Category Archives: democracy

Hero of the Week — Navalny

A nugget of rock salt turns Finn momentarily gimp. I kneel. Brush the crystal out from between the pads of his snowy paw. An hour’s walk involves the tugging up and down of a mask, a half dozen street crossings. A light snow doesn’t usually deliver such quiet, but today it does. Nevertheless, my earbuds deliver news.

On Chase Street, I imagine the angels hovering above Navalny’s head when he was in a coma in Berlin. Their toes on fire, wings tinged red. It’s the bold red of passion, to be clear, and not the red of blood or Communism. The specialized poison infiltrated Navalny’s veins, his tissue, and very nearly killed him. Some devious hit man had smeared the toxin on the seams of his underwear.

Trying to kill someone with novachok is the equivalent of a serial murderer leaving a business card next to the corpse. There is no confusion, only harm.

The angels hum. They hover. They transmit messages directly to our hero’s heart, bypassing the brain where caution might reasonably prevail. “Go home,” they chant. “Go home!”

He wakes, our hero. He rises. He sends videos to his followers. The multitude yearning for change, not necessarily for him, but definitely not for the thug in charge. Navalny counsels them to chant: “Putin is a thief! Putin is a thief!” I’m bowled over by the simplicity, the accuracy of the statement. For more than a generation, he, Putin, has ravaged resource-rich Russia for his own gain. A few others. A gang. A criminal operation with known links to the corrupt party in our own country (which is, as they say, another story).

(Or is it, asks Sarah Kendzior? Author, pundit, specialist on the rise of authoritarianism around the globe, she must get tired of saying, “I told you so” (though not quite tired enough for this listener, I’m afraid). The smoke steams out her ears. Being right and ignored will do that to a person.)

Navalny, recall, has already been imprisoned by Putin and now Putin has tried and very nearly succeeded at killing him. What chance does he, Navalny, have? But our hero rises. He crosses the tarmac in Berlin. He goes home.

Not a straight path, as it turns out. The 100’s of protesters gathered at the airport in Moscow, huddling together for warmth, chanting “Putin is a thief,” watch as Navalny’s plane makes a giant U-turn and disappears. A snow plow stuck on the landing strip, the laughable excuse.

But the GRU, the pilots, the boots on the ground cannot stop the protests. They throw Navalny back into prison — a probation violation, the laughable excuse. “Stand tall,” the angels now whisper. As international beings, the angels have followed him home — what does security clearance mean to them? Now their wings flutter teal with shots of yellow. There is something of a springtime butterfly about the feathered appendages. “Stand tall.”

Meanwhile, what celestial beings encourage the protestors? Many brave souls gather in northern cities where the temperature drops to 60 below. We hope the fur around their parka hoods — the Russians love their fur! — keeps the wind chill off their faces. We hope their wool socks never get wet. We hope bellowing, “Putin is a thief!” warms their lungs and the spaces between their bodies.

I wear a down parka. The hood is up, the mask on, though since no one is on the street at the moment, it rides below my nose. Turns out the cloth makes a wonderful chin warmer. The dog and I detour into small snow banks or out onto the street to avoid the strewn salt — brittle crystals the color of rotten teeth. There is nothing of hardship in this morning routine, though a certain fatigue has set in. Waiting for the vaccine, waiting to see children, waiting for good health news, waiting to launch a creation a long time in the making. The return of spring.

It’s a lot of waiting. But it’s not heroic. I’ve got the comfort of my home, the pretty snowy, tree-lined streets to walk. No, it’s a dull throb of forbearance.

Up goes a rear leg again. The dog has stepped on another large grain of salt. He immediately makes his discomfort plain. You gotta love that about dogs: how reflexive and pure their signaling of need! Finn is also the great keeper of the afternoon clock. I know when it is precisely one hour before his dinner time because there he is, sitting next to me on the couch, giving me that eager and pleading look, perhaps even going so far as to lay a paw on my arm. It never works. He never gets his dinner an hour early, and still, he tries.

Navalny goes home. He uses the internet like a Jedi master. The forbearance of a generation has turned into something else — an eager outburst demanding the end of corruption. Enough with the deprivation! Enough with the lies!

Putin walks the halls of power with that uneven almost gimpy gait, that smug expression — is it contempt or is it glee? I doubt the man knows joy. I doubt the man can even begin to calculate the damage he’s done. And yet, with a short man’s insistence that he be noticed, he keeps at it. There are records to be set — he’s a real Tom Brady of potentates.

And meanwhile, in frigid weather, the fur-lined hoods continue to gather to call for change. To decades of denial, to the absolute failure of the common weal, they say, “Enough!” The foggy condensates of their breath concur. “Enough.”

