Sunday Morning ~ Food Glorious Food

Sunday Morning ~ Food Glorious Food

Uchembere ndi kudyerana. ~ To be a mature person is to help one another with food.

~ Chewa proverb

November 20, 2022

Hi Everyone,

Yesterday morning, I listened to a community radio show hosted by my friend, Ron. The topic was food. Authors and editors of the book Breaking Bread, Essays From New England On Food, Hunger, and Family spoke about their relationship with food and the role it has played in their lives. In the afternoon, I went to the high school production of Oliver! Both moved me deeply. 

Listening to reflections on family’s relationships with food and how it shapes our characters and bodies, I got weepy.The essays are beautifully written and spoke of love and connection through food. The cultural descriptions were evocative and I found myself missing my aunts and mother. It’s Thanksgiving week, so food is on everyone’s mind and comes up at least daily in conversation. The menu doesn’t vary here much, though food magazines are trying harder to be more diverse and inclusive. It’s also the anniversary of my mother’s passing and her birthday was during Thanksgiving week, so my emotional response didn’t surprise me. Feeding others was part of my mother’s fiber. It was how she cared for us. So much of my childhood was spent watching her in the kitchen. She started preparing supper as soon as lunch was over. The radio played the voices and I contemplated how food shaped my life while peeling apples and preparing for holiday guests.

I had a dinner invitation last evening and couldn’t attend the final performance of the high school musical, so though I don’t usually do matinees, I spent the afternoon at the theater. I knew several of the kids in the show, was present at some of their births, and heard it was exceptionally good. And I love musicals. Since I’d spent the morning thinking so much about food, about how our table was always filled with nourishing, varied foods, always fresh, always prepared with effort and care, that I nearly sobbed at the opening scene. While marveling at the tremendous job they’d done building the set, as the orphans sang about food, I found myself choking up. The costumes were fantastic, the voices sweet, and I thought about hungry kids dreaming of a decent meal. I thought about when the story was written and I realized I have not read the original book by Dickens. Highlighting social inequities in remarkable prose I wondered about his ability to capture the essence of injustice. His writing is complex but funny. I made a mental note to download it at my first opportunity. Hearing Dickens read to me is how I prefer to ingest him.  I imagined children sentenced to workhouses, hungry. In my pensive mood it all seemed contemporary.  Slight changes to the set and costumes and, I thought, this is now.  Kids go to school hungry. Hunger is the reason for many behavioral problems and poor academic performance. Families live where there are no grocery stores only convenience stores filled with substances barely edible that I don’t consider food.   

My kids were raised on show music. Not having a television in the house when they were growing up, we played cassette tapes of show music all the time. We sang together and we knew every word. When my oldest was only three, he listened to Oliver intently and ask nervously, “Why are they selling the boy? What will happen to him?” I thought at the time it was remarkable he could comprehend what they were even saying in the song, and I exploded with love for this child who was already so compassionate. I could see on his little worried face he related to the boy. Trying to understand the world we surrounded him with, I wondered how it would affect him. I was a young mother and was reminded daily of what an overwhelming responsibility it was to raise a child. I never wanted him to be hungry.

How could I have listened to that music thousands of times and not grasped the depth of the story? The music made it lighthearted somehow and the fun family time together listening and singing was what I associated it with. But yesterday, I saw it completely differently. The kids acted the roles so well that the depiction of desperation, spousal abuse, resignation of fate, and the sheer injustice of being born into difficult circumstances was highlighted in a way I hadn’t considered before. Again, it all seemed so current. 

Dickens gives us a bright ending for Oliver as he lives happily, and well-fed ever after. But Nancy, a character just as lovable as Oliver, gets beaten to death by her abusive boyfriend. I was horrified at this realization. It’s not such a fine life for her after all, is it? Was it the remarkable performances by these students or my mood that influenced me? Probably both. 

I’ve been contemplating where to focus my end of the year donations and both of yesterday’s experiences brought food pantries, hunger, and food justice to center stage. We have enough to go around. 

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving with hearts and bodies nourished and loved.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Grateful For Side Rivers

Sunday Morning ~ Grateful for Side Rivers

Madzi atupa ndi a m’njira. ~ The waters become plentiful because of all the side rivers.

