I will Never Underestimate White People's Need to Preserve Whiteness

Baratunde Thurston "Empathy isn't a favor I owe white voters. It has to go both ways."

Ezra Kelin "The hard question isn't why Clinton lose - it's why Trump won

Joy Reid President-Elect Donald Trump Gets to work Betraying His Backers

Mark Lilla The End of Identity Liberalism

Joan C. Williams What So Many People Don't Get About the U.S. Working Class

Neal Gabler Farewell America

Brian Phillips Shirtless Trump Saves Drowning Kitten

Some of the articles contradict each other.

I argue with people in emails. I change my views. Revise those changes. 

I see people drop off from the email conversations to pursue the conversation where they have a bigger audience (i.e., social media).

I spend way too much time on Twitter, RT-ing articles like the above.

I call senators and representatives.

I donate to Foster Campbell, our one last chance to flip a senate seat.
I sign petitions (not sure if they really do anything) to get Merrick Garland appointed, to make Election Day a public holiday, to denounce white supremacist Bannon.

I join the #GrabYourWallet boycott and keep writing @TJMaxx and others, hoping they'll drop Trump products asap. 

I wonder if we will be so busy denouncing every Trump pick that we will miss it when multi-millionaire Paul Ryan follows through on his dream to destroy Medicare.

I work, less productively than at other times in my life, but perhaps on par with the sluggish pre-election pace when I kept telling myself "Come November 9, everything will be settled and I'll be back." 

I feel so very sad. Furious sometimes. Then back to very, very sad. 

I want to form better replies to some of the wonderful, generous comments from readers here, but I haven't been able to.

I talk to so many people who are as crushed and heartbroken as I am. I recoil at the fact that the most immediately sanguine of all my friends about the results of the election are the white males, the whitest of the white males.

For them, an ignorant, hopelessly unprepared, bigoted, bankrupt, non-tax-paying supposed billionaire without any policies defeating a brilliant, dedicated public servant, by many accounts one of the most qualified people ever to run for president, is not so bad. Business as usual. Let's wait and see.

I listen to people talk about privileged whiny white women who "didn't get their candidate" and think -- is that me? 

I talk to a woman who hasn't stopped crying since November 8 and watch as her two very white, bright-blond-haired toddlers tug at her skirt and beg for gelato. 

I think -- is that me?

Couldn't I be upset that this awesome candidate--yes a woman, yes that was amazing that the best prepared, the smartest, the most devoted was a woman--lost, but also genuinely sad for the people, all of them, who will suffer, including those who voted for Trump, who voted like they so often do for the party that wants to take everything away, who is planning right now to destroy health care? Can't I be both? Like Baratunde Thurston

"So I am both empathetic and angry. I get to be both. We all should be able to be both, but as we discuss the need for empathy, let us remember it needs to go both ways. It is not a cross solely to be born by the oppressed in order not to hurt the oppressor's feelings. It is not just for liberals and Democrats to practice toward conservatives and Republicans." 

I feel discouraged as again and again a man talks over me, with a louder voice, with more conviction, with a patronizing tone, while my voice is open, while I am willing to shift my position, revise, reflect. His view--it may have changed from yesterday, it doesn't matter--is now firm and unbending. He may be the one who swore, based on even Nick Silver's pessimistic polls, that this would never happen. He may be the one who swore a year ago that Trump would never be the Republican nominee. Never, ever going to happen.

Whether he is further left, or further right, or more upset or less. Whether he insists, the most infuriating of all that "She was the wrong candidate" (the that was so "wrong" it took Russia and the FBI to take her down?), or whether he demands we pay more attention to the white working class or whether he demands that we stop worrying about white people or whether he insists that this was all expected and was simply a "change election" -- it doesn't matter. Lots of points I agree with, others I don't. The point is whatever the man's damn position, his position is absolutely unyielding. His tone is superior. "This is just how it is, Rachel. Eventually, you'll get it."

I listen to lots and lots of Etta James. No books. No internet. No phone. No reading the lyrics even. Just me with my headphones and a few candles lit and my journal opened before me but I cannot write.

Pressing the headphones harder against my ears, heart pounding, listening to Etta wail. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Primal Scream

For a few days (hours? weeks? lost track of time) I've been thinking -- pull it together. "Don't Agonize, Organize" (Florence Kennedy) kind of thing. Buck up. As my Physics Friend M. and others have said, put on my pantsuit and get out there and keep fighting.

But no. 


Not doing that yet.  

Still in "primal scream" stage.

I'm not going to give up, but I'm also not going to normalize this with business as usual. 

I'm not going to continue on as if this is okay. This is way too catastrophic on every level. It can't be normalized that quickly. We cannot listen to the MSM that gave free publicity to Trump all along, that told us he was never going to win, that she had an electoral firewall, and now wants to tell us "Okay, calm down. It won't be so bad. Let's tell him to renounce the hate and get on with running the country." That will just allow this to keep happening.

We can't calm down.

The hate has come out of hiding. 

Let it stay out there. Let's deal with it, not let it crawl back and continue on with the exact policies that have stirred up so much anger in the first place.

Yes this is the "primal scream" from everyone who is f&cking furious that a woman as smart and qualified as Hillary was passed up for...who even needs to say it? We all know how awful he is.

We know the woman who dedicated her life to helping children get medical treatment was passed over for the man who denied medical funding to his nephew who needed treatment for cerebral palsy. That says it all.

I don't think I've ever even sworn on this blog before (in our house we are giving a week free pass post-election on swearing).