A man willing to die for them is confined to a prison cell. A man willing to die for his country left the safety of Berlin to return to his Mother Country. What is inconvenience, even pandemic-scaled inconvenience, in the face of that? And more to the point, what is despotism in the face of that?

Here’s what else you need to know today. *

* Listened to an episode of The Daily — a NY Times podcast — while walking.

Ms Wheatley and Ms Gorman

This short piece was written to a prompt in an AWA class.

I have come, unwilling, afraid. A sticky heat. An unmooring. A destruction. A pale lady pats my cheek, making bird sounds. “Ooh! Ooh!” She turns to a man, the colors of his jacket, a glaring affront after the dark hold, the grey sea.

“Susanna, no! Be reasonable, my dear.” He clomps along the dock, pats another on the head. “Like her. What about her?”

But Pale Lady kneels. Now my chin is in her hands. I clutch the carpet scrap around my shoulders. It is filthy. Whether she chooses me for good or for ill, is impossible to know.

+ + +

The man with the bag of coins approaches. He knows a buyer when he sees one. “She’s yours for a trifle,” he announces and husband hands over a few bob. It’s likely he, the seller, thought the girl about to die. Any money was better than none. And then Susanna Wheatley, her husband, and the newly purchased girl clambered aboard a carriage to take them the few blocks from the wharf to Boston manse.

The enthusiasm his wife exhibits puzzles John Wheatley until he realizes that the dark-skinned skinny girl looks to be just the age their Sarah was when she died. Seven years old. This girl is missing her front teeth, just as Sarah had been. Their poor, dear Sarah, taken by the pox before even her grown teeth came in. So this vanity purchase — what else to call it? — driven by a grief-soaked nostalgia, would have to be tolerated.

“Mary will teach her Latin,” Susanna gushed on the ride home. Her husband tucked his chin down to dissemble, the enthusiastic plan striking him as pathetic, absurd.

“We shall call her Phillis,” he said. “After the ship.”

A thriving servant. They refused the moniker, ‘slave’ — as if to do so made a difference. She, the slave Phillis, took to words like a duck to water. John Wheatley’s tolerance, a state he expected to be brittle and difficult to maintain, transformed into pride. The little darkie had something of genius about her and how well the white ruffles of her cotton lawn cap framed that Senegambian face! Her teeth grew in. She mastered English and not just Latin, but Greek as well. So proud, so possessive but willing to share were the Wheatleys, that they found a printer on State Street who rolled plates with ink, plates with their Phillis’s words on them and he, the printer, printed them. Poems.

A council was convened. John Hancock, a short man with a bit of bluster (to put it nicely), the Governor, Thomas Hutchinson, Samuel Mather, others — their one purpose to determine the authorship of the folio. Surely, it could not be her? A slave! A collection of precise poems filled with lofty and literary images, language suitable for the illustrious poets of the age.

But, never mind all that for now! After gently, reverently nodding to Toni and Maya in the shadows, let us call forth that skinny black girl with a gift of the tongue — Phillis Wheatley — for she, too, must be on the Capitol steps today, beaming with pride.

Look at how this current orator’s yellow coat glows with promise! See how the red satin head band across her crown and the beads elegantly tucked among her braids, speak to the past that she calls upon us to repair. She, Amanda Gorman, can certainly speak with authority about the ‘belly of the beast’ — just as Phillis could have (but didn’t) lament the belly of the slave trading ship, the Phillis. Imagine being named after the vessel that ruptured and destroyed your former life! Imagine being poked with that perpetual reminder. “Phillis! Oh, Phillis! Come here!” “Phillis! Say it again, more slowly this time.”

If a ‘skinny black girl descended from slaves’ can position herself on the side of hope and mercy, surely we comfortable white people can do the same? Certainly, we must do better than we have done? We’ve all suffered these long-lasting four years, ‘bruised but whole,’ as the young poet says, a twenty-two year old who might as well be descended from Phillis Wheatley, herself. Seek harm to none she, Amanda, sang and: repair the past.

On a day we stumblers of the 21st century thought would never come, at this tattered end of a vulgar destruction that wrecked even the experience of time, let us take the words of the young poet into our hearts! Let us honor her lineage and what she says about the future! And then let us take her words back out onto the streets and continue the fight because as she, the first National Youth Poet Laureate, pointed out in incandescent glory — we are unfinished.

