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back the **** up! [d.r . thursday]

i have hugged exactly two people since the pandemic started.

two people. one is my husband, who i’ve been hugging daily. and, this past wednesday, finally, at long last, after seven months of not seeing him, and with great forethought, i hugged my son. that’s it. no best friends. no dear friends. no sweet neighbors. no co-workers. no one else. just two. matter of fact, i had an extended conversation a while back with my daughter and, in the middle of a discussion about possibly having a long-long-long overdue visit out in the high mountains and the absolute need to hug, even mask-on-face-turned, her admonishment to stave me away from the rampant numbers there at that time, “how will you not hug me, mom?”

so walking in front of the neighborhood store, about to put my mask on, imagine my astonishment when someone i haven’t seen in almost a decade called out my name, ran up and hugged me. HUGGED me.

this was an adult! an adult exhaling cigarette smoke. an adult exhaling cigarette smoke with no mask on. an adult exhaling cigarette smoke with no mask on and no acknowledgement that i was in the process of putting my mask on but hadn’t completed the motion. an adult exhaling cigarette smoke with no mask on and no acknowledgement of my incomplete-mask-putting-on-action who completely ignored my stepping-back-hand-out-clear-non-verbal-please-back-the-****-up behavior.

daaaaaaamn. i was shocked. it’s a freaking pandemic. my hug-quota is sorely lacking and yet, it is i who should choose who i would like to sacrifice my safety for in order to hug. did i mention? it’s a pandemic!

when i regained my composure on the sidewalk a few blocks away, i reviewed my actions. david, who was clear i did not want to hug this person, said i sent all the right signals. i reviewed it all again. i mean, i am a huggy person and this person would likely remember me as such. this wasn’t a cold reaction to the person; it was a reaction to the social distancing guidelines that we have been encouraged to follow in order to not spread or contract covid-19. i mean, it’s a pandemic!

what would YOU do?

i suppose next time – if this happens again – i could, as fast as my mouth could manage, say, “it-would-be-nice-to-be-able-to-hug-you-but-right-now-in-the-pandemic-i-am-not-hugging-people-sorry-don’t-take-it-personally.” only this wouldn’t have worked. she came at me in a warped speed tunnel…she went directly from the curb to hugging in seconds flat without stopping, without exhaling the cigarette smoke, without donning a mask, without passing go, without collecting $200, without stopping to think, “oh yeah, it’s a pandemic! i shouldn’t be hugging her.”

or, since that likely wouldn’t work in the warp-speed version, i could say in a loud assertive outdoor voice, “back up!” or i could use 20’s spicier version of that (only i won’t print that here.)

either way, it’s alarming to be put in a position like that.

david’s momma told us about a woman who spontaneously hugged her when jeanne gave the woman tomatoes. it horrified my mother-in-law, who then went home and showered and washed all her clothes. at the time i wondered how that could ever happen. well. silly me. s**t happens.

this is such an odd time. it’s scary all the way around. we have been inordinately careful, like many of our dearest friends. we are making choices based on what are the safest behaviors. the fact that someone can just arbitrarily take away your choice – during a pandemic (don’t know if i mentioned that yet) – is bracing.

i will have to have a plan of action for the next time. practice it. evaluate it. practice it again. make it a reflex. and make it flipping obvious.

in the meanwhile, i want my hug back. i need it for people i have actually been dying to hug.

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the pied piper. [flawed wednesday]

“while some will see the pied piper and his power as the devil, an evil entity that lures innocents away to their death, other interpretations see something entirely different: a christ-like savior.” (aimee h)

and there we have it.

this country has its very own pied piper. and in no way can this be a good thing.

“the term “pied piper”: … someone who, by means of personal charm, entices people to follow him or her, usually to disappointment or misfortune.” (maeve maddox)

without evidence nor using factual information, as is his unfortunate and biased practice, back in the early stages of this pandemic, the president of this country belittled others for wearing masks, and did not publicly himself wear a mask until mid-july, despite his presence in public places amongst citizens of this country deserving of respect and safety. his failure to make mask-wearing a national mandate in those earliest days of disease undermined the efforts of pandemic-fighters-treaters-sufferers across the country.

thus set the stage.

he pied-pipered his way all over fox news and media-biased outlets; he tooted his pipe into conspiracy theories, never taking responsibility for the safety of his populace. instead he led millions of people over the cliff and almost 190,000 people into death, simply by denying the very thing that could have minimized loss: a mask.

