Coronavirus May 2020

Just a few lines from my recent reading.

“When the sweat comes back this summer, 1528, people say, as they did last year, that you won’t get it if you don’t think about it. But how can you not?” Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel

“The saying that we are members one of another is not a mere pious formula to be repeated in church without any meaning: it is a literal truth, for though the rich end of the town can avoid living with the poor end, it cannot avoid dying with it when the plague comes.” The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism, George Bernard Shaw

“I had two important things before me: the one was the carrying on my business and shop, which was considerable, and in which was embarked all my effects in the world; and the other was the preservation of my life in so dismal a calamity as I saw apparently was coming upon the whole city, and which, however great it was, my fears perhaps, as well as other people’s, represented to be much greater than it could be.” A Journal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.” The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion

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Coronavirus April 2020

Pure air, blossom scent

Spring returns to silenced streets

Mourning doves coo … coo …

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Coronavirus March 2020

Plague. Such an antiquated term,
conjuring ignorance and myth and black-hooded reapers;
bodies piled in ancient blanket-covered carts.
But last night, while I slept, 800 people died in Spain.

Our plague is washed in white–masked and gloved.
Darkness hides behind a bright spring sun
shining clean through newly smog-free skies.
Bodies pile instead in gleaming, white-floored ice rinks.

We still celebrate. Alone together, from open apartment windows,
we cheer our over-stretched, under-protected healthcare saviors.
Laughter endures, as previously personal antics of babies, dogs and cats
disrupt the videoconferences of the still-employed.

Plans sacrificed. Decisions (which bills to pay?) pushed aside
by diversions: musicians give songs, actors recite sonnets,
virtual charity arrives while cohabitation is curtailed.
But we crave the co-; we miss the habits.

We struggle against an invisible yet terrifying threat.
We shelter; armed with hope and soap and scouring pads,
as stubborn as this virus that clings to our surfaces,
suddenly, it seems, we cling to life.

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Four Quote Friday – Comings and Goings

“The beckoning counts, not the clicking latch behind you.” Freya Stark

 

“Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more.” Pope Francis

“Most travel, and certainly the rewarding kind involves depending on the kindness of strangers, putting yourself into the hands of people you don’t know and trusting them with your life.” Paul Theroux 

 

“Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.” – Frida Kahlo

 

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The Gift of Books

With Mother’s Day passed, and Father’s Day still ahead, I’d like to take this time in between to remember my parents and thank them for something very specific they did for me: they provided books. Lots and lots of books. What my life would have been like if they didn’t do this, I do not want to imagine.

In our house, we had dime store novels, mysteries, classics and poetry collections. Will Durant’s complete The Story of Civilization took up an entire bookcase. Earl Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason series–my father’s favorite—lined several shelves with their tan, textured hardback covers. My mother liked science books and atlases. We had an amazing boxed set of pamphlets that explained scientific concepts to children, and another containing facts about and photographs of far-away lands.

A huge dictionary sat near the dining room table, and my mother was known to heave it off the shelf and onto her lap during dinner when there were differing opinions about the meaning or origin of a word.

They told us stories, read us stories and gave us stories. We read books in bed and while eating breakfast cereal. We read books in the car and in motel rooms. We read books in trees, even on swings.

The beautiful thing to me is my parents were not scholars. They weren’t teachers or librarians. They were simple people who just loved to learn. They demonstrated that love to their children, and gave us the tools to carry it on ourselves. Other than love, shelter and sustenance, I can’t think of a more important gift.

Thank you Mom and Dad.

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Care to Read?

I have updated my “Writings” page with the text of a published vignette and a poem, since links to the online publications have expired. Please enjoy!

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A Little Women’s History Reading

It’s Women’s History Month, and I want to share a few of the amazing books by and about women that I’ve read recently. I’ve included two classics of women’s literature and three that are a little outside the box, and added a few words about each taken from my Goodreads reviews. All provide insight, inspiration, and a good dose of fun (not unlike time spent with “the girls” in real life!)

A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN                                                                                                         Virginia Woolf, 1929                                                                                                                             In this lecture to aspiring women writers, Virginia Woolf walks us through the history of why prior centuries produced so few books by women, and explains why “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” It speaks to a much broader audience though.  Don’t most of us long for a creative life, but find it too frequently out of reach? This book provides fuel for the challenge.

A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN                                                                    Mary Wollstonecraft, 1792                                                                                                                   A long and sometimes repetitive 18th century text, but the ideas—shocking and highly controversial in their time–are simple:                                                                                   woman = human                                                                                                                      education should be the same for everyone                                                                               when you oppress women, bad things happen                                                                                 if you treat people equally, good things will happen                                                                      Of course this applies to all human rights. The argument in favor is simple: equality, inclusion, acceptance, appreciation. What is complex, and what this book helps us study, is the engine of oppression: who starts it, what makes it run, and most importantly, how we might speed up the unbearably slow process of stopping it.

LIVING MY LIFE                                                                                                                            Emma Goldman, 1931                                                                                                                       This famous anarchist’s two-part, thousand page tome of a memoir is actually immensely readable. It’s full of history, adventure, unusual personalities, romances and life and death suspense. The writing is excellent. One of the things I most admire is the matter-of-fact tone she uses, whether relaying her accomplishments or her mistakes. She often writes of working “for my ideal.” It struck me that hers was a positive rather than negative stance. We often fight against things, but how often do we fight for something, let alone for our ideal? What might we accomplish if we did?

WONDERFUL ADVENTURES OF MRS. SEACOLE IN MANY LANDS                                                                                                                                                        Mary Seacole, 1857                                                                                                                          Mary Seacole was a wonder; a heroine and larger-than-life character, but at the same time she reminds me of my own very simple, down-to-earth ancestors. Her mother was a Jamaican healer, and her father a Scottish soldier, and it seems she inherited both drives and put them to amazing use. She travelled from Jamaica to Panama and cured cholera patients. When the Crimean War broke out she longed to be a war nurse, but was turned down so she went on her own. I’m not kidding. She hopped a military transport ship to Balaclava, where she attended to soldiers the way she did everything—on her own terms. This book deserves to be better known.

THE WOMEN OF BREWSTER PLACE                                                                                     Gloria Naylor, 1982                                                                                                                                A very emotional read, this one hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. It is a novel made up of the stories of seven very different women connected by a particular place–a housing development called Brewster Place. Naylor’s writing is stellar, and powerful. A variety of perspectives are explored, but all of the stories tell something so true that it’s shocking. You may think you know what’s going to happen, and maybe you do, but after you read it you know how what happens makes a person feel. That’s the part you don’t know, unless you do know, and then you’ll know how true it is.

I’ll stop with those for now, but I look forward to finding other excuses to recommend women’s stories, any month of the year.

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