+ + +

* references: Stamped from the Beginning, The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, by Ibram X. Kendi; The Trials of Phillis Wheatley, America’s First Black Poet and her Encounters with the Founding Fathers, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.;a history docent in Lexington, Mass. who characterized John Hancock as “an asshole;” as well, of course: the inaugural reading by Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb.

** It is not true that Wheatley was published in Boston. No one dared touch her work. She had to go to England to find a printer.

Ill at ease

A morning where the shoe doesn’t slide on, the electric cord doesn’t behave, ideas about the future won’t hold.

I walked to the dentist. The clouds enchanted me. The wind blew cold but we don’t really have winter around here anymore. It’s disorienting.

During various stages of lockdown, I got spoiled by calendar-months free of appointments. Now I have to catch up: mammogram, annual, endocrine check, another dentist visit, cardiologist.

Groceries came close to midnight last night. My bad. I expected them at noon. But that’s not all — onions that I bought by the piece last time were softball-sized, while this time they’re smaller than baseballs. The last time I ordered a sleeve of garlic, five heads arrived, neat as buttons in a mesh bag. This time: three. It’s hard not to wonder how much of the size-fuckery is intentional on corporate America’s part (and not, ah-hem, a function of ADD).

The silhouettes quilt is finished except for a sleeve on the back.

I turned one of the @threadcrumbshop moons into a sun.

I considered and rejected accentuating the circles in the B&W base fabric.

The quilt for Baby Girl M is pieced and about half-quilted. Unfortunately, one of the shows I’m watching now (Call My Agent) is in French, so I have to quilt or watch, can’t do both.

A month and a half ago, I anticipated that we would all be feeling intense relief on Inauguration Day.

Nope. Who here isn’t feeling dread? Who here hasn’t learned in no uncertain terms that trump’s army is gonna be reckless and violent for seasons to come?

Peace above us. Peace below. Peace behind us. Peace before. Peace all around. Peace. Peace. Peace. This is where Michelle’s voice would bring such wisdom and hope to us all and I miss her.

Shit show

I’ve written about the week, written about it some more, including one long rant, but haven’t had the energy to bring anything here. Maybe this weekend? Maybe not. There have been so many comments made and registered out there.

A new fox.

I might be locating a little ambition to sew garments. Step one: adjust dress dummy to my measurements. I think draping might be the way to go for me since following directions is not my strong suit.

Tried to turn purple-shirt star into a robe and failed miserably.

There are still possibilities.

It’s creepy how well Instagram understands my taste. These showed up this week and I love them both.

Finished the Noah’s Ark quilt (talked about on Instagram last week). Just need to deliver it to my neighbor now, who has a grandson named Noah. Another friend is about to become a grandmother. Her daughter was one of the most talented creators I worked with back when I taught fiber arts to elementary school kids, so I want the crib quilt for her baby to be nice. Blues have been requested.

Also finished the above. Are you sensing a trend? FINISHING! I’m whittling down a pile of nearly finished pieces. The one above is in my Etsy shop (clothcompany).

Lastly, for my own reference, I’m inserting a few screen shots.

Stay rested everyone. Stay hydrated. Connect with loved ones.

Thanks for all the encouraging comments about a gas fireplace! It might be operable as soon as tomorrow.

We’re gonna be dancing soon

This headline will be dated by the time I post this and that’s a good thing.

There I was, ear buds in, dancing my heart out at midnight, hoping for the call. Nope. But I got to see a rumpled Kornacki return to the white board, refusing to cede his nerd throne even though no one would’ve begrudged him a few hours sleep and a change of clothes.

Woke to news that Georgia flipped blue. Not long after learned about Biden taking the lead in Pennsylvania.

People can’t decide whether to anoint Stacey Abrams Queen of the Universe or offer her a Nobel Peace prize.

Autocratic Chaos maker soon to be relegated to the sidelines, a King maker no longer.

So, first, let’s celebrate kicking slime bag ninny and corrupt cohorts out of office before we get to addressing the shocking (not shocking?) support for trump.

And, the Senate is still in play, thanks — again — to GEORGIA! I love that I know about both these democratic candidates and supported their campaigns with money (Jon Ossoff’s last run, too). That level of commitment isn’t going away.

In other news: hips ache at the 45 minute mark. Decision: eat breakfast before setting out with Finn so I can take Tylenol or just grunt it out and take it on return?

I’m making a pumpkin pie today. K’s sister and her husband are coming for a Thanksgiving Dinner on the patio tomorrow. It’s supposed to be in the high-60’s so it should be comfie. I’ll roast a turkey breast, not a whole bird and instead of the usual mashed potatoes, I’ll add roasted garlic. There will be string beans or Brussel sprouts or both.