wearing a simple piece of cloth across your nose and mouth seems a small price to pay for a significant amount of safer passage through this time of pandemic. so it seems ludicrous and disgusting to go to the local grocery store and watch people arrogantly walk about with their masks firmly planted around their chins, just begging for someone to ask them to wear it properly. yes. the declining vigilance of the public.

the pied piper’s acolytes are everywhere and his followers are marching, goose-stepping toward what? the story of the pied piper relates that the followers – in the piper’s return to the village – were children and that those “children died of some natural causes such as disease or starvation and that the piper was a symbolic figure of death.” in easy metaphor, our very own piper, without evidence, has distilled the importance of masks to the point of dangerous disregard, pitting side against side, blather against facts, non-actions against actions, subjugating the very economy to disaster, costing jobs, homes, safety, the feeding of families, and has led this country to the brink of death.

is it his personal charm? i think not. the anger he has unleashed, the lack of moral compass, the lies, the rhetoric, the violence…his pipe-tooting seems limitless. instead of unity he chooses division. instead of health he chooses disease. instead of love he chooses hatred.

the pied piper, a self-described rat-catcher, piped to eradicate a poor town from an infestation of rats. ahhh. the metaphor continues. for, tucked into his own house-of-white, while tooting the ever-increasingly-ironic “draining of the swamp,” he and his minions have the best of the best pandemic tools and aids at their bidding. the 2000 people at the lawn rally bestowing accolades upon his every word and gesture have, likely, slightly fewer tools and aids. the millions of those watching fox news, tucked into living rooms across this country, have, likely, far fewer opportunities and far less resources to avoid or combat this coronavirus, this disease, this death.

but the one thing they could have? the one thing that is accessible to most anyone? the one thing that thousands of people sat in front of sewing machines making in the early part of this year, that are available most anywhere, from organizations or religious institutions or individual donors? the one thing that could have saved thousands of lives to date? the one thing that purportedly could still potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives?

masks.

please – vigilantly – wear a mask.

because the pied piper truly does not care if you live or die.

pied piper (noun): the hero of a german folk legend, popularized in the pied piper of hamelin (1842) by robert browning. a person who induces others to follow or imitate him or her, especially by means of false or extravagant promises.

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and today we wait. [two artists tuesday]

guarding the sidewalk

and today we wait.

you can feel the energy in the air.  nervous tension.  our city waits for the unwanted arrival of the president, who is apparently coming to kenosha to add photos to his photo op collection of inappropriate pictures taken at inappropriate times in circumstances about which he has no empathy.

we wait, nervously, wondering what the afternoon will bring.

in a city struggling to heal and move forward, this president will churn up any dust that has settled.  his rhetoric will spur on angry voices of hatred and division.  his actions and attitudes will suck the hopefulness out of people who have done so much in these last days after the police shooting of a young african american man, the ensuing protests, the riots and looting and arson wreaked by extremists, the pleas for the embracing of black-lives-matter change, the death of two protesters in the streets by a little boy from out-of-state with a very big gun playing militia, and this very president’s lack of compassion, lack of healing words, lack of condemnation of all that is obviously wrong, lack of truth, lack of moral compass in addressing all of what kenosha has experienced in the last nine days.

we wait, nervously, wondering what evil the inevitable rally will unearth, what the retort will be by the people of kenosha who truly care, what the extremists will do, who may enter this city from outside to do damage or stir up violence, what will happen to the baby steps we have taken.

we walk or hike every day.  lately we have walked a lot in our neighborhood.  we turn the corner down a ways and, tucked in front of the fence, next to the sidewalk, positioned in front of the clover on a broken piece of glassware are these two military figures.  both armed and at-the-ready.  what is this?  what does it mean?  even these kid-toys sitting there, day after day, seem to be a statement, seem unsettling in this climate.  and so we wonder.

and we wait.  the stress is palpable as the town listens for the giant military helicopters to arrive or the motorcycle brigade or the national guard entourage parade.  and we wonder what the evening will bring.  will the peaceful protests be overrun by presidential fuel added to the embers?  will all hell break loose?  will kenosha lose ground, the slightest of forward-moving crawling it has done?