~ Chewa proverb

November 13, 2022

Hi Everyone,

I woke to the news that we kept the senate and on this rainy, gray, glorious Sunday morning, I am grateful. The candidates I supported in Maine all won, though my ballot initiatives did not. I can live with this. I am happy this morning. 

I love this time change. I know not everyone feels this way, especially night owls, but for us larks, this is the way the clocks should be. As we turn inward and embrace the coming darkness, I try to make sense of why it should matter. It is the same day! The same twenty-four hours! Since I’ve been home so much with the pandemic it should not matter, I tell myself. But I can not deny the lightness I feel. I feel healthier, I sleep better. It just feels more right to me. I’ll enjoy it until the spring change when I’ll get cranky again. 

When I was a junior in high school there was an energy crisis in this country resulting from an oil embargo by OPEC as punishment for the U.S. support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War. Aside from knowing who the president was, I was not very politically aware at that time so had no understanding of the reason for the abrupt change in our lifestyle. The patriotic lowering of the thermostat didn’t affect me much as our house was always cold. I wasn’t paying bills, only listening to complaints about them. Gas prices tripled, up to something like 75 cents a gallon and everyone was outraged. And while I was not the political junkie I am now, I don’t recall a big blaming of Richard Nixon for the crisis, but maybe I missed that.

One of the emergency energy-saving measures was reverting back to daylight savings time during the winter months. I live way northeast now, but I lived in Massachusetts at that time, which is still north and still east. It did not get light until eight in the morning and was dusk by five. I do not recall anyone raving about that and hoping it stayed that way forever. I guess some energy was saved, but I think the saving was counterbalanced by dead children hit by cars on their way to school in the dark. No one drove us to school back then, we either walked to school or walked to the bus stop. And it was well before headlamps were used by anyone except coal miners. 

In addition to the gas prices being a problem, there was a gas shortage. There was a law (or was it a rule?) that those whose license plates ended with an even number got gas on even days, and those ending with odd numbers got gas on odd days. There was no civil war about this, only long lines and lots of bitching. I did not own a car then so I did not care, but I recall no threats of hanging the president up by his balls. But again, maybe I missed this. 

Gasoline was a serious discussion when planning our annual ski trip to Quebec. This trip involved multiple families and we had to do it with only one car.  How could we fit everyone in our station wagon? Could I bring a friend? It was decided that the group would be reduced to eight, and we would all fit into our station wagon, along with the ski gear. It was cramped, but we were jolly about it; skiing was a guaranteed good mood for my father and I’m sure this has something to do with my love for this sport. Thanks dad. 

We drove up in a snow storm on a day when our license plate allowed us to fill the tank.

On that trip, my youngest brother broke his leg. I was skiing with him at the time, heading down to meet the others for lunch. He complained I was taking too long and took off ahead of me. I came around a corner and saw him laying face down in the snow with his leg twisted at a very unnatural angle. I stayed with him while a stranger skied down to notify the ski patrol, and we waited for the toboggan. He was quiet. We knew his leg was broken. I put my hat under his face. The snow was heavy and wet and twelve people broke legs on the mountain that day. Ski bindings have improved since then. He was casted up at the hospital with little fanfare, delivered back to the motel, and propped on his bed. That was Wednesday of ski week. Did we go home? No! We had week long passes! An eleven year old’s injury wasn’t going to ruin our week! So he was left with an empty coffee can to pee in, a Time Magazine to read, and we went skiing. It’s painful to write this now, especially since it was one of our funny family stories for years, but ugh. That poor kid.  

So, guilt aside (not that I was the one making the decision, but I was happy to keep skiing), we skied our final two days and the next challenge was how to get home with someone in a full cast taking up an extra seat in an already crowded car. Our family friend George, “an old Fin” who skied into his eighties, was the only other driver among us so we could have rented a second car. Out of the question, we would make this fit. My brother with his freshly broken leg and in considerable pain, sat sideways in the back seat, his leg propped on a suitcase. Two others were crammed between the suitcase and the door. My friend Karyn and I sat facing each other in the “way back”, our legs intertwined with ski boots and poles. Three were in the front. No one wore seat belts. We drove into a blizzard and the trip took five extra hours, so a mere eleven hour ride crammed in this huge gas guzzling machine. I spent much of that ride patting my brother’s head, asking my father if we could give him an aspirin or something, but he was probably more worried about finding gas.

