Sunday Morning ~ Montreal

Sunday Morning ~ Montreal

Pita uko si kuyenda, kuyenda n’tiye kuno. ~ To say “Go there” is not the right way of traveling, but it is to say, “Let us go together”.

~ Chewa proverb

September 25, 2022

Hi Everyone,

Having had five children within six years, it was rare any of them got to spend one on one time with a parent. It was always a big mob and now that all are grown, the times together are often family gatherings. So it was a rare treat to spend a whole week with just one of my offspring.

My second son, Jake, works a lot. When I was in New York in May we had a conversation about why he hasn’t taken a vacation in three years. Always suffering from wanderlust, I encouraged him to go somewhere, anywhere except his apartment, arguing that some change of scenery gives perspective. He told me he didn’t like to travel alone, which, triggered me to offer my unasked-for companionship. I gave him a list of places I’d like to go and asked if any appealed to him. I’m happy to have company when traveling, too, though I’d rather be alone than be with someone incompatible or whiny. I like to walk a lot. My kids know this and are superb walkers themselves, so I like to think I passed on one of life’s simple pleasures. Yes, I’ve been known to take it to extremes, but I’m older, wiser, am not pressed for time, and wanted this to be fun.  Limited miles was fine with me. 

One destination on the list was Montreal. I had been as a kid for the World’s Fair in 1967, and on a ski trip that same year, but not since then. I wanted to spend some time there, not in a frenetic whirl of museums and sights, but in a relaxed, walk the city, see what we want, eat good food, sort of way. He was on board with this idea and we booked the trip. He’d be flying in from New York and I’d drive. I planned to pick him up at the airport then find the apartment I’d rented. I’d been busy the previous week with guests, so packing and departure was hurried. I didn’t take time to call him before I left, just figured he’d let me know if there was a delay or problem. I’d told him to meet me outside at arrivals and I’d be there when his flight arrived. Did I have his flight information or know what airline he was on? No. Never crossed my mind to ask. I only knew he landed at 5:15. What more did I need? 

I have GPS on my phone and planned to punch in the airport when I got to the border. Slight problem; I had no service. The customs agent told me there would be good service in about 25 kilometers so without concern I headed west. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t check out whether my cheap phone plan worked in Canada. It does not. Very stupid.  Ok, I thought, there will be airport signs I’m sure. I went on my way, thinking I had gobs of time to get there. The well-marked long straight road from Coburn Gore to Montreal was simple enough, but by Sherbrooke the rain had started hard. The windshield wipers could hardly keep up and I had to slow way down. I hate driving in that kind of rain. Was it getting dark already, I wondered? It was only four in the afternoon but it seemed like it was getting dark. I started getting anxious. I don’t like driving on strange roads where I have to read the signs to find my way when it is pouring rain and getting dark. Each exit offered the possibility of getting on the wrong road. It was raining so hard I couldn’t tell where the travel lanes were. Approaching the city of Montreal, I started seeing a little airplane above the exit sign and thought, Phew! So glad to see the airport is on this side of the city! It was getting close to his arrival time by then and I didn’t want to be late. Then I passed a sign that said, Montreal 40 Km and thought, I know the airport isn’t that far from the city, so wait, is there more than one airport? Uh oh. I passed that exit and got more anxious as traffic fire-hosed water onto my little car, I thought I should have done a little more research. It was raining so hard I had to concentrate to tell if I went over a very large bridge, which I knew I needed to do. Not even sure if I was in Montreal, I saw another little airplane sign and relieved, I headed toward that exit, which took me to another highway, not the airport. I felt like I was passing the city, then saw two airplanes on signs with different names. Oh fuck! There is more than one airport in this city? I looked at the time and saw his flight landed ten minutes before. No worries, I thought, it will take him a bit to get though immigration. I’ll be there shortly. I hope. But I didn’t know which airport! Neither of them said “International” only the names, PE Trudeau, or Mirabel. I had to think fast. Trudeau was prime minister so they probably named the international airport after him, right? Who was Mirabel? Maybe he was a prime minister, too. Shit. I went with the exit closest to me and it was Trudeau. Still another highway. Shit! Where the hell was the airport? Tons of traffic, pouring rain, and I hit a pothole that made me think I’d blow out a tire. Why was there a pot hole on a highway in September? Maybe it wasn’t a pothole, the water on the road was too deep to tell what I hit. I listened for the noise of the car falling apart. Tires seemed ok, though it felt like I could have broken something underneath. Does triple A work here, I started wondering? Wouldn’t matter because I can’t call them! I’d have been killed in that traffic if my car stopped, and cognizant of that I stopped caring which airport held my son; I just needed to get off the highway. I figured I’d call him when I got into an airport when I could get wifi. My phone lit up. I glanced at the text, “Through immigration!” Shit. I couldn’t answer it. He’d have no idea where I was and how long I’d be. Ugh. I should have left earlier. Should have checked with AT&T about my phone plan. I felt like I’d lost my travel chops. 

Finally the exit for the airport was ahead. I got into the right lane and saw miles of red tail lights from the exit well onto the highway. The line of cars going into the airport was visible, I’m sure, from outer space. Oh my God. I inched forward, now with plenty of time to look at texts, reading, “Where are you?” and “I’m here in area C!” then a half hour later, “Ok, I’m going to get a drink.” I had a few conflicting feelings reading these: Relief he’d arrived. Panic I wouldn’t be able to find him. I tried texting back, “Which airport????”  but the little blue line just sat there not moving until I got the notice “unable to send”. Ok, no service. I’ll try to call. Beep beep! then dead. Can’t call either. Ok, I told myself, he’s ok, I’m ok, the car did not fall apart when I hit that whatever, and did not go underwater in those puddles so don’t decompensate. We’ll find each other eventually. 