we wait, nervously, and wonder how our city, our state, our country can overcome the ugly division that is forming a wall between factions resistant to change, impenetrable, armored to the hilt.  we wonder how we can be a city, a state, a country of dignity and inclusion, respect, equality, safety, peace.

we believe hate-speech is not the answer.  we believe pushing people down to raise oneself up is not the answer.  we believe people in the streets armed with weapons of destruction is not the answer.  we believe divisiveness, in all its colors and genders and socioeconomic forms, is not the answer.  we believe falsehoods and stoking fire and inciting animosity and violence without impunity is not the answer.  we believe abhorrent agenda-riddled self-indulgence on the part of the leadership of this country is not the answer.

stand up, little plastic soldiers.  look each other in the eye.  look the enemy in the eye.  put your guns away.  start with love.

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“a little normal would be nice.” [merely-a-thought monday]

normal with frame

normal is up for grabs.

in the middle of my meltdown yesterday, i’m sure i uttered, “i just want normal.”

but normal is subjective now.

there is a deep schism between the normal of the of-course-i’ll-wear-a-mask-maskers and the it’s-against-my-constitutional-rights-to-make-me-wear-a-mask-non-maskers.  a deep schism between the sides of the aisle.  a deep schism over this global pandemic, the economy, healthcare, equality, blatant racism.  a deep schism over confederate monuments.  a deep schism over basic respect.  a deep schism over truth.

a chasm of difference.  it makes me wonder what, if anything, can bridge it, what can create a common story, what can make us a populace that cares about each other?

scrolling through facebook is depressing.  there are people ‘out there’ in our pandemic-riddled country doing normal stuff:  eating at restaurants, having drinks at bars, gathering with friends, going on trips, boating, fishing, at the beach or the pool, all without masks and without social distancing and without, seemingly, a care in the world.

driving downtown is depressing.  there are people ‘out there’ in our pandemic-riddled country just-down-the-road doing normal stuff:  eating inside and outside at captain mike’s, gathering at eichelmann beach, hanging out at the lakefront, all without masks and without social distancing and without, seemingly, a care in the world.

trying to plan anything is depressing.  we need to go to see david’s parents.  i desperately need to see My Girl and My Boy.  there are so many details to keep each other safe.  there’s nothing normal.  it’s freaking confusing.  we plot the trip west, a roadtrip, thinking about 19 hours across the middle of the country, thinking about arriving at my at-risk-in-laws’ house, having not picked up any additional possibility of passing covid-19 to them.  where do we stop safely?  where do we get gas?  where do we use restrooms?  how can we be sure they will not be recipients of anything we bring along?  we care.

and yet, there is the rest of the country – the ones screaming at city hall meetings, the ones seeking judgement against requiring masks-for-safety, the ones who throw pointed word-daggers arguing against the danger of this pandemic, the ones arguing for other causes of death, the ones voting out all precautions for the state of wisconsin, the ones who stand in front of the entire country and arrogantly (and without a grain of truth) state, “we’ve flattened the curve!”  how is it that the leadership of this country gets away with this?  no wonder half of the country wears no mask, states and does whatever they damn well please. WHAT pandemic?

it’s depressing.  missing the moments that make up life – chances to easily be with family, friends.  chances to have a bite out without worrying about aerosols.  chances to sing with others, to sing for others.  chances to go to concerts and plays.  chances to gather around a kitchen table or the island at your best friends’.  chances to stop and hug your decades-long neighbor.  chances to hold your grown-up children and kiss them and make them roll their eyes.  happy hour with friends crowded onto a deck.  parties in the backyard.  normal stuff.

it was on a marquee outside a store, “a little normal would be nice.”

i couldn’t agree more.

i told tom i had a really hard day yesterday.  he said, “you have to grieve.”

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romper-bomper-stomper-boo. wait. [two artists tuesday]

bcat in the window romper room

i don’t know about you, but when i was little i waited with bated breath for my name to be called at the end of the romper room show.  it never was.

i don’t know about you, but when i was in school i waited to be called on to teams during gym class, the teacher having chosen team ‘captains’ and those captains choosing their favorite friends, a really terrible way to divide up a class without hard feelings.

i don’t know about you, but as an earlier adult i waited to see a single song take off, an album go gold, the writing-writing-writing of a song recognized.  somewhere along the way i realized the sheer folly of that and i knew it was important to be satisfied with something-of-mine that resonated with someone-out-there; it need not be monumental to be monumental.

