Gratitudes: 1. The forthright golden gaze of a black cat. 2. Titmice and nuthatches at the feeder. 3. The way the sky glows blue through the clouds at this season. I think Chagall must have been a fan of autumn. 4. Health. We had an emergency this past weekend. The story is not mine to tell, but all now appears to be well. And I am very grateful for everyone’s health. Also for adrenaline. 5. I stood in the center of a faerie ring of mushrooms today. Felt my skin dissolve and my hair turn gray. Felt my senses being released into something greater–my hearing drawn outward like a bowl in a potter’s hands, my sight turn deep into the well of me. Felt wind rush through my branches, and sunlight raining like droplets all around me. Then I breathed and stepped out into the world again.
May we walk in Beauty!
Please vote, friends. Please consider your values, what you want for your country, what you expect of democracy, and Vote. Don’t let anyone convince you to be cynical or despairing about this basic tool of democracy. Yes, things are broken, and powerful people are taking advantage of the vulnerabilities in our system, and our history has been whitewashed and sugar-coated, but if we believe any of the better ideals our country was founded upon (no matter whether we were ever true to their deepest intents), then we must Vote. Let’s make this country not great–but Good, not again–but for the first time, let’s live into the ideals the founders expressed. But this time, let’s live them for everyone.
PSA for the day: Don’t let the Russian bots and trolls make you mean. Don’t let them cause you to turn a less-than-ideal choice into a non-choice: A non-choice is actually a terrible choice here. Too much is at stake. If the thought of voting in November for a candidate other than your top primary choice makes you consider staying home, consider whether that might be a position of privilege. Consider all that has been consciously and wilfully eroded by this government. Consider all the people harmed. Consider the brutal tearing apart of children from their families. Consider the wanton destruction of environmental protections. Consider the attacks on the school system. Consider the equating of Nazis and anti-racism protesters. Consider the erosion of women’s rights, of LGBTQ+ rights, of safety nets for anyone who is not wealthy, white, straight, and male. When the time arrives that a candidate has been chosen to run against this monstrous administration, think about those more vulnerable than you, and vote, no matter who wins this primary.
And in the meantime, prepare the conversation for that moment. If your candidate might lose, and you want to end this march toward fascism, then tearing down the potential nominee is counterproductive. Press for the goals and ideals of your candidate. Speak hopefully of the future they promise. Grieve when they’re out. But put everything you have into protecting those who are becoming daily more vulnerable to the predations and depradations of the current administration.
Gratitude List: 1. Yesterday morning’s moon. Driving to school with the sun rising ahead of us, and the moon setting behind us. 2. One more day away from the time change. I felt it yesterday, in my back, in my fuzzywuzzy head. This morning, I am starting out much more refreshed. 3. All the flowers! Crocus, anemone, daffodil, speedwell, dead nettle. . . 4. At least one of the Little Sisters has been visiting the flowers, gathering pollen for her Lady. She may have been from someone’s hive, but she may have been from a feral hive, which makes me happy to consider. 5. If I put butter in my coffee, and whir that up with a blender, does it mean I just had a protein shake? Whatever, it gives me a morning boost of energy.
Before I begin the rant, I want to make a point about Vice Presidents, in light of everything I am about to say. The choice of Stacey Abrams or Kamala Harris as a running mate would go a long way toward attracting my vote, if there’s any choice left in this debacle of a primary campaign by the time it reaches Pennsylvania. Elizabeth Warren, too, of course, but the loss of Warren in the race was only the most recent blow in a line of killing the vast diversity of the overwhelming field of candidates. (I’ve never been sure what to do with Gabbard, and I’m not sure she knows herself.) (Also, I know that Sanders, as a Jewish man, still brings a little diversity–it’s not simply two old white men remaining. Just two old men.) (Ugh. And now I sound really ageist. In this context, the default seems to always be old white men, so that’s part of the story.)
I wrote this rant in pieces yesterday between naps as I was resting to fend off the worst edges of a bad cold. That bit was successful, at least, and I am feeling much better today.
Today, I am an enraged middle school girl. I am a third grader stamping her foot at the unfairness. I am a high school girl rolling her eyes at the absolutely stupidity of it, a college girl sighing yet again in defeat. All of these girls in me had their absolutely valid reasons for rage, and I cannot see over my own middle-aged rage to deal with the echoing memories of theirs. Mine. Ours. The layers.
I just have to say it. This has been a triggering experience for me. I find myself flashing back to younger versions of myself, living this fifty-two-year-old experience along with my college self, my high school self, my middle school and elementary school selves. I don’t remember the first time I noticed that a girl could be smart and articulate and shiny and dynamic, but she couldn’t beat out a goofy boy with a sense of entitlement. For anything. She couldn’t be heard above the clamor of an angry boy, no matter how lucid and smart her own ideas.
This is how it’s been my whole life: A brilliant girl tries for something—some honor, some leadership role, some place—and a goofy boy with a sense of kingly entitlement begins to talk about the inevitability of his own winning, and suddenly she has completely disappeared. No matter that she has a plan for EVERYTHING. No matter that she can talk her way around that boy ten times before he has put together a coherent sentence. No matter that she was born for this. And so he wins.
And today the goofy boy and the angry boy win again, beating out the brilliant girl who has been invisibilized and now erased.
I’m just tired.
I can live forward through this. I can “get on board.” Goddess knows, I am experienced at that part of the story. Still, I just get tired of hearing people talk about the inevitability of her disappearance from the story. And when the goofball wins, he gets the brilliant girl to assist him. Or the angry boy gets the nice girl to help him. Because they need her in order to truly succeed. But then everyone says, “Look! She’s got something anyway, doesn’t she? She should be happy now. Satisfied now. Everybody wins.” And she ends up doing his work for him or putting out the fires he starts. And he gets the credit. And the next time a girl is running against a boy, everyone says, “Now don’t be too hasty. She really can’t compete. If we want to keep the bullies at bay, we need a good strong boy to take the reins.”