It took an hour to get from the exit ramp to the entrance of the airport and I wasn’t even sure it was the right airport. I could see getting around to arrivals would be another hour so I pulled off where it said “Long Term Parking”, found a spot, jumped out into the rain, and ran to the sign saying “Terminal”. About a mile later, and six hundred stairs, I crossed the street into Area C (miracle). I ran through the doors and saw a bar! Right there by the doors! And there was Jake (miracle) sitting on a bar stool examining his phone. I have never been so glad to see him. I ran up and grabbed his shoulder, which was not smart since he didn’t see me coming and was in a strange airport. He jumped and said, “Jesus! I was getting worried about you!” Oh my god, I started blubbering about the multiple airports, the rain, how I thought I’d never find him, and the bartender handed me a glass of ice water, and said, “Here m’am. Take this.” I stopped in my tracks and thought, Yup, I’m in Canada. 

I don’t want to promote stereotypes, but honestly, our northern neighbors are just so nice. We had a great week.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Grandmothers

Sunday Morning ~ Grandmothers

Ukonde uyambira ku bwakale. ~ You start weaving a new net using the old one.

~ Chewa proverb

September 11, 2022

Hi Everyone,

My grandparents died when I was very young. I have vague memories of my maternal grandmother who spoke Acadian French, and was ‘senile” as my mother told me when I asked why she behaved the way she did. My grandmother would dress herself with her clothes on backwards, walk downstairs from the second floor apartment, and get lost in the streets of Cambridge. I remember my mother getting a call and without a word, jumping in the car to go look for her. I went with my mother once to that apartment where I nervously observed my mother re-dressing this smiling old lady, then watched as she threw out rotten food from the fridge, moaning in disgust. My grandfather sat mute in the rocking chair in the another dark room. To my childish senses the whole place smelled putrid. I think I held my nose the whole time. My memory of that afternoon is dark and shadowy. Once after that my mother took me to a nursing home, also shadowy and smelly, where both her parents lay in single beds side by side, my grandmother with the same smile on her face. She looked like an old doll. It is the last memory I have of her. I remember my mother getting a phone call reporting her mother had died, then hearing my mother make funeral arrangements. I sat on the stairs looking through the balusters, hiding, as if I weren’t supposed to be hearing the conversation but wanting to witness the mysteriously unfolding events. Adults would never explain or tell us anything so we had no choice but to be sleuths. I heard her say she wanted the corpse dressed in a blue dress, and later that afternoon, thinking I would make my mother feel better I guess (not that she looked or acted upset), I told her I saw a woman in a blue dress flying up to heaven. It was a lie. I had seen no such thing, but I somehow thought it would make her happy knowing her mother was on her way to heaven dressed as she wished. I remember my mother turning from the dishpan, her hands soapy, her apron intact, and laughing. 

I envied my friends’ relationships with their grandparents. It all seemed so loving and happy, and I wondered what it would be like to be loved like that. In my college dorm we once took up a collection so a co-ed could get a bus home when her grandmother died. I thought it was remarkable she should go to such effort. Feeling generous, and in line with other contributions, I donated a dollar, but I felt left out of the true sympathy others were expressing. My empathy was forced and wistful.

Five years later, my mother held my firstborn for the first time. I had never seen her so joyful. He was a year old by then, her first grandchild born in Africa and distant for the first year of his life. I loved seeing her expression and knew he’d have something I hadn’t. She was like that with all my kids, though, she couldn’t hide her favoritism for the first. The other kids didn’t seem resentful, they just loved her back and it made her bloom. Even their teenage sarcasm was loving and tender, something I appreciated for her sake but resented for mine since they were pretty brutal to me.

Spending this past month with my own grandchildren, I thought a lot about being a child, comparing their lives to mine. It was an interesting exercise, not in an analytical nor a regretful way; it was only a comparison. We began each morning with writing a very short story  about what happened the day before. We’d lie in bed and I’d suppress laughter while writing as they dictated. Their perceptions of news worthy events were comical and surprising. I wondered what I’d have chosen to write about without judgement as a kid. Once, when Amelia was deciding what to say she stopped and asked, “Wait, is anyone else besides us going to read this?” before deciding to include something she didn’t want shared. I loved that. As soon as we were done with the story, they got up and ran for the onset of their two hour daily limit on a device. That also was funny to me thinking how I did the same thing at their ages with TV and cartoons. Our days were unstructured. I had set aside these weeks with no other commitments. It was lovely and stress-free. We spent time every day planning our menus, swimming, and reading. I had a list of potential activities to be pulled out if I ever heard, “I’m bored” but I never did. We did a three day camping trip where the activity was just camping. It felt great not to cram the days full of activities and forced marches. I worried a little what was wrong with me––– I’m not usually this relaxed, but it felt so good to just hang out. I told them I was relishing this time, knowing when they got older they probably won’t want to be spending summers with me. They vehemently assured me they would ALWAYS want to be with me. I laughed and told them I loved they said that, but things change and there would never be any pressure. I was only relishing the moment we were in. I pictured them someday after I am gone, re-reading our summer stories, imagining their laughter, knowing it’s a fantasy and that’s okay.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ The Stick of the Children

Sunday Morning ~ The Stick of the Children

Ndodo ya ana ndiyo aphera njoka. ~ It is the stick of the children which killed the snake.