This little walk down memory lane was triggered by my thoughts on getting through difficult times when we all pull together. Which, is how I feel we came through the midterms. It’s possible! I’ll leave it there. Thank you everyone for all the hard effort! Democracy lives to see another day. 

Love to all,

Linda 

Sunday Morning ~ Something To Chew On

Sunday Morning ~ Something to Chew On

M’kamwa mwa cabe satafunamo. ~ You cannot chew if you have nothing in the mouth.

~ Chewa proverb

November 6, 2022

Hi Everyone,

I’m in shorts on my porch swing on this November morning thinking about what to write about. I’m enjoying the warm air but feel conflicted. I watch the breeze take down the few remaining oak leaves. The light and scene do not suit the temperature. I have no idea which way the wind is blowing, a perfect metaphor for the times. We’ll soon find out. I’m feeling both homebody and antsy for a road trip.

I couldn’t wait to get my drivers license. I took driver’s ed as soon as possible, though it involved asking my father to pay for it, traveling to a different town, finding a ride there, and passing the class. Obtaining a learners permit wasn’t simple, but I was motivated. Though my father balked at the few things I asked for, he paid for drivers ed with little fuss. Relieved, I saw myself more independent, mobile, powerful, grown up. I was dying to drive. I couldn’t wait to get behind that wheel and take our monstrous family vehicle to far away places. The bench seats, both front and back were like living room sofas. We could easily fit four people in the front without seat belts, which weren’t even a thing until I was in high school. Maybe not even then. You opened the car door and everyone who needed a ride got in; number of persons mattered not. Most families had one car and negotiations were required for use. In my experience, the patriarch decided, but it was a good way to hone arbitration skills.

Busses existed, even in small towns, and I recall no shame in using them, but schedules varied depending on population. Within walking distance in my small suburban town, a train provided regular transport into the big city. I recently passed that train station and barely recognized it for the ocean of cars parked in the enormous parking lot. I struggled to remember if there were a parking lot back in the day? I remember my brother and I taking that train home from college, and when no one was there to collect us, we just walked home. It seemed a long way, since the train came into the neighboring town, not our own, but in reality, it’s probably little more than a mile. There may have been a pay phone at the station, but we likely had no dime to call my mother. It was quicker to walk home. 

I’ve been thinking about all this having spent a month in a rural state without a car. After my Montreal trip, the water I drove through on the off ramp fried my computer module, which mercifully waited to die until I got home. It was a month waiting for the part. Since we’ve been having a remarkably warm fall, I thought I’d get around just fine via bicycle while I waited, and waited, and waited for the call saying the car was repaired. And, although I live on a most gorgeous island with miles of carriage roads to explore the beauty by bike, the roads that actually take you where you need to go have no shoulder, 50 mile per hour speed limits, and large trucks. In my independent spirit I was determined to feel 20 years old again and use this mode of transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping, and church. Then reality set in and church was the first to go. Riding ten miles at seven in the morning and ten miles home should not have been a problem. What’s a twenty mile bike ride? Why could I not do that? It was the road. Feeling unsafe and vulnerable took some shine off the spiritual outing. In my college days, I rode a road bike all over Boston, day or night, and traffic was hardly a deterrent. Here, I ride a hybrid I bought twenty years ago when going off the road onto the gravel to avoid a barreling dump truck was the only means of survival. I’ve gone soft. It’s not worth it to me now.

Getting around here without a car is difficult if not impossible. Distances are considerable. It’s nine miles from my house to town. Neighbors were generous with their offers to borrow their cars and a friend took me grocery shopping. It was an inconvenience but I knew it was temporary. I did, however, think of those for whom this is a constant problem. Maternity care in rural areas is completely dependent on reliable transportation. It is impossible to get to health care facilities without a car. Those with few resources can’t even afford the gas to travel for care. I love public transportation and use it exclusively when I travel in Europe. But our car manufacturing industry destroyed our railway infrastructure and while I don’t imagine a high speed train transporting laboring women to the hospital in the middle of the night, I do imagine a facility close enough to get to with a gallon or two of gas. There is so much wrong with our systems. There is so much potential.

