I’m going to try a Hecate-style potpourri post. Wish me luck!
Spouse and I just got back from a long weekend in northern California wine country. As of the beginning of the month, I’ve been running my own business longer than I’ve held any other job. About a year ago, I was speaking at a conference in northern Cali. We’d extended into a long weekend as we tend to do when one of us is traveling somewhere good, and we had a great time, so when we were looking for a place to go to celebrate, it seemed like an outstanding choice. As we did a year ago, we hiked in the mornings and tasted wine in the afternoons, mostly at boutique wineries recommended by a good friend who is a deeply knowledgeable oenophile (Sonoma last year, Russian River Valley this). We had wanted to go to Muir Woods last year, but it was right after they’d instituted their reservation system for parking, and I wasn’t paying attention. This year, as soon as we booked the trip, I secured our reservation – I wasn’t going to miss it twice!
When we entered the park, we immediately turned off onto one of the “real” (not paved/boardwalk) hiking trails, which climbed up from the canyon floor through the groves to the ridge line, along the ridge through the abundant wildflowers and pollinators, then back down into the treeline and onto the “tourist” path. Even with all the people talking and laughing and taking selfies, the groves, particularly Cathedral Grove, were a magical, sacred place. What natural spaces are sacred to you? Have you been to visit them recently? What did they have to say to you? What offering did you make to them?
We returned home to find that our jasmine, planted in 2016 and nearly killed by an extreme cold snap in January of 2018, had burst into PROFUSE bloom. The entire back yard and most of the house smell of jasmine. I’m so glad I took GreenMan’s advice to be patient with it and let it heal itself. What’s blooming in your garden right now?
Part of the reason I can smell the jasmine so clearly in the house is that the AC is busted and ALL the windows are open. Apparently, it was quite hot while we were gone, but since we’ve been back, the weather has been cooperative, for which I am extremely grateful. I am also grateful that, although it will be a pain in the ass to get the AC fixed (involving a crane and the necessary permits), we can afford it. Many Americans report that they would be unable to afford an unexpected expense of more then $400. Do you have some money stashed away for a rainy – or a sweaty – day? If not, are there any lifestyle changes you can make to facilitate the creation of at least a small nest egg?
Speaking of my business, it’s been really quiet this spring. When this has happened in the past, I’ve tended to freak out. This time, finally, I’ve learned to respond more calmly, using my unexpected downtime to catch up on my reading, complete and release a major personal interest research project, organize my paper and electronic files, find a new accounting firm (which I’ve been meaning to do for YEARS), catch up with colleagues and former clients I haven’t seen in a while, and be more actively engaged with my volunteer work. When you get unexpected downtime, do you look forward to it, or does it make you anxious? How do you use it?
Last year, three people who were close to us died, two quite unexpectedly: a very close friend of 20+ years of metastasized melanoma, and our nephew, a veteran who had just turned 27, of a still-unexplained infection (he had a cold, then started coughing blood, then was hospitalized, then lapsed into a coma, then died of septic shock, all in the space of less than a month). One, you know how Hecate is always reminding us to get our mammograms? Don’t forget to get your skin checked regularly, too. Two, my spouse’s family is just generally not close, but since my nephew’s death, I’ve been making the effort to contact (text, phone, email) my sister-in-law monthly on the date he died (I know, I know – women always end up shouldering the majority of the emotional labor, and I shouldn’t be feeling like I’m responsible for this, but here we are). What relationships are you trying to build (or rebuild)? What are you finding to be effective for accomplishing that?
Last night, I went to the annual volunteer appreciation event for a local nonprofit with which I volunteer weekly. Due to negligence in our mayor’s office, we won’t be receiving Corporation for National and Community Service funds on which we’re dependent for next year, and our city funding, while it has remained in place, has been stagnant for years, despite a little thing you may have heard of called inflation and despite the fact that our program – and the local people we serve – has grown exponentially. Needless to say, there was a FULL COURT advocacy press over the past two months. (My ward city council member and the members of the Committee on Education aren’t immediately fleeing when they see me – yet – but it’s been a close thing.) At the event, the nonprofit’s executive director had two pieces of good news to share: one, the mayor’s office has promised, in writing, to restore our missing federal funding from city coffers, and two, our city council went over and above that and increased our city funding in next year’s budget by 25%. What local issues are you passionate about right now? What have you been doing to work on them? What outcomes have you seen?