~ Chewa proverb

August 21, 2022

Hi Everyone,

We got four inches of rain here this week. It started gently and I worried it wouldn’t be enough. Early on Wednesday we watched from under our porch-bed net as the grey skies let out just the slightest bit of mist. Not knowing what was to follow, I worried this would not be the soaker we needed. Amelia and James have been here for a week now and knew how much I wanted it to rain. We wrote our morning story, hopeful the weather app wasn’t wrong. I drank my tea and we looked around for our morning visitors but there were no butterflies to watch or hummingbirds to tease us. As the rain drops got bigger and began falling steadier, the kids eagerly exclaimed the good news which made me laugh. I love how they want to make me happy. The rain finally came straight down in a steady rhythm, precisely how I’d hoped. Satisfied we didn’t have to do more wishing, we crawled out of our dampening nest and went in to do rainy day stuff.

For the first time in months we stayed in the house for an entire day. The kids played with legos and stuffed animals making up stories with elaborate themes, acting them out with great aplomb. We wore sweatshirts for the first time in several weeks. Though we’ve had dry summers before, this is the hottest one I can remember here. The rain was such a relief. It was a good rain, steady for fourteen hours, filling up every upturned pot and leaking down the greenhouse walls. There was no torrential downpour to wash away the top layer. The earth was cement-like from the drought and there wasn’t much loose on top to wash away, but I worried about extremes. 

My garden hasn’t produced much this year. Between the late start and the dry conditions I’m picking enough to eat but nothing to preserve. The rain this week gave it a boost but many of the plants were weak and spindly, insects were attacking, and chipmunks and rabbits were taking more than their share of the harvest. My garden is important to me but before getting too depressed about it, I thought about areas where the entire landscape is changing because of drought. I imagined having my dietary customs eliminated because of the weather. The wars in South Sudan are fought over the shifting farmland, whereas I can walk across the street to the farm and buy vegetables if the drought wrecks my garden. If the farm couldn’t use their irrigation system though, what then? This could be much worse. Blueberry farms have lost half their crop.

My grandkids keep me distracted and away from the news. Watching them I can easily see how avoiding current events can become a habit. I’m listening to headline news clips and relishing the idea that this generation of brilliant little minds will kill the snake. I’m being educated on how much smarter kids are being raised. After graduating from his year in public kindergarten my grandson can read multisyllabic words with ease. I never even went to kindergarten! I was well into first grade before the whole Dick and Jane story started taking hold. That just sounds like baby talk to me when I see what these kids are doing. I’m embarrassed to even tell them what I was reading at their age. They are comfortable with varied races and same sex couples. I remember thinking Liberace was the only gay person in the world. These kids won’t be fooled by some reworked textbook full of whitewashed history. I don’t expect them to fix all that previous generations have done to harm our civilization and planet, but if they so chose, I believe them capable of it.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Letting It Be

Sunday Morning ~ Letting It Be

Cikacita mang’a, cileke, mawa, cituluka. ~ When it shows a crack, just leave it alone, tomorrow it will come out.

~Chewa proverb

July 31, 2022

Hi everyone,

The college here on the island hosts a summer institute in July, described as a week long “ideas festival”. They gather experts on topics affecting our environment, lifestyle, and future with a different theme each year. This year the topic was “Our One and Only Ocean” and I found it transformative. I am usually impressed by the speakers and format, but when I saw the topic this year my heart sunk a little. I’m not usually moved or motivated by marine biology, though I appreciate those who are. Although not drawn to the topic, I was craving some intellectual stimulation, so decided to attend. I listened to speakers tell of their attachment to the ocean, how part of it they feel, and wondered what was wrong with me? How have I missed this passion? They told childhood stories of their introduction to the ocean and how they were instantly hooked. It was forevermore a part of who they would become. I listened, riveted and perplexed, as my story is so different. My childhood ocean stories are not the beginning of a lifelong love affair.

I was never a swimmer. I flunked my swimming test at camp when I was eight and wasn’t allowed at the dock with the other kids. I was skin and bones, couldn’t float, was always cold, and had a fear of drowning. I still do. I find nothing pleasurable about putting my body in cold water. Scuba diving isn’t anywhere near my bucket list. I don’t even like visiting aquariums that much. I am very happy to stand on firm ground and look at the water. I appreciate those that make a living from the sea and provide the seafood I love. I will never balk at the price; it’s a hard living. The sea doesn’t call to me like the mountains do. It’s crazy that I should end up living on an island but that was the compromise I made with my husband. He loved the ocean, boats, and sailing, and wanted to live near the sea. He spent weeks on a schooner when he was a teenager tracking whales in Newfoundland and Labrador. When we first started dating, he told me stories of being the only one on the boat who wasn’t seasick. I listened as if he were Magellan, quite unable to relate. I love nature and am happiest outside. I try to live as close to the earth as possible, and when I say earth, I mean the parts not covered by water.