Yes this is the "primal scream" and yes it's still going on and millions are still screaming, voices hoarse, and I hope the whole world hears it.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Friday, November 4, 2016

The lovely window display at 192 Books, a nearby Chelsea gem. Heart soars every time I walk by. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016


I love the hyper-inter-textuality of this blog post by Kelly Salasin in which she recounts the various strains of our mostly rushed but genuine conversation(s). A perfect glimpse into the kind of satisfying cyborg back-and-forth it is still possible to have. There is something that feels like a throwback to me about this -- mid-to-late 90s (I have never met this person) and something very much of the moment, the exact moment of hitting "Like." 

Yesterday after run/walking up the river from the parent-teacher conference at Wally's school I stopped on the grass for a minute just to be by myself before rejoining the rest of the world.

I thought about how having a dog in the past had forced so much alone time, the perfect kind of time alone, walking through Prospect Park, reassured even in the woodsy areas, or empty winter fields, that I was protected by one of the most powerful creatures we are allowed to own. Perfect companionship, and the crunch of leaves, the wandering thoughts, ideas for songs, the sense-memory of other walks and other winters rising up around me. 

Yesterday during this stolen moment by the river I sat with a tiny journal and made a gratitude list. Every now and then I see one of those yoga/mindfulness/healing/whole living type of reminders about "Make a gratitude list every day" and I say I will, but drop off after only a few.

Then I took my phone out to snap a pic and immediately felt frustrated  

with my impulse to post the photo somewhere, even to just think of posting it somewhere, that newly created need to share instantaneously, to break the commune with the fall evening and the river and myself, to even just mentally break it by thinking about a "Here's where I am right now" glimpse for others to read where ever they are right then, each one of those messages supposed to connect us but often hurling us further and further apart.

And then I couldn't resist the impulse to check Twitter on my phone. "Ugh," I thought, even as I swiped away. "Why am I doing this when I am outside alone sitting on the grass feeling this beautiful, chilly breeze from the water?" But I did. I only installed Twitter on Saturday so I could live-update from #MomsDemandAction campaign at Washington Square Park, like the one of this Hillary-supporting Veteran and his daughter. 

So anyway on Twitter I found a happy message from a one Kelly Salasin who said she was starting a new blog specifically for the purpose of elaborating on our mixed-media conversation. And I thought - Oh wow, yay! Awesome. Then I went home and went back out because I forgot cat food and had dinner with the kids (pea soup & buttered toast inspired by Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel).


And then I put the kids to bed and cleaned up and you know the usual routine went through the mail poked around spooked myself with election news watched the Season Finale of Scandal from last spring and...forgot...

Until this morning when I tried to pause before jumping into the awkward melange of work and panicked poll-checking that has become my work-life lately and I remembered--Kelly Salisin! That writer in Vermont with the many, many blogs who now started a new one...another one...after seeming to be offended that I praised her many, multiplying blogs...

My first exposure to her work was through her writing on This Vermont Life. It caught my eye on Twitter, must have been re-tweeted from someone I knew, because I am always dreaming of a Vermont Life, entertaining pastoral fantasies, wondering if I can be a country mouse in the city. 

At the same time as I started reading her entries I was reading Wired to Create by Scott Barry Kaufman and felt emboldened by learning that those who tend to finish projects score lower on creativity than those who, well, just keep starting various projects. Instead of viewing my heap of rough novel drafts and song possibilities and half-sketched-essays and rough blog posts as a failure, I started to see it as indicative of a productive creative life, if not an outwardly successful creative one.

I'm not scared of posting things publicly (obviously) and I'm not unable to finish projects, as evidenced by my published books, (twice as many as I'm allowed to mention, by contract a bunch of children's books don't have my name but at least my kids know I wrote them) and non-profit proposals and Master's thesis, etc. So why is it then that I start another project daily? Maybe it is an authentic creative impulse, and not fear or resistance. 

I tried to communicate some of this to Kelly, that her many, many blogs showed great blossoming, generative, creativity but maybe I mixed it my own mishigas too much, seeming to accuse her of lacking discipline? I am honestly not sure. In this recent piece she writes about her reaction to my comment:

"i remained silent for days and days.
contemplating her words.
receiving them.
rejecting them.
dismissing them.
and finally, weaving them into another piece.
wondering if this was the ending of our brief affair."
But it was not the end of the affair. The conversation continues. You can see it here on Kelly's new blog Pied Beauty (love that name). "A Conversation on Creativity, Discipline, Process & Purpose." 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Single Step

Doesn't it feel so good sometimes to just start your work? To stop jumping up from the chair to straighten up a bit? (And if you could see the view from here -- I'll show you a pic -- you'd never believe any straightening up was done at all.)

To stop trying to figure things out on email - plans, stuff you need to do for the PTA (bring a dish tomorrow for parent/teacher conferences), stop wondering when you'll get to the store to buy the things to make the dish for tomorrow's conferences. Remembering that oh yeah you need to be at the parent/teacher conference tomorrow, too.

To stop racing with how much you can get done today and how much time to devote to which project...and how you'll manage everything this weekend...and whether you'll need a sitter Saturday afternoon between Alex's soccer and a baby shower brunch...

And instead to pick one project...

to turn on Mozart (dreaming of images from Sunday's performance of The Other Mozart starring your neighbor Jody)

and start working.

Once you start working, often, everything seems to fall into place. 

You will do what you can today in the time that you have.

And if you have time later tonight, you'll dream about that purple house in the window, and who lives inside it.