i don’t know about you, but right now i’ve been waiting to go places.  i haven’t yet gotten my hair cut or gone clothes shopping or been out to a restaurant.  i haven’t gone to the bank or a pub or even a starbucks.  i haven’t ordered out or picked up or sat curbside waiting for, well, anything.

i don’t know about you, but i am still impatiently waiting to see my children.  a city away seems, hopefully, doable in the near future but a trip to the high mountains requires a bit more detail, a bit more planning, a need for precautions and safety-taking.

i don’t know about you, but it all feels like we are on hold.  like we have dialed in and are listening to the interminable muzak-music but, with too much invested, can’t hang up.

we feel like we are looking at life from the inside out.  we are waiting.

we feel like we are looking at life from the inside out.  and we are watching.

we are watching others move freely about in the world and we wonder – are we the weirdos here?  we are watching the disparity between what people say and what people do – those who want to be perceived as covid-safety-savvy but are out tooling around.  we are watching the restlessness and the dismissiveness of a pandemic-weary-world.  we are also watching anxiety and confusion increase, sleep eluding us, plans in disarray – sub-themes of future covid-19 movies.

and yet, we hesitate.  to resume normal.

because these times are not normal.

so we take a bit more time to peer through the magic mirror, look out from in, and romper-bomper-stomper-boo wait.  just a little bit longer.

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there is a place, a canopy. [d.r. thursday]

canopy

CANOPY 48″x48″

there is a place on a washington island road where the rest of the world disappears.  you are walking alongside forest and can see the sky as you look up, tall trees framing blue, the sound of sandhill cranes and red-eyed vireos accompanying your steps.  and then you enter this place.  the trees gently arc over the road and you are covered by a canopy; we have sheltered in this spot during more than one sudden rainfall.  even in the bright day, the green above you – which turns to brilliant umber, rich red, flaming orange during summer’s release on the forest – allows for little light.  and at dusk, while the sun sinks into the water hundreds of feet away, walking in the middle of the road, it is dark-dark, the canopy a lure for night creatures, safe in the shadows.

there is a place in a tree in the yard of my growing-up house outside the window of my old room where the branches invited sitting.  for hours i would sit there, write, ponder.  in the summer the maple seemed to grant me privacy from the world, its branches full of leaves and canopying my little spot.  a shelter.

there was a place in the wooden structure in our backyard that had a yellow awning that made a fort.  when My Girl and My Boy were little they would play up there for hours, The Boy lining up matchbox cars, The Girl often reading a book.  a special space, this little fort, it was hard when it was time to dismantle it and pass it on to friends with little ones.

these places of shelter – places of canopy – provide such a sense of protection, a sense of being held from harm – from the elements, away from others, in our own private place.  much like our homes, they can give us pause, a deep breath, safety.

in this time of distancing and stay-safe-stay-at-home, i look around our house and give thanks for its canopy of shelter, for the way it holds us from harm, for the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years it keeps us safe.

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boundaries. [k.s. friday]

boundaries songbox2.jpg

we were lost when we brought dogdog home from the farm.  it had been a long time since either of us had a puppy; our dogs had long lives and after that it had been years.  the first few days we literally followed dogga around inside the house, like he was a toddler in search of an electrical outlet or a cabinet without childproof latches.  jen and brad brought us pizza and wine and assured our deer-in-the-headlights-look that all would be well.  so we read pretty much anything we could get our hands on and discovered (re-discovered?) the fact that puppies really like confined spaces.  smaller spaces make them feel safe, secure; they are calming.  it worked.  dogdog was happy to be in the kitchen-ala-three-gates-in-the-doorways.  he seemed to sigh with relief at the end of the day going into his crate for sleepynightnight.  he was a happier puppy and we were (legit) back in our bodies.  boundaries facilitated maturing (for all of us.)

there is a whole lake out in front of our littlehouse.  the yard is big and full of green grass and flowers and grasses and trees.  the deck has space and flower boxes.  and then there is the rocking chair.  in between two closely-placed-spindles, perched on the lower rail, this little tree frog found a place of solace.  snugly in this warmed-by-the-sun spot, he lingered for hours, the tight place perhaps restorative for him, perhaps simply a sanctuary, its boundaries affording him the freedom to stay.

boundaries are underrated.  we need them.  to flourish.  the constraints serve us.  our clear boundaries for others create balanced lives.  drawing boundaries.  growth depends on it.

early on, given, say, three chords – and only three chords –  to compose with limits the angst of analysis paralysis.  it gives a place to start, a direction to go, discipline and yet, boundaries that reach only to the sky.  it eases up the balking-at-it of artists.  it facilitates the creation of a composition.  it facilitates artistry.  it facilitates energy.  pushing the walls of these boundaries back little by little opens an artist when he/she is ready, when he/she feels safer.  one step at a time.  one rocking chair spindle at a time.  one kitchen-dog-gate at a time.  one muse at a time.