When I was a kid we went to stay with my great uncle in Nova Scotia. A priest and a fisherman, he was pastor of a parish in the town of Shippegan. We drove over bridges and took ferries to get there and were welcomed with great fanfare. It felt exotic and made me feel special. We slept at the big rectory, attended church events, toured the fish canning factory, and went out on his fishing boat. That last excursion was billed to the kids as a great adventure and I remember being excited and a little scared about being out on the high seas. I was up before daybreak and ready to go, but it didn’t take long for that mood to vanish. Once out on the ocean, I lay curled up on the bunk below, seasick, miserable, and could think of nothing but wanting to go home. When my father made me go on deck to watch them haul in the nets, the flapping fish, the water, the rocking boat, was my idea of hell on earth. We fished for cod with a drop line and I hated it. I wanted my feet to be on solid ground again and that’s all I could think of. For years, just the discussion of a fishing boat made me a little nauseated. I decided long ago that watching Jaques Cousteau specials would be as close as I would come to underwater discovery.

So, I was surprised when the week-long multifaceted look at the ocean, rooted in storytelling and history, innovative, creative, and forward thinking, left me inspired and hopeful. I feel like I missed out on a great party. As I listened to the speakers’ stories of falling in love with our ocean I was captivated. There are great minds doing great things. It made me feel a bit small, like I’m not living up to my potential. There is so much I don’t know, so many people working to preserve and improve our world. Photographers and explorers for National Geographic told us how they began their careers. It seemed the lot of the charmed and sainted. It was superhuman to me. So when an audience member asked how the commoner could possibly be granted the kind of privilege those on stage had, the speaker (a renown underwater photographer) answered, “Start taking photos in your backyard. Do it a lot. Get good at it.” I laughed. I loved that answer. It’s true of anything. How can we become senator? Run for school board or town council. Be good at it. It all made me rather hopeful. Learning about the potential for restoration and preservation made me hopeful. Listening to young female aqua farmers made me hopeful. I had not expected ending each day in such a state of hopefulness and gratitude. In this time of impending climate doom, watching my garden withering in the drought, hopefulness was not an emotion I’d felt for awhile. But I feel a shift. No one wants to be on a suicide mission so hopefulness is imperative right now and I am glad we’ve gotten a dose of it all around. The marine preservation projects, the Democratic movement on climate change, the vote in Kansas, all make me feel like we can turn this ship around. 

Now it’s grandkids time! Nothing more hopeful than that!

Love to all,

Linda 

Sunday Morning ~ The Partridge and the Lion

Sunday Morning~ The Partridge and the Lion

Pa thindi nkhwali, mkango uli pomwepo. ~ The partridge is in the tall grass, and so is the lion.

~ Chewa proverb

July 24, 2022

Hi everyone,

I was six years old when the Cuban Missile Crisis happened. I have no recollection of my parents being worried about our fate or being glued to the news. I wish I could ask them what they were thinking at the time. I was nine when I first remember hearing about it. My third grade teacher said something about how close we came to being in a war and I had no idea what she meant. Kennedy was assassinated when I was seven. That’s a lot of scary shit within a couple of years yet, those events don’t evoke memories in me of fear for our future. Life went on as usual. I remember my parents and their friends talking about it. I remember watching the funeral on television. I remember watching Oswald get shot on TV, my mother gasping, my father saying something like, “Well I’ll be god damned.” Having just gotten through World War II I’m curious what they were thinking. Were they truly not worried about the fate of our country? Or was I not sensitive to their fears? 

I doubt I could have hidden my fears on January 6th had I small children in the house. I wonder what impressions my reaction would have left on them. I took a shot of whiskey at noon trying to calm my breathing. I was in a panic. This past week as I watched the hearings and saw the raw footage of the inside of the capitol, I don’t think I was overreacting. 

I’m trying to remember times when I had to be very brave. Was there a time when I had a choice between right and wrong and stepped forward to stand up for justice? Although I’ve had moments in my life requiring courage, I can’t find anything in my brain even closely comparable to putting my career and long term security at risk. As I watch the young women testify in the January 6 hearings–––republican women with a lot to lose, I stand in respect and gratitude. Coming from a party and culture with rampant misogyny, I am grateful for their courage. I have been overwhelmed by the composure and clarity they are demonstrating. I want them all to know that. I wonder what kind of threats they endure? And yes, the guys have been stellar witnesses, too, but the women stand out to me. I guess because the loss of our civil rights is a bit raw right now. There aren’t enough men speaking out about it. Why not? It bothers me. I was clapping while listening to Liz Cheney in her closing statement. I’m enjoying watching her lay shame on the men claiming privilege behind some stupid excuse. I’ve gotta admit, she’s doing a great job. She described brave young women coming forward and being a role model for younger women everywhere. I agree. I wonder what security they have been given? Do the men running from responsibility understand what fools they look like? Do they care? How will they spin this? If they had come forward during the second impeachment our country might look differently now. But that’s not what happened. This is where we are and this is what we have to work with, so I’ll take it and be grateful for now. I’m praying this will have a just result.

I’m thinking of how I can be most helpful in the November election, wondering at my age what will push us toward the results we need for democracy to survive. Two more senators and keep the house. It is all I can think about. I’m trying to figure out how to voice my opinion in a meaningful and productive way. Is this the bravest thing I can be doing? The flack I get from my blogs is nothing compared with what the witnesses face. Where should I focus a fraction of the courage the women testifying have shown? This will be a lifelong threat for them unless we radically change the power structure. A dream I doubt will be realized in my lifetime, but I’d like to contribute to that evolutionary progress. 