I will vote for whichever of these boys takes the nomination, but I will do it with the rage of a middle school girl who has repeatedly seen her brilliant girlfriends completely marginalized and ignored for goofy and angry boys who have controlled the process for her whole life. I will be happy if she gets to be a good strong vice or cabinet something. Absolutely. But I will know, with the heart of my 12-year-old self, that she was always the best choice: Elizabeth, Kamala, Amy.
Gratitude List: 1. Feeling better. That first nap–three hours of serious sleep–felt like the most rejuvenating part of the day. Even the tossy-turny nature of last night’s sleep hasn’t thrown me back to the exhausted state of earlier in the week, and I feel like I can fight off this cold. 2. Friday. End of the week. Faculty Hymn Sing before school (every Friday–how lucky am I?), the International Women’s Day chapel planned by students. It should be a pleasant day. 3. Daffodils 4. The crocus are blooming, too, and in some strange and wonderful places, way out of the beds. Crocus always remind me to let myself leak outside the boundaries. 5. Nimbleness. How my child just leapt onto the bench to straighten the curtains. I think that one of my physical goals for the next part of this year will be to develop greater nimbleness. I think I have become more sedentary rather than less, and it is affecting my nimbleness.
Gratitude of Resistance Eleven: So much feels broken. So much feels wrong. Polarized. Staged. Rigged.
Still, we have these tools of democracy: Freedom of the Press. Freedom of Speech. The Right to Vote. I believe in the potential of these processes to create a just and more equal society. I believe in the idea of a participatory democracy. I am grateful today for the participants, those who have thrown themselves heart and soul into working to make it so. Today, I will participate by casting my vote for the candidates I believe will cause the least harm, for people who are most likely to create policy that offers a safety net for the poorest among us, that offers all of us the hope of health care that will not financially destroy us, that welcomes the stranger, that makes our children safer. I urge you to join me.
“I do not see a delegation of the four-footed.
I see no seat for the eagles.” –Chief Oren Lyons, Onondaga
The wren is not waiting his turn to speak, nor should he.
He calls out into the clamorous room–his name, his name, his name.
The whales have been offering their words for some time now,
but no one at my table seems to be listening,
not to the whales, nor to the insistent chitter of the bats
who, though they have no place on the agenda,
are doing their best to make their voices heard.
Who will call the meeting to order?
Who will make sure that every voice is heard?
Gratitude List: 1. Add more caring adults to the circle of people who mentor my children: I had my first chance to watch the Wrightsville Little League coaches in action yesterday at their first game. Our guys lost, but the coaches were excellent in their encouragement and their building of team spirit. They were praising the kids for encouraging each other. One hears horror stories, but there are wonder stories also.
2. The dawn is catching up to me. The sun rises shortly after I do, and I have daylight to help me wake up more quickly.
3. Getting back to class today. I love the break, but I get really antsy to head back into the classroom.
4. The right to vote. I am going to believe that my vote counts, despite the voices inside me that bray and mock that hope. But change does not stop with a vote. We have to work for the justice we seek.
5. Blue jays. They saunter through the sky like ruffians, like dudes, and they have absolutely no questions about their entitlement. I like their bombast. And their clear, loud whistles.
Yesterday I visited the school where I will be teaching, the school I graduated from 29 years ago. So much is new and different. So much is the same. The mural of the hand holding the rainbow still brightens the stairwell (may it always be there). The old wing still looks much like it did in my day, and it smells exactly the same as it did when I was there. We opened the door to the classroom where I will be teaching, and one of my own teachers walked out and hugged me. Did I dream this? I can hardly believe this is happening. I used to imagine it, twenty years or so ago, and here it is.
I do have recurring anxiety dreams that take place in a school. I am trying to find the classes where I am supposed to be either studying or teaching. I’ll spend the entire dream trying to find where I am supposed to go, going up stairs and through labyrinthine hallways. I’m always late, sometimes at the end of a semester and realizing that I have forgotten to go to class. Or I’ll be going to teach the first day of a class and realize that I have forgotten to get a schedule to know when and where it is. Once, when I was teaching at Butler County Community College, I dreamed that I rushed in late to class only to see my dean teaching the class. She said since I was always late, she’d decided to take over my schedule. The thing I realized yesterday about it all was that the setting of the dream is always very similar to my high school alma mater.
In the past ten years, since I have taken a break from teaching, the frequency of those particular anxiety dreams has lessened. Now that I am teaching again, I wonder if they will increase in frequency again. And how will it be if the real setting is now overlaid on the dream setting? And now that the reality has begun to feel so intensely like a happy dream?
Here is little poem that has nothing to do with high school or anxiety dreams:
You must have heard me prescribe hens
for a low self-opinion.
There is nothing like a little chicken worship
to make a body feel like a rock star.
But here’s the thing–
my chickens think that you
are a capital rock star, too.
“Look!” they told me this morning
when I looked in on them.
And I knew exactly
what they meant.
Gratitude List: 1. Love is the Answer. Love is the Answer. Love is the Answer.
2. That moment when we opened the door to my new classroom, and my own teacher walked out and hugged me.
3. Creating and envisioning new spaces
4. I am going to a book sale today! I love book sales.
5. Going to vote with the kids. As cynical as I get about whether this democratic ideal actually has any value in the oligarchy, I want my children to learn and experience the ideal with the hope that one day we will have a truer democracy, disentangled from wealth and corporate influence. And we stopped at Turkey Hill and bought ice cream on the way home.