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beyond the jetty. [two artists tuesday]

ferry

i wasn’t sure how it would feel to stay in the car on the ferry.  i was leery of the windy, rainy day and how that would play into how rough the crossing could be.  i’m not fond of motion-sickness taking over my day, so i was prepared…bonine: check, motion bands: check, ginger chews: check, water: check, salty chips: check, window open: check.   i was ready.  but still leery.

in the small harbor it was calm, despite the wind.  but out there, beyond the jetty…

when people want to impart words of wisdom about motion sickness, they tell you to keep your eyes on the horizon.   these words are partially true; keeping your eyes inside the vehicle or plane or boat doesn’t do you any favors.  but there’s more to it.  and i was worried about out there, beyond the jetty.

we so often stay protected, inside the harbor.  predictability and security are seeming keys to our happiness.  they are the indicators of serenity.  we venture on small protected side trips, curious to see what we might find.

i am guilty of this as well.  a homebody in many ways, i love the safety of the familiar harbor, the one near and dear to me.  beyond the jetty is unknown, maybe rough waters, maybe difficult to traverse.

but it occurs to me that beyond the jetty it might be calm as well or perhaps more navigable than i thought.  serenity doesn’t stay put in the harbor.  it comes with us.  out there, beyond the jetty.

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the things we do. [two artists tuesday]

Rogue Snowboard Test copy

it was the ultimate test.

we stopped at the snowboard store and asked the guy there if he could bring a snowboard outside.  he happily complied with our request and the last test – making sure a snowboard…The Girl’s livelihood…fit in the vehicle that could potentially become hers.  this was right after we picked the vehicle up from our amazing mechanic who happily checked it over for her.  this was with the cheering-on and support of dear dear generous friends as we searched for the right snowy-high-elevation-roads-with-no-guardrails-appropriate AWD/4WD SUV.

we had help in the quest for this reliable, affordable vehicle for our daughter who needs something worthy of a momma’s trust in the middle of the mountains.  we have been steeped in research, in car-shopping, in internet searches, in spreading the word about this need for safe new wheels.  one of these days all that knowledge will drop into the moat in my brain and i will forget it all.  until then, we name every SUV as it passes us by…forester, outback, rogue, rav4, crv, patriot, crosstrek.  we are grateful to have found this one.  grateful for the help.

and this morning, in between tears as she drove away, i said a small prayer and whispered to IVY, her newly-named-new-used-car, to keep her safe.

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flawed cartoon wednesday

49Steps BIGcopy copy 2interrupting is an art form on long island.  i know this. i grew up there.  and, apparently, i carried this forward.  it took d a while (read:  a few years and meeting crunch)  to realize i was paying attention, that i wasn’t ignoring what he was saying when i interrupted…i just knew where he was going with it and jumped ahead.  now, i do realize that sounds pretty rude.  it’s not my intention to ever be rude, so i have tried, in recent times, to w.a.i.t. before i speak…at least a little bit longer.  if you are nearby when jen and i talk, you will think we are interrupting each other, talking in a circular path and arriving back at the point; carol and i have, for decades, conversed in short snippets of interrupted tangents.  regardless of our intent, no one wants to be asked to “pay attention!”

yet, we have all these ways, nowadays (using this word makes me sound old), to not pay attention.   how many videos have you seen where people are walking in a mall (or somewhere) texting or reading on their cellphone and fall into a fountain (or some other obstacle.)  we sit with others and try to hold a conversation, but they are busy on their phone or some device checking facebook or texts or twitter or the news…so many ways to not pay attention, so many distractions.   we see the tragic effects of split focus while people are driving cars.

we are no longer just giving our attention to the moment.  we are interrupting conversation, our work, the activity we are involved in, each other’s safety.  we would be well-served to pay just-a-little-more attention.

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