Courage: Finding the partridge without getting eaten by the lion.   

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Women’s Voices

Sunday Morning ~ Women’s Voices

Palima n’pa mimba, khasu la Cidambo. ~ The power to cultivate comes from eating, the hoe of Cidambo gets strength from eating.

~ Chewa proverb

July 17, 2022

Hi Everyone,

I’ve been thinking about what feeds us. In a literal sense the war in Ukraine demonstrates the ramifications of disrupting global food supplies, Climate change is doing the same. Today, I am thinking of what feeds our souls and how stories can be that nourishment. Often powerful, they can be a catalyst for change. 

When teaching, I begin class with a writing exercise. Each student writes a short story about themselves relating to the topic we are about to discuss. This is a quick exercise, usually five or six minutes, and I write as well. When the timer goes off we read these stories aloud. The stories are not critiqued or graded, there are no rules to comply with except to write. I use this exercise to have students practice telling their stories, and give everyone else practice listening to them without judgement. It also gives some context to the topic we are about to discuss. Many don’t learn to tell of their lives or experiences. Shame, unworthiness, futility are all barriers for people, especially women, to tell their stories in their own voices. So, women’s lives have been framed by the men surrounding them. I think of how this has evolved and how it led to the country we now inhabit.

Jesus was surrounded by strong women throughout his short life. Yet, Catholicism is an outlier in organized religion idolizing Mary. I would so love to know her story through her voice. What would we understand about how women of that era viewed their lives? What if Mary had twelve female apostles to write her gospels? Did they think being stoned was a little unfair? Did they gather to talk about how to change the system? Did they imagined a world two thousand years hence interested in them, their lives, their stories? I imagine how their stories would have changed the course of history. Instead, men told women’s stories through men’s eyes, giving themselves starring roles and relegating women to supporting actress at best. This eternal stage was set.

When stories are told from the female experience, let’s take for example…Cassidy Hutchinson, men tend to spin these stories when they don’t come off looking so great. There seems to be no end to the air time given their rebuttal. When that doesn’t work in their favor they begin discrediting her. It’s almost as if men think they can behave however they wish, with deceit, violence, or immaturity, then rewrite the story to make themselves look good. Same old, same old.

The Weinsteins and Trumps of the world have been able to kill women’s stories describing the monsters they are. If that doesn’t work they kill the women themselves. Eventually though, a woman finds the strength, support, and opportunity to kick the bottom card in the house. Other women find their voices. They feed each other. They grow stronger. They build each other up. They knock down walls. Women bring the monster down. 

I watched Cassidy Hutchinson, threatened by angry powerful men, stand up for truth, showing all of us what courage and integrity looks like. Of course, she probably has twenty-four hour protection now, which most women with abusive partners aren’t likely to get anytime soon, but we saw; we heard. We can build on that. Women will not go back. Black lives will never not matter again. Women will not go back to living compromised lives endangered for the pleasure of men. This will not happen.

There are men in my life who’ve thanked me for making them think about how they have benefited from our system and how unfair it is to women. And there are men in my life who are threatened by what I write and assign blame. I’m not surprised. It’s not easy to share the power and advantage they’ve enjoyed for so long. But, like I told my kids growing up, if you can’t learn to share, you will lose it.

I have been thinking about this since the court majority awakened several million sleeping dragons. Current injustices perpetuated by men must be attended to. Knowing a woman was among them makes me wonder what she might write of her own story should she escape her cult of men. Compliance can mean survival. I want women to tell their stories and open a path for other women to tell theirs. What is done to us without our consent, rewards others reap from our efforts, consequences we bear alone, it’s all a story with value and meaning. It will shape the next two thousand years. It nourishes others and makes them strong. What if every woman wrote about abuse she has suffered by some prominent man? I wonder what that would do to solve this little problem of DENYING BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS TO WOMEN!

I saw a meme that said: Write like the ghosts of all the women in history who weren’t allowed to write are standing next to you wondering what a laptop is and why you’re still in your pajamas. I love this. I wonder if Cassidy Hutchinson was channeling Ann Hutchinson, a midwife, who had a little problem with male authority in the1600’s. She was banished for overstepping her place as a woman. It was feared she’d inspire other women to speak out. Let’s be like Ann Hutchinson, with a laptop.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Removing Them

Sunday Morning ~ Removing Them

Cikuni ca utsi koma kufumula. ~ The firewood that smokes too much remove it.

~ Chewa proverb

July 3, 2022

Hi Everyone,

Current events rendered me unable to write for the past couple of weeks. Well, I did write; I just didn’t post the rambling litany of angry outburst that I couldn’t wrangle into anything coherent. No amount of editing worked; nothing meaningful could be sculpted. All my frustration, the unfairness of it all, the blaming, raging, name calling was a childhood temper tantrum on a page that did nothing but exhaust me.  

I’m applying for a position in Malawi to work again on the midwifery ward project. I have this terrible association with my work there and the abrupt dark turn in our democracy. When I started working there in 2016 I thought the country would evoke memories of our emergence to a new era with our first woman president. I imagined celebrating there with other American expats. I knew she’d have a hard road to hoe, but she was capable of it. I was sure she’d endure the attempts to discrediting her successes. She knew what she was getting into. Her predecessor, I’d thought, survived more than his fair share of attacks and I had faith she would as well. No one could run for that office and expect an easy time of it.

