The list of things imposing misery right now is quite long. Ukraine is never far from mind. For many of my friends, Russia’s atrocities are personal.
Things I’ve heard in the last month from people I am close to:
My mother grew up in Belarus.
My grandparents are Russian Jews, but from areas now Ukraine.
I just found out that I have a relative from Poland who died in the Holocaust. I was named after her.
I’m have very little family history, which is traumatizing too.
My grandfather grew up in Odessa.
I didn’t realize that H’s mother was Ukrainian.
Meanwhile, it’s Monday and K has gone into the office. He will travel into Boston every day this week. It strikes me as a signature Covid experience how the familiar becomes strange and the strange becomes familiar. Example: in spite of this being my husband’s commuting routine for decades before the pandemic, it now feels a little weird, a little dangerous, a little not-normal.
Also today: I get to make a friend lunch and we won’t have to be quiet because K is on the phone at his workstation (aka the kitchen table).
Look at the tweet below. Someone said it should be a painting. With that in mind, I doctored it a few ways.
First photo below is the original, the next two, are filtered using Prisma. In the third photo, I double exposed it with one I took on Good Friday in Assisi in 2019.
I am very moved by the picture, and of course — I was raised Catholic. It also reminds me of a ceremony I witnessed in Assisi three years ago, when they ritually removed Christ from the cross in the Cathedral of San Rufino and ceremoniously carried him down the hill to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis. It was quite an amazing experience.
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I am not the only one to observe that some of our collective response to this crisis surely depends on the fact that Ukrainians are white.
This week I obsessed about how none of the bundled-up Ukrainians seem to wear gloves. I scanned scene after scene to confirm. How can that be, I wondered.
And I thought about the things they carried. What was in those backpacks, those little, utilitarian sacks meant to hold lunches and shoes while commuting?
A passport. An extra pair of pajamas and underwear, maybe, but not spare pants or sweaters because they’re too bulky. Perhaps a toothbrush. Definitely a charging cord.
Not: photo albums, collections of ironware pitchers or Christmas cacti, not books or quilts or heirloom dishes. Not even room enough for a week’s worth of diapers.
And then, dinner done, TV off, we went shopping. It was almost desperate, this need to get out of the house and we had the excuse of five March birthdays.
What do I even get sons in their 20’s?
We went to the new Marshalls, which was moved across the street to make way for yet more development. I hadn’t been in it yet and more to the point, I’ve scarcely shopped at all since March two years ago.
While parking, we speculated that we’d be the only mask-wearers in the joint but were wrong. Every single shopper and every single worker wore a mask.
I had cashmere scarves in mind, forgetting that that’s not how you shop at Marshall’s.
I didn’t have time to dwell in disappointment (socks again, really?) because over near the men’s hoodies, a young adult had parked himself and issued moan after moan after moan. A keening sound, full-throated and loud, really loud. It was the sound you’d make finding your cat dead on the side of the road or after learning your mother had lost her battle with cancer.
He repeated his moans, like a foghorn. A small woman I took to be his mother stood nearby slapping hangers from left to right, impervious.
My mind went two ways.
The first was to regret going out. Good god! What made me think I’d enjoy going where there would be people, stale air, and crap merchandise? And, did I mention — people? I wasn’t sure I could take it.
You could hear him all the way over in housewares. You could hear him near shoes and underwear. You could not escape his lament.
The second way my mind went was to hear his moans as the mournful cries of the world. Perhaps, I thought, he moans for all of us. Perhaps he serves as a beacon of sorrow, speaking what we all feel and cannot express.
They were talking about him as we checked out. He must be having a bad day.
And then there’s Chef Andres, feeding people along the border.
And meanwhile, Andrea Chalupa and Michael McFaul just appeared on MSNBC and uttered cautions about getting caught up in the energetic bravery of Ukraine’s people and the show of solidarity throughout the world. Putin means business, they say. Chalupa worries about genocide.
More locally I can report that it’s 19 degrees here but sunny, so K, Finn, and I enjoyed our walk.