Pandemic Patience

2021-03-29T14:48:19-07:00Categories: featured posts, gun control, health & medicine, human rights, journalism, midlife, politics, Seattle, urban life|Tags: , , , , , , , |

“Patience,” wrote an early master of social media, is “a minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.” How absolutely true, I thought. Despair. But minor. Disguised—but poorly, in my own case—as a virtue. This timely quip dates back more than a century, to when the dashing Civil War veteran and writer Ambrose Bierce published his “Devil’s Dictionary,” a collection of satiric definitions he had penned, over several decades, for newspapers and magazines. I was rummaging on Google for a bit of standard etymology for the word “patience” (“from the Latin patientia, the quality of suffering or enduring”) when Bierce’s one-liner popped up. So very descriptive of where many of us are right now, isn’t it? In the past year, there has been unbelievable suffering. And endurance. But in November, we learned two huge things about 2021: 1) We would soon have a new president (although we didn’t yet know how many people were in deep denial about that) and 2) We would all be vaccinated. Eventually. But definitely in 2021. Ever since, the worldwide call to action has been for patience. Sadly, I do not have a great track record when it comes to patience. But surely that won’t be a problem, I thought, back in December. Because I’m turning 64 in January! And then when the initial vaccination phases were broadly outlined, and the number “65” was in bold type everywhere, I thought: That’s okay. I can be patient. Because after they vaccinate all the 65-year-olds, they’ll give me a call, right? My big, [...]

365 Days

2021-01-18T18:12:50-08:00Categories: creative aging, featured posts, feminism, human rights, midlife, politics, Seattle, travel, Uncategorized, urban life, women's rights|Tags: , , , , , , |

365 days ago, I celebrated my 63rd birthday in California with close friends. We marched in the 2020 Oakland women’s march, shouting with and talking to many total strangers, and admiring everyone’s signs. We dined out at a brewpub for lunch and an Italian restaurant for dinner. There was a stop for oysters somewhere in there too. In case we might still be hungry, my friends had hidden a selection of fancy birthday desserts in the back of the fridge. Wow. Though I had just returned from a long trip to Mexico, I thought nothing of hopping a flight from Seattle to Oakland for that weekend. My husband had been sick with a strange and  terrible flu through the last several days of the trip. There were a few days he couldn’t get out of bed. Not like him, at all. There were other days he couldn’t stop coughing. He was finally on the mend, but we had both been shocked by how hard this illness hit him. I know what you’re thinking. And… we’ll never know, though he recently donated blood and the Covid-19 antibody test came back negative. But back to my 2020 birthday weekend. I’d really like to dwell on it some more. There was a long afternoon at the SF MoMA. There was another afternoon of walking all over the UC Berkeley Campus. There was talk, so much talk: my friends and I worried together about whether Trump could be defeated, and if so, which candidate had the best chance. Harris? Warren? [...]

Hello, Ceiling

2020-12-13T16:49:43-08:00Categories: arts, brain, Creative, creative aging, dementia, faith and doubt, family, featured posts, health & medicine, memoir, midlife, Seattle, writing|Tags: , , , , , , |

“Mom is trying to see a bug on the ceiling using binoculars,” my husband texted our grownup children recently. “Should we be concerned?” “The pandemic has altered everyone’s perspectives in different ways,” my daughter responded. “Or is she just delirious from her reading??” Among the many first-ever virtual experiences I had this year was to participate in an online literary reading hosted by About Place Journal. I was thrilled that they had published my essay, "Regeneration," and equally thrilled to be part of the reading. Alas, we had technical problems. The show did go on, but it was stressful. Remember Willie Nelson’s classic breakup song, “Hello, Walls?” --In which he talks to the walls, and the window (“is that a teardrop in the corner of your pane?”) and, finally, the ceiling? (“I’m gonna stare at you awhile.”) In the final verse, he addresses them all: “We gotta all stick together or else I’ll lose my mind.” Pandemic Winter: it’s a little cozier than Pandemic Summer, isn’t it? Me. My laptop. My walls, windows and ceiling. After the tech-trauma of our reading, I guess I just wanted to figure out something in my tiny world, like: what the heck is that winged insect on our ceiling? Instead, it became kind of a Lucy Lucy Lucy moment of hilarity, which really was much more cathartic than actually figuring out what the creature was. (A moth?) And I learned something: binoculars don’t really work very well for indoor wildlife viewing. As I wrote about in my last post, six whole [...]