I am anxious about the election Tuesday. I’m fed up with the media. I’m fed up with hearing about polls. My writing is interrupted by a person going door to door getting out the vote, something I haven’t signed up for. I tell her I already voted so I could drive people to the polls on election day. We talk about our hopes and fears. I thank her for her efforts. I immediately go to Vote Save America and donate to Secretary of State elections. I need to do SOMETHING! I read this morning that Republicans are flooding the zone with their own poll numbers to make it look like they have the momentum. The media buys it and amplifies the message. Democrats panic. I want to believe we can live in a democratic society. It is possible. Let’s be like Brazil I plead to the air. I think of the tiny tick burrowing into my arm at 3 a.m., the one that sent me flying out of bed, turning on lights, flinging it off me as it it were a rattlesnake. We should be like tiny ticks, burrowing into this system, repeating over and over that banning abortion is exactly the same as forcing an abortion. The only way we’ll protect ourselves is to vote for Democrats who will honor our freedom to make our own health care choices. And some public transportation would be nice, too.

Let’s do this.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Saving Our Voices

Sunday Morning ~ Saving Our Voices

Cidanonetsa nkhumba sicidziwika. ~ No one knows what made the pig fat.

~ Chewa proverb

October 16, 2022

Hi Everyone,

As I sit and listen to the news of Iranian protests, I wonder what I’d do? Would I be brave enough to risk my life? I have engaged in protests, plenty of them. But I never worried I’d be killed. My admiration for the women in Iran is indescribable. And then I think, it could come to that here. If the current republican motivation continues, women will be as repressed and beaten down as women in Iran. How outrageous is this? Did the women of Iran see this coming? Did they go about their lives in the 60’s with mini skirts and University studies thinking they would be forbidden to cut their hair or show their skin within a few years? Did they think that was possible? And when it happened, did they think it would be sixty years before they’d take a stand? Were they just resigned to this life of repression? What was it about the death of one woman that was the tipping point? No one knows, but it is happening. 

I’ve been thinking about what I can do to help for the mid term election. So much depends on this. For two weeks now I’ve been writing a letter to the editor thinking maybe if I could find the right words, it might make a difference. I finally decided to stop thinking and do it, because, no one knows what made the pig fat. I’ll put this out there and keep plodding. This is what I wrote:

To The Editor,

As I listen to the news about women protesting in Iran, fighting to regain rights they had sixty years ago, I am shaken, wondering how far we will go down that same road. The current trend in the republican party to strip away the rights of Americans is frightening. But there is a way to stop it. On November 8 we must vote Democrat all the way down the ballot, from U.S. Senator to dog catcher; our lives depend on it. This mid-term election is critical. We have a looming national crisis with women’s rights in jeopardy. By voting overwhelmingly Democratic down the ballot we can save future generations from facing what Iranian women now face: risking their lives to have a voice. Voting Democrat in local races is critical to preserve election integrity. In national races it will preserve human rights for women, low wage earners, school children, immigrants, minorities, LGBTQs, and transgenders. If you want the right to earn a living wage, vote Democrat. If you want the right to access to health care, vote Democrat. If you want the right to marry whom you choose, vote Democrat. If you want the right to make decisions about your reproduction, vote Democrat. If you want to make a sustainable energy future for this planet, vote Democrat. If you want to send your children to school without fear of gun violence, vote Democrat. All the way down the ballot, we must preserve Democratic majorities to preserve these rights. Our democratic system, flawed and imperfect as it is, allows us the opportunity to have a voice. We can make it better if we engage. Retaining majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate is the only way we will ensure a woman’s right to choose and everyone’s right to vote. This election is our chance to prevent the further stripping of human rights in this country. It is the only way right now. Please VOTE! And when you do, VOTE Democrat!

Linda Robinson, CNM

Bar Harbor, Maine

If anyone feels this message is useful, please use it for your own newspapers. Message, message, message. It might help.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Midwives and Justice

Sunday Morning ~ Midwives and Justice

Mimba si kupha namwino. ~ The pregnancy does not kill the midwife.

~ Chewa proverb

October 2, 2022

Hi Everyone,

Having just returned from a midwifery retreat, I looked for a proverb about midwives; this was the only one I could find. I looked into it’s meaning, wondering if it was about pregnancy killing the mother, something happening far too often. I found it was a message about judgement, about being fair and frank; not to judge but to help. So the midwife is a metaphor, but it’s a good message to bear in mind. Spending time surrounded by nurturing women working hard to improve life for others, soaking up some of their strength and energy, I feel a renewed sense of purpose. They model justice.

