Tag Archives: essay

From Tuesday, June 21, 2022

I don’t normally title blog posts with dates, but it feels important to note the time. Five and a half weeks since the shooting in Buffalo. Four weeks since the shooting in Uvalde. The day before the fourth Jan 6 Hearing. The day of the Supreme Court handing down long-awaited decisions. The day after Beyonce dropped a song from her new album.

The paragraphs below were written in a go to a prompt and are not edited.

The prompt: “She stopped listening to weather reports.”

She stopped listening to weather reports. It was a matter of self-preservation she said. “I want to remember how to sniff for rain,” she said. “Enough with the apps!” Stepping onto the blue stone in the cool of morning with bare feet had also receded into some primitive time of “before.”

The local screech owls died when they tore down the Newton Andover woods to make way for townhomes. She found one of their bodies. The neighbor who had called out to them in the dark of spring evenings when the bats came out, was gone now too.

Speaking of sniffing, just yesterday on a dog walk with her husband, she’d said, “That smells like fox. They spray too you know.” Of course he knew.

She’d collected skunk bones from under the deck one summer, their vertebrae like candies in her palm, but neither of them had ever seen a fox.

The very next morning, her phone chimed at 6:40 a.m. — too early for Patty’s daily wordle result. It was her husband. He’d resumed hoofing it to the T two or three times a week. “You’ll never believe this,” it read. “I saw a fox on Cypress Street this morning.”

It was as if the universe was playing with them. Maybe, she thought, she ought to start picturing the FBI raiding Mar-A-Lago. After all, it was the Solstice, which is one of the corners of the year when the Old Ones believe that a crack between the worlds opened up. Possibilities unlikely on an ordinary day might fly on the longest day.

Today she sat and watched her phone, waiting for the inevitable. At ten a.m., the Supreme Court started publishing opinions, the whole country holding its breath — the bad of it all about to get so much worse.

It wasn’t like she set out to learn political minutiae, like how reconciliation bills were exempt from the filibuster or how tight margins in some primaries triggered an automatic recount, but she did. This morning she learned that the highest court released opinions by reverse seniority. Kavanaugh’s came first and when Breyer’s dropped, it meant Dobbs would hold another day, since Alito is junior to Breyer.

A Roe expert on twitter wrote “Sobbs” by mistake and then said, “Well, that fits too.”

Beyonce’s first single in years dropped last night proving there is still good in the world. Talent and beauty, gifts to us all. If only her singing, “You won’t break my soul,” applied universally, unilaterally. Could her message be like the slight scent of musk which had been received with disbelief only to be met the very next day with the actual embodiment of what was believed impossible. Jump suits for everyone!

Her therapist will only read the news (not watch) and some days only the headlines. She says it’s too much otherwise. Silvia says the same.

At the doctor’s office yesterday, the form asked if she ever felt anxious, restless, depressed, or hopeless. Suicide screening is nothing new. She checked “often” for a lot of them. When the doctor held up the form later with a raised eyebrow, she just waved it off saying simply, “I watch the news.”

The fox crossing the road, the very first sited in over thirty years, seemed a kind of miracle — a call and response between imagination and reality. These days, she couldn’t tell if her hopelessness was being tamped down by some efficient and reliable defenses, or if it was denial battering her, forcing her to adopt notions, hopeful notions, that simply weren’t supported by reality. We all know denying reality creates tension. Tension.

“How much hopelessness is appropriate?” was a question she never expected to ask herself with such regularity.

A fox crossing the road. A sweep for the good at the midterms. A musky scent confirmed. Indictments handed out all the way to the top. A summer dance tune: “You won’t break my soul.”

*  *  *

Yesterday’s hearing, as it turned out, gave cause for hope — the brave testimony and acts of ordinary poll workers — Ms. Moss and her mother, Lady Ruby Freeman. But it was also cause for fear because it demonstrated that the right has “operationalized violence,” as Nicolle Wallace said, and these ordinary poll workers, also Black women, were targeted in an extreme and gross manner that speaks to Jim Crow and the lengths trump and his cohort have been willing to go to hold onto power.

The White Underwing

I happed upon this image just before a writing session. Here’s most of what I wrote.

Up, anxious, sitting on the pot. Above the bathroom curtain’s ruffle, I can see a section of the night sky. A wedge of moon travels above Linshaw’s roof and into the netted shadows of their massive copper beech.

That tree, part sentinel, part cautionary tale, is hundreds of years old. It was a sapling during the small pox epidemic of the late 1700’s. It grabbed sky in one direction and earth in the other when the Fugitive Slave Act was passed. Horses and a stream wandered nearby at one time.

The beech was bigger yet at the Emancipation Proclamation. By the time of the Spanish flu perhaps the twin trunks had established themselves.

The white planked house is old too, but not nearly as old as the tree. I like to think that Abraham Jackson sited the foundation with due regard for the tree, a tree which was still in its youth but already punctuating his property with its mighty grace at the time of building.

The moon in her delicate variety is older yet, so old that a different scale of time is required. The coal-to-diamond scale. The asteroid-encounter scale.

All I can think about during my brief viewing of the night sky is how insular I’ve become. A life apart from the wonder of puddles and their up-side-down worlds. Apart from trout and hummingbirds. Apart from the cleansing sweep of cold night air in the lungs.

Oh I go outside, but my walks with the dog are more like mail delivery than adventure. Making the rounds. A chance to take stock of all the closed blinds and wonder why so few structures ever show any signs of life.

When I lived on the other side of the state in the Berkshires, all I had to do was raise my head off the pillow and gaze out my eastern window to be transported. Sheep’s Heaven Mountain, a name whispering: time passes, time passes. Not that long ago the wooded hill was bare and dotted with sheep.

Here the horizon is poked with roofs. One neighbor painted their house a bright yellow this year and at first I wondered at their choice. Today I welcome its yolky warmth in all the grey.

All the grey can dull the senses. Maybe that’s why the news of a snowy owl in Washington, D.C. captivated me this morning. She’d made her way south from her usual haunts. She could be yet another signal of the drastic climate change we’re all so busily — in one way or another — trying to ignore.

But when I spy her fluffed up against the cold atop a statue of Themis, a figure representing freedom and justice, I like to think she stands for something else. That she augurs change. I like to think that when she lifts her wings and reveals their white undersides, we are meant to notice and in noticing, act.

I don’t believe the arc of the moral universe necessarily bends toward justice. There are too many ways we can fail. But this bird perched on the head of a goddess carrying the sword of justice lets me think we have a chance. A chance to make things right. A chance to live up to our promise and to atone for our sins. Not because I say so, but because a solitary owl, mysterious and commanding, has told me so.