Malawi is six hours ahead of eastern time, so we planned a breakfast party to celebrate the historic event expecting to watch the results steer us into a better future. I imagined bouncing off to teach with a spring in my step, excited about the possibilities for women’s health. Instead, we watched what could very possibly be the beginning of the end of our democracy. Foreign interference, misogyny, racism, and hatred was about to usher in a period I honestly could not believe would happen. 

I walked to work that morning filled with a darkness and dread similar to what I experienced when my husband left our family twenty years ago. My horror, shame, and despair for the future was similar. But when it was only my personal life falling apart I had control of how I handled the situation. I grieved, railed, and cried endlessly to friends and (horrifyingly) strangers. I sought advice, got therapy, accepted help, and steered the train of my life onto a different track. In November 2016, I thought, this is not just me and my children, it’s the world. The foreboding was terrifying. That terrible morning I foresaw the world turning dark. I foresaw war, and suffering. Women’s lives, already more difficult than men’s, were about to get much worse. I saw it. I felt it in my bones. Many women did. 

Following the stages of grief, I went from shock into a depression. I knew from experience with loss that the next stage, anger, felt better to me. Anger meant action and movement. The man in my life at the time infuriated me by telling me I was overreacting. A white privileged older man, who I thought had a shred of sensitivity to women’s issues, overtly dismissed the possibility that the calamity of that election would somehow be worse for women. He even made some stupid jokes about women that sent me into a rage. He didn’t get it. He didn’t understand how I could be so furious at his insensitivity. Having shared with him all my issues with my father, the Freudian in him blamed that. It was a convenient and perennial way of relinquishing all responsibility for perpetuating the misogyny and patriarchy. He refused to see how much he benefitted from it. He saw none of it as having to do with him.

As bad as I felt, I couldn’t even fathom what Hillary Clinton was feeling. It’s like when your friend loses a child. You grieve for her, grieve for what the future could have been, imagine yourself in her shoes, feel guilty your children are still alive, wonder if you could have done something, and still, you never know what it is like. You can only imagine. 

Imagining the world and country we could have had, imagining the supreme court we could have had, I grieve. I guess I’m glad we finally know what we’re dealing with. I pray this motivates a generation who has so much to lose to vote in outrageous numbers. It’s our only hope. I pray people smarter than me can figure out how to firewall this disinformation targeted to specific groups causing them to vote against their own best interest. I hope the dragon has been awakened. 

In 2016 I took much heart in the organizing and action groups that formed. If not for that activism I imagine how much worse this could be now. I wasn’t surprised when the verdict was announced. I knew this was coming. I saw the dismantling of our rights as soon as the election was decided in 2016. I spent my anger then raging against greedy republicans, racists, misogynists, and those who bought into the propaganda that Hillary Clinton was somehow evil or dishonest. I mourn the future we could have had with her. She was so right about everything. She warned us of this in 1995. She warned us of Russian interference with the election. She was so right. And we suffer her loss. 

So, as many of us are now looking deeply at ways we contribute to the institutionalized racism in this country, I desperately hope men look at how they contribute to the misogyny. I hope they work just as hard for our rights as theirs. I hope every man who refuses to wear a condom goes straight to hell. 

Obviously, I’m still angry.

But the smoking logs can be removed! We CAN vote out the criminals who brought us to this brink. While I am not a proponent of fear mongering, I have no problem instilling the fear of losing our human rights as women, losing our children to school shootings, and losing our health care. I will repeat this over and over and over: republicans have taken your right to choose; republicans don’t care if your kids die in school; republicans will take away your already meager health care. These smutty, stinking, smoking logs have got to go. It’s our only hope.

Two more senators and keep the house!

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Seeing the Hearing

Sunday Morning ~ Seeing the Hearing

Kanthu ndi Khama ~ You only achieve by persevering.

~ Chewa proverb

June 12, 2022

Hi Everyone,

I am investigating my feelings about Liz Cheney. I embarrassingly admit I mostly know about her from the movie Vice. A good movie, but hardly a peer-reviewed resource or biography. I have not admired her in the past but what did I really know of her? I don’t agree with her conservative views. She voted against equal rights for her gay sister; I held that against her. I have a vague understanding of her views on women’s rights and social justice, but nothing academic. I’ve heard sound bites where she disagreed with someone I admired. I hate her father for his war mongering. What else did I know? Not much. When she initially agreed to be on the January 6 committee, I thought: She sees it. She knows this tide will turn and she will be on the right side of it. Whatever her motivation at that time, I could see she was smarter, more courageous, had more self respect and vision than the others. I’m feeling haughtily right about that.

As I watched and listened to her in the first hearing this week, I thought a deep integrity was clearly visible. I’d initially thought it may be a pathway for her future advancement in government, but I was convinced otherwise as I sat riveted. She was not putting on a show. Although the ultimate outcome of this may be shining stardom for her, it could also be obliteration. She sees this all for what it is, knows her colleagues on the right do as well, and she is standing up for justice. I give her tons of credit for that.  She’s younger than I thought. She’s more attractive than I thought. She gave me hope for the kind of civilization and society I want: one where I can disagree with her views but co-exist with some modicum of respect.

She spoke like an attorney and I learned she is one. She is the mother of five children. She has only been in Congress since the terrible election of 2016. For some reason I thought she’d been there much longer. I also didn’t know Wyoming only has one representative. Ah, the civics lessons around every turn.