We began our midwifery retreat as we often do, with a shared meal. As midwives arrived to Nell’s beautiful home on the water, the sun was setting and abundant bird life was silhouetted in the most sublime Maine setting. The water was so calm it seemed impossible another state far south was being ravaged by a storm. We’ve seen our share of those storms but this was not the time for us. Instead, the trees gracefully began delving into their annual fashion show before dropping all their glory to rest. It will be another few weeks before the bare and dark set in in ernest and it was wonderful to have time to absorb the gift. I love this time of year and the setting mirrored the beauty of the group. We poured wine, ladled soup, gathered and talked. The warmth emanating from these women always makes me feel as if I’m being cradled. It feeds and inspires me. I never feel more comfortable with myself than when I’m in their presence. 

Friday evening we invited one of our state senators, a nurse-midwife, farmer, mother, activist, to speak to us about her experience in the legislature and advise us how to effectively help in the November election. She just finished her first term and shared the lessons she’s learned, the growth, and the understanding of how to accomplish progressive initiatives. She was so inspiring. She related her work in the State House to nurturing women though life stages and we reflected how our skills can be used in all facets of life. It was fascinating. Maine has a Democratic governor and legislature right now, so women’s rights are protected at the moment. But that could change if the party in power flips. We all acknowledged we can not let that happen. Our lives depend on keeping the Democrats in power. It’s already bad enough for rural women trying to access care. Our previous governor, a racist and misogynist, is running again and it was hell during his term trying to provide services to those in need. God help us if he retakes the governor’s mansion. It just cannot happen. We talked about how we can be most effective in promoting democratic candidates. Door knocking is hard in this state; houses are far apart and distances are prohibitive. Do postcards really help? Data says, yes. Money also helps. When we asked what we could do, her response without hesitation was “letters to the editor”. This is well within my capability, so it’s on my list for this week. I spent my drive home yesterday thinking about what to write. 

I believe in a woman’s right to decide what happens to her body and her life. That there is any question of this in current times is so ludicrous I get dizzy. I think about myself and what I would choose if faced with excruciating circumstances. I always thought I would not have had an abortion but knowing how hard pregnancy and birth is, I cannot say I’d have made that choice if I were raped. I can’t imagine not being allowed to make that decision for myself. I am enraged at the republican stance on women’s rights to control their bodies. Imagine the tables were turned and there was an extreme population-control mandate. I know people who judge me for my large family. What if they had the power to force me to terminate a pregnancy because they don’t believe women should have more than two children? What if women were FORCED to abort a pregnancy. This control over women’s bodies could go both ways, right? Isn’t this the same argument?  

We CAN NOT and WILL NOT allow men to control us. Any man who takes offense is part of the problem. 

We spent a long time at the retreat yesterday discussing perennial issues with pregnancy complication, access to care, and barriers to practice. I see progress over my forty years of doing this, but many of the issues are the same ones over and over. So many of the problems of access, respectful care, follow-up care, prevention, could be managed effectively if there were more midwives. More and more obstetrical facilities are closing, stating financial reasons–– meaning it is “too expensive” to keep these services available for women in rural settings. They “can’t afford OB/GYNs” or the liability insurance. There is never a discussion among the grand decision-makers to provide all these services with midwives, a safer, well-documented historically effective solution. No, they just eliminate the service altogether, then blame women for not being responsible with their health care options. I maintain we need to change the language in our advocacy to discrimination. Eliminating services for women and those with uteri is discrimination. We can legislate that. We can problem solve. We can do it if we have Democrats in charge. It’s the only way. Losing in this election is not an option. Extremism, patriarchal control, over-medicalization, profit-driven health care can NOT be tolerated. Period. And our only hope is having Democrats in power.

Donate. Vote. Speak up. Never mind who stands where on what issues. If Democrats are not in power, we lose it all. Nationally we need two more senators and we must keep the house, then a woman’s right to choose health care for herself will become law. Vote blue down the ballot in local as well as national elections. It’s the only way to save our democracy and our women. 

Love to all,

Linda

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