Something that’s been bugging me happened during – actually at the end of – my volunteer shift this week. The next team was coming in as I was finishing up. There’s a perpetually sour-looking white woman in the crew that follows me every week. She started a conversation with a white guy who’s also part of that crew while they were waiting for their shift to start. They were across the room and I was completing my notes from my shift, so I wasn’t really paying attention, until she raised her voice about the lack of POLITICAL diversity at her son’s high-falutin’ prep school. Junior – or maybe she, it wasn’t clear – had the “brilliant” idea that he should wear a MAGA hat to school to “be provocative.” Junior’s classmates booed him, and the school administration stood by them and refused to punish them. Ms. Sourpuss was mad because “if my kid called someone the ‘n’ word, the administration would have been all over him!” I didn’t say anything – I wasn’t part of the conversation and I was trying to clear my station so someone else could use it in the next shift – but what I WISH I’d said was, “When you had the conversation with your son about how actions have consequences, and sometimes your choices have consequences that you might not like – because, of course, political affiliation is a choice, unlike race – and you asked him how he planned to respond, what did he say?” Why does the perfect response always come to me too late? What do you to prepare yourself to respond better than I did in the moment in these sorts of situations?
(What I really wanted to say is: “It starts as being ‘provocative’ for the ‘lulz’ but in 10 years, your son is going to be waving a torch and yelling about ‘blood and soil’ and when that happens, I want you to remember that these were the seeds and I told you what was coming, so don’t even try to pretend you don’t know how it happened.”)
Right-wing operatives doctored a video of Nancy Pelosi’s talk at the CAP Ideas Conference to make it seem like she was drunk and slurring her words. “Deepfakes” are a problem that is only getting worse as increasingly sophisticated photo, video, and audio editing software become widely available. It is only a matter of time until bad actors on the left start doing this, too, and it’s really tempting to pass along the lies that confirm our biases. What steps are you taking to ensure that you’re viewing media, particularly that which aligns with what you inherently want to believe, critically? What are you doing to validate information before you pass it along?
We are now up to 24 Democratic candidates for president in the 2020 elections and there are lots of theories as to why – Hillary created a logjam in 2016, life in Congress is pretty shitty these days – but MY theory is that it’s sexism and racism. Because many of the early out of the gate candidates were women (Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar) or men of color (Cory Booker, Julian Castro), the white dudes who’ve been every single president we’ve ever had, save one, don’t view them as real candidates, and figure “well, if they’re letting women and black and Latino dudes run, surely I, an unknown Representative who’s virtually interchangeable with all the OTHER undistinguished white dudes running, am OWED this.” That said, two of my favorite local activists recently repped their faves at the same time, and I AM HERE FOR THIS TICKET NO MATTER WHICH WOMAN TOPS IT.
Two (more) thoughts about the abortion restrictions/bans many states are passing right now in hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade.
As Michelle Alexander eloquently related in her personal abortion story in the New York Times recently, the rape exceptions don’t help us:
I wondered how a “rape exception” to an abortion ban could possibly help women, like me, who did not want to report a rape to the police and who could not possibly prove that a rape occurred if the man denied it. Criminal cases take months, even years, to be resolved. Would abortions be allowed based on mere allegations of rape without any proof? If not, what would a woman have to prove in a matter of days or weeks to get an abortion in the first trimester? How could she overcome the inevitable denial? What man would admit to rape knowing that he’d face a likely prison sentence?
Speaking of, dudes, as Jessica Valenti points out, it’s time to get off the bench and into this fight. Start by educating yourself.
Men, women are living in a terrifying moment. You are in a position to use your privilege and power to help. So, please, for the sake of women’s future, do your best to not just be passionate, but also knowledgeable, about protecting abortion rights.
Abortion is health care and equality for women demands that we be able to control if and when we choose to have children, full stop.
Finally, I mentioned I’ve been catching up on my reading lately. Here’s what that’s looked like:
- Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler – I’m a fan of dystopian science fiction, so I enjoyed these books, although Butler never really explained why, in one generation, all of a sudden, no one could read, and I felt like having some of the characters be “sharers” was a distraction that didn’t really add anything of substance to the overall story. Also, kinda christian, which is not my favorite.
- The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker – More dystopian science fiction, with a climate crisis precipitated by the slowing of the rotation of the earth, and a young woman protagonist who is going through the trials of adolescence, puberty, and first love in the middle of it. Outstanding.
- The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger – Engrossing story, although the ending was a little too pat. Also, although she credits Farah Deeba Munni, the woman upon whose story the novel is loosely based, in the acknowledgements, it still felt a little cultural appropriation-y to me.
- In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez – Apparently there isn’t a whole lot more documentation about the Mirabal sisters, which is unfortunate, because Alvarez brought them and the Trujillo dictatorship period of Dominican history so vividly to life that I’d love to learn more about these heras.
- The Broken Earth Trilogy by NK Jemisin – Perfection. No wonder all three books won Hugo awards, the first time an author has ever won three Hugos in a row. And hey! According to Wikipedia, she’s W. Kamu Bell’s cousin. That’s a talented family.
What have you read lately and loved?
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