I wonder what her relationship is with her sister? I wonder what influence her children have on her? Does she possess her father’s skill in profiting from war? I don’t know these things but I’m suddenly curious.

I get that these hearings are not a trial. I know their power is limited and they can not prosecute. I understand the frustration when I hear that “nothing will come of it”, even though we are learning, with more and more shocking testimony, how premeditated it all was. I am grateful for this committee. I am glad that Benny Thompson is the chair. As I listened to his opening remarks, I was grateful for the progress we’ve made just by the position he holds. It’s not enough, but it is progress. It felt good to be proud of them. And I am thrilled that other republicans refused to take part. It was so refreshing to listen to intelligent and thoughtful presenters. It was a relief to be spared the theatrics of imbeciles like Jim Jordan. The miscalculations of the cornered are interesting to observe from an anthropological perspective. 

I guess what I am most concerned about now is the election this November. We must keep the house and gain two senate seats. That’s all there is to it. It’s what we must do. Imagine a world without the filibuster. Imagine a better world without the electoral college. These are within our power. They are not pipe dreams. With two more senators (Pennsylvania and Florida, I’m talking to you) we never have to hear the names Manchin and Sinema again. 

As I sit on my porch watching the phoebes flitting in and out of their nest, it’s easy to feel optimistic. The leaves are fully spread, and though the lilacs are passing, the iris are singing their brief song and the peonies are nearing their moment to show off.  In my little paradise here all is as it should be. The phoebes have plenty of mosquitoes to eat and last evening at dusk I saw bats swooping around looking for protein, too. I realize how lucky I am to live here and have this life. It wasn’t always this way, but it was what I envisioned.

None of us know the future, but we can envision one where there is justice. Even just that, envisioning a just outcome, will be a service to those who are putting so much on the line to investigate the insurrection and present the facts. We owe it to them to give them that much. And while we’re at it, imagine a senate without a filibuster! What fun! 

Let’s move methodically, toward the goal with the understanding that the only option is to arrive. 

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Pentecostal Thoughts

Sunday Morning ~ Pentecostal Thoughts

Mphawi ndiye mzimu; musamnyoze. ~ The poor man is a spirit; do not despise him.

~ Chewa proverb

June 5, 2022

Hi Everyone,

Pentecost comes from the Greek word pentecoste, meaning fifty. Fifty days after Easter. Fifty years since Shirley Chisholm ran for president. Fifty years since the ERA went to the senate. Fifty days since Ukraine took back Chernobyl. Fifty years since Israeli athletes were massacred at the Olympics. Fifty days since Staten Island Amazon workers voted to unionize. Fifty years since Watergate started. In the church, it’s a birthday these fifty days after Easter. It’s all about spirit. Things changed. 

A visiting priest celebrated mass last evening at our little church on the ocean. He wore his holiness all over his sleeve as he described Pope John Paul’s visit to Poland in 1979 during the feast of Pentecost. His sermon last evening was very moving for me in both content and delivery. When I got home, I looked up the New York Times article about John Paul’s visit to Poland, his homeland. Poland was under communist regime then and the visit was a negotiation between the communist government and the Vatican. He was the first pope allowed to visit Poland; being a native Pole made it hard for the communists to forbid his visit. The formal reason for the Pope’s visit was to celebrate the martyrdom of Saint Stanislaus, the bishop of Krakow, who in 1072 was murdered when he spoke out against the unjust wars and immoral behavior of King Boleslaus II. The New York Times reports the visit had to be delayed from the Saint’s feast day in April as the communist regime did not want to highlight a celebration of someone known for opposing government. So he went on Pentecost instead, a celebration of the birth of the church and the raining down of the holy spirit.

The article describes the crowds that overtook Warsaw. Hundreds of thousands were present for the Pope’s mass in Victory Square, a place where I stood just a few weeks ago. Last evening our visiting priest described the crowds and the significance of John Paul’s presence there. He talked of the Pope’s acknowledgment of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and his  references to communist oppression. He told us of John Paul telling the crowd they were of the land, they were worthy, they were free in their hearts.

I found the transcript of the Pope’s homily. His reference to St. Stanislaw as someone “who purchased his mission at the see of Krakow with his blood nine hundred years ago.” was bold. I am only now understanding how carefully he crafted his words and what affect they had on the citizens of that country. He said, “a nation is understood though the lives of each of its persons.”

As I struggle to comprehend the times we face and how important the stakes, these words touched me. I’m trying to balance being informed with being sane, so am limiting how much news I listen to. I believe in my bones we are capable of coming through this with our democracy and integrity intact, but it is not going to be easy. I am looking for inspiration. I needed something to cling to, a message that would keep me going and not give up. 

John Paul said in reference to Poland’s history that “Rooted in Christ as an old oak is rooted in the soil, the nation was able to withstand the strong winds that history inflicted upon it.” He related the teachings of Jesus: humanity, dignity, human rights, to the dignity and rights of individual nations. As I read this, I thought about John Paul’s singularity of mind and purpose. He must have truly felt the holy spirit consume him considering the times and situation he inhabited. 

According to reports I read, there were 300,000 people present at this mass. Some sources say the authorities kept it to that number even though over a million tried to come. At the end of his homily, John Paul walked back and forth across the huge altar and with his arms outstretched reciting words from scripture as if it were a rallying call:

Let your Spirit come down!