Pandemic Mountain

2020-08-30T16:45:22-07:00Categories: featured posts, hiking, politics, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |

In the middle of this pandemic summer, in a tent on a ridge just a stone’s throw from Mt. Baker, my husband and I woke in the wee hours to the sound of two young voices, chatting away, getting closer and louder every second. We could see their headlamps bobbing like a pair of fireflies as they hiked towards us, up the steep trail known as the Railroad Grade route to the Mt. Baker climbers’ basecamp. Our tent was just a few feet off the trail. We’d left the rainfly off: on this silky July night, we needed nothing between us and the starry sky but the tent’s inner mosquito-net shell. We hadn’t seen anyone else for hours. But here they came at 1:40 a.m., these two young men, hiking with headlamps, ready to climb Mt. Baker. They must’ve left the trailhead around midnight. They were nearly on top of us when they finally saw our tent and lowered their voices a little. We pretended to be asleep. They walked on by. We watched their lights bob out of sight. It took us both a while to get back to sleep. But there had been something so happy and cozy about their camaraderie, in the wee hours, that I felt lucky to have heard it. I don’t remember a word they said, only that they were animated and buoyant, as if their packs full of climbing gear weighed nothing. As if they were waterskiing uphill. It was like hearing voices from the past: from that innocent [...]

Pandemic Mirror

2020-06-30T16:28:53-07:00Categories: brain, creative aging, family, featured posts, health & medicine, memoir, midlife, quiet, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , , |

“When did my hair get so long?” I ask myself, as I look in the mirror. “And I look so  OLD!” I am 63. We are winding up Month Four of the pandemic. No. I’m not 63. I am seven, and I am winding up two weeks of being home sick with the mumps. I’m standing in front of the full-length mirror that hangs inside my parents’ bedroom closet door. When the door is open, there is plenty of light on the mirror, so it’s ideal for getting a good look at yourself, which I haven’t done in many days. One of my cheeks is puffed out like a popover. But almost more fascinating to seven-year-old me is how long my hair looks. Can it have grown so much since I last took a look at myself? I am also admiring my new pale blue, pearl-buttoned bathrobe, with its fake-fur collar. How did I, the third of six children (five at the time), acquire such a fancy robe? Was it a gift from my elegant grandmother, given to me because I had the mumps? Was I the only one of us who had the mumps? I don’t remember. What I do remember is what a novelty it was to look in the mirror and see only me: my brother and sisters were at school; my baby brother was taking a nap, or maybe he was with Grandma. And I didn’t look like me, pre-mumps. Never mind the puffy cheek: this was the second one to pop [...]

Pandemic Road

2020-04-28T09:16:00-07:00Categories: family, featured posts, health & medicine, memoir, writing|Tags: , , , , |

The taste of blood mixed with gravel is metallic, it’s gritty, but most of all, it is surprising. I hadn’t opened my mouth on purpose; the taste was just suddenly there. Remembering, I can taste it now. Just as I can hear the big kids yelling: “Go get her mom! She’s bleeding!” I remember lying in the gravel, squinting in the bright sun. And, before she dropped me, how it felt to be carried by the neighbor girl: sweaty and awkward, our limbs criss-crossing in the wrong places; but so worth it, because I felt important. I felt like a princess. When she let go of me in the middle of the street, it was like being dropped into a swimming pool—there was that one whooshing instant in the air—except that where I landed, chin-first, was not in water but in gravel. And what I tasted was not chlorine, but my own blood. Sitting here on a pandemic afternoon, this is the scene from my early childhood I find myself trying to recall. I don’t remember much more. I was only about three years old. We lived just north of Seattle, on a no-sidewalk block of modest ranch homes. My big sister had lost interest in carrying me, because we now had a new baby sister, but the neighbor girl was willing to give it a try. In this way, she explained, we could cross from my house to her house without breaking my mother’s rule that I must never walk across the street without asking [...]

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