Let your Spirit come down!

And renew the face of the earth. 

Of this land.

He repeated this over and over, the Responsorial Psalm we say on Pentecost, adding the phrase, “of this land”. 

At our mass last evening, as I listened to the priest tell this story, it was clear the message was more complex. He described John Paul as calling everyone to find their spirit within and renew what was their homeland. In reading about it afterward, I learned that in Polish, the word for “earth” and “land” is the same, so emphasis on that word at the end was what the communist authorities considered a political message. 

Lech Walensa, a person I followed obsessively in 1980, was present at that mass. I found  reports saying it inspired him to stand up for workers rights. I found a quote by Walensa when he was president of Poland: “John Paul’s pilgrimage awakened in us, the Poles, the hope for change….I have no doubt that without the pope’s words, without his presence, the birth of Solidarity would not have been possible.” It took ten years, but that movement led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, which, most of the world saw as a good thing. Clearly Putin wasn’t in that group.

I guess I was so moved, and I chose to write about this, because I’m trying to feel hope that we can stand up to this evil machine that is consuming our country. The republicans in our country are murdering more of our citizens daily than Ukrainian soldiers are dying in their war. And our outrage is festering. I want to believe we can direct a peaceful movement toward justice and environmental responsibility without violence. We need to believe we have that power, that spirit.

Love to all,

Linda

 The Pope in Poland: The Pilgrimages of John Paul II, 1979-1991, James Ramon Felak, 2020.

A Pope and a President, Paul Kengor, 2017.

Pope Gets Big Welcome in Poland, Offers Challenge to the Authorities, David A. Andelman Special to The New York Times, June 3, 1979

Reason, Free Minds and Free Markets, The Pope Who Helped Bring Down Communism, Stephanie Slade, December 2021

Sunday Morning ~ Coming Home

Sunday Morning ~ Coming Home

Kungapande tambala kudzaca. ~ Even if there were no cock, daybreak would come.

~ Chewa proverb

May 29, 2022

Hi Everyone,

It’s always strange coming home from an intense experience. Sometimes it’s a huge relief and I sink into my house like it’s part of me. Other times I go into a funk for awhile feeling like there’s no place here for me. The adjustment timeframe varies between a minute and a month. I guess the longer I’m away the more difficult the re-entry.

I listened to very little news while I was gone and it was an incredible relief. It also gave me some perspective on how the bombardment of information shapes our sense of well being. Even though I was hearing difficult personal stories and seeing traumatized families, I was less anxious. I felt more positive about our future. The strength and resolve of others was infectious and it seemed all difficulties could be overcome. I was in a constant state of awe that life could go on so normally when there was an active war with bombs dropping so nearby. Bakeries still made gorgeous pastries. Families still strolled through the parks. Markets still sold fruit and vegetables. All this was in vibrant color to me. I wondered how it was being reported back home. 

I was only gone for six weeks, which, is not very long so I was a little blindsided by this feeling of…despair is too strong a word…maybe despondency is more like it. I left a place where people are fleeing a war to return to a country where kids are massacred in school, people die while grocery shopping, and women are being stripped of their basic human rights. It all makes me question where the war is. 

What often makes returning difficult is the way I imagine home life to be while living in another culture. No one is invading my home or dropping bombs on our houses. I can travel freely. I can say what I want. It makes me incredibly grateful to have been born into this life in this place. But that’s all a romanticized version of home. That’s what happens while I’m witnessing suffering far from home. Upon return I am reminded of how imperfect and flawed our society is and how the outward appearance is only the reality for a privileged class. I got home, caught up on events and though, Ugh, this is where I live. In a country where politicians allow this to happen. In Maine, our beautiful state, farmers are fleeing their poisoned land, not sure what damage has already been done to their health. Our senior senator continually votes to perpetuate the atrocities inflicted on women, children, and minorities. I feel cynical and duped. We’ve done a good job of making sure there’s an enemy for everyone. How did it get to this point?

I’ve heard criticism about how this country isn’t taking in as many refugees as it should. I stop and think who would want to come here anyway? I had the opportunity to observe the Polish medical system, and though not perfect, people are able to access care in a timely way, are treated respectfully,  and are not worried about how to pay for it. I was flabbergasted at how efficient it was. This illusion we are fed in the U.S. about having the best medical care in the world refers only to those who are privileged and white. Otherwise, it is a disgrace. An expensive, inefficient, inequitable disgrace. 

Whew! Debbie Downer today. Until Tuesday I felt like the war republicans have launched on women would be the tipping point. I thought this fury they’ve unleashed will overpower them at the polls and the pendulum will finally start swinging back. But It’s not that simple. It’s all been strategic and now I’m wondering how much worse it has to get before things turn around.

My consolation is still knowing we can vote our way out of this. I’m grateful for those who stay positive and see a solution. I’m more and more alarmed when I hear others despair. Giving up, I remind myself, is only for those who have nothing to lose. I look at my grandchildren and shudder at what others have lost. I don’t know how they bear it or how anger and despair doesn’t consume their spirit. For their sake alone we can’t give up.

I walk by and get a whiff of the lilac blossoms. Their scent is like a drug, and I think those lilacs will blossom whether I appreciate them or not. So why not embrace all that is good, and somehow, without surrendering ourselves to anger and frustration, plod forward. I feel like we owe it to everyone suffering right now.

Love to all,

Linda