Friday, December 25, 2020

Peace and joy

Christmas has been determinedly low-key, as my son is working, his love is with her parents in New Jersey, and my daughter is with her love and his family upstate. We drove her there yesterday, after a lovely week she spent with us here, it was like she never left home. It was restorative. My niece is here with the man and me, and her boyfriend just arrived to have dinner with us, which my husband is cooking, bless him. The day has been painless—we opened presents, ate bagels with cream cheese and lox for breakfast, made a few phone calls, FaceTimed our girl, then I climbed into bed and read into the late afternoon, grateful to have the concentration to read whole books again, a gift of this period of quarantine. I'm reading Hidden Valley Road, the true story of a family with ten sons and two daughters, who saw six of the boys diagnosed with schizophrenia. I sank into the story, gathering in every detail, because a young man I love, a boy my son grew up with, has recently been diagnosed and is having a very hard time. There has been some heartbreak associated with this recent relapse, undoing, I don't really know what to call it, but of course I can't get into the details for reasons of privacy. 

We saw the young man yesterday when we were walking out to the car to drive our girl upstate, and he greeted us warmly, though with more distance than in the past. He looked really good, tall, as beautiful as a male model, groomed and stylish, but I couldn't see his eyes because he was wearing those mirror sunglasses, and of course, a mask. Given what he has recently been through, it was good to see him looking so flawlessly put together, but I felt so sad afterward, as if we had lost a piece of how we used to be, our family and this young man, who is struggling, with no idea how very worthy he is or how much he is loved. I guess it's still on my heart because I really didn't mean to veer there in this post. 

The photo up top is one I took of my beautiful, joyful girl, when we were wrapping presents two nights ago. Though her very presence fills me with joy, I have to remember that like all of us, she has her own shadings of emotion, her dark moods, and let's all give space for that, grace for that in the coming year.

I hope you all had a good, peaceful day. Me? I'm always happy when Christmas is behind me. Okay, gotta go. My husband is calling us to dinner now. Happy holidays my dear friends. See you on the other side.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Woman Overboard

Once again I think I've gone overboard on gifts. What does it say about me that I never think that what I'm giving is sufficient? Where along the way did I bury the idea that one thoughtful gift chosen with love was enough? And of course, my children must always have the same number of presents to open, even though they open their presents now in separate homes, with partners, who must also have the same number of gifts from my husband and me, and again, not just one. Now that everything is wrapped and in bags, waiting to be delivered, I can see that I've been excessive. Neither of my children expects anything at all, so why do I set this pace, year after year, of marathon gift-giving?

I think maybe its genesis lies in my feeling like a lonely outpost in an adopted country during this season, trying to replicate for my children the experience of my childhood in Jamaica, where multitudes of aunts and uncles and my parents' large circle of friends brought gifts at Christmas, and our tree was laden on Christmas morning. How ridiculous of me to try to recreate that bounty for my children, when their circumstances were so different from my own childhood, and they had no expectations at all about what Christmas should be, except what I fed to them. And now they are grown, and I am still apparently unable to moderate myself, clicking and buying that one more thing that I happen across that I feel sure they'll love, or use, or find whimsy in. 

I'm a little embarrassed, really. These stuffed bags of gifts in exquisite wrapping paper—my mother always used exquisite wrapping paper, with bows on every present—say so much more about my own sense of want than about what will truly thrill and delight my children, who tell me again and again that they need nothing. I credit their temperance in this regard to their father, who is of the one-well-chosen-gift school of thought, who shakes his head as the boxes arrive at our door, but let's me be, because this is who he married. Yet I can't help but feel I'm being a little obscene not to have curbed myself better in this year when so many families find themselves unable to give even that one gift.

My daughter is with us for the week, and will join her boyfriend and his family for Christmas morning upstate, before they both head back to Boston for his second semester of business school. We all had a bit of a scare two weeks ago when one member of their cohort bubble on campus tested positive for covid, and they'd seen him and his partner just three days before. Fortunately, his worst symptom was a crashing headache that lasted for days, and fatigue. His girlfriend, my daughter's best friend in her new town, soon developed the same symptoms, and yesterday she texted my girl that at precisely 5 p.m. she had suddenly found herself unable to smell or taste anything.

My daughter and her love quarantined scrupulously for two weeks and took three tests each during that time, all of them mercifully negative. My niece, who had just returned to live with us after three months in Orlando, also tested negative a week after she returned. She wore masks in the house and mostly stayed in her room until she got her test result, and she made her boyfriend get tested too before she would see him. He, too, was negative.

The truth is, we have no idea how to stay one hundred percent safe in this covid world, but we're doing our best. We won't see our son for Christmas, he's working that day and night, but he's coming by later this afternoon to exchange gifts and see his sister. He will be masked while he is here. As a front line worker in the city, he will be receive the Moderna vaccine just after the New Year, but as I understand it, that only guarantees that if he gets infected, he'll be able to fight it off with minimal symptoms, though there's no telling if he will still be able to infect others while his immune system rallies. 

We're not doing much of anything on Christmas day, other than cooking a meal. We're keeping everything determinedly low-key. I wager I'll be working on that day like every other, as I'm still trundling along trying to hit my due dates. Just popping in now to say hey, I hope you and your beloveds are doing well. Please stay safe, and I send you love.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

First look

In a Cosmopolitan magazine round-up of the best new books of 2021, guess what soon-to-be-released memoir by a badass woman of the resistance was included among its selections?

We then learned that Marie Claire magazine had also chosen the senator's book as one of the best new books in the coming year. So now you know who and what I have been channeling almost every waking hour (and many dreaming ones) in the last year. The book is due April 20, 2021 from Viking, and is available for pre-order now.

And now it's back to the salt mines for me. Work continues, even on this book, for which first pass pages and captions for the photo insert must be given a final read with a further election update to be added before the new year.

Plus, y'all, I'm editing a really wonderful book, a sweeping family saga by an Armenian American author whose name you will soon surely know.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Life in Harlem (update)

The man and I went to health center in Harlem and got ourselves tested for covid yesterday. Results in two to three days, the men and women in white coats said. We were two of a steady stream of city dwellers of every walk and description, immigrants, hipsters, soccer moms, and corporate suits, checking our status as the numbers rise. I'm feeling fine, really, and so is my love, but every time I listen to reports of new death records smashed, ICUs with no more beds, nurses weeping after brokering too many family goodbyes on video, doctors with that traumatized thousand-yard stare, I start to feel a little covidy, almost in solidarity with the nation's PTSD. Is that a sore throat coming on? Is the heavy feeling in my brain the start of a covid headache? Why am I so tired and is it only that I didn't get to sleep till 4 a.m. last evening? And when I awaken, am I feeling only the usual joint aches or is this creakiness something more?

My son called me two days ago to announce that he won't see us for Christmas, as cases in his part of the city are spiking, and he feels very exposed. Don't you all wear PPE on emergency calls, I asked him? Not every time, he said. Only if we're fighting a fire or going into people's homes. We have to conserve supplies. I'll see you in the new year, he told me, sounding weary of it all. As a firefighter, he will be one of the first to get the new covid vaccine, perhaps the first dose as soon as this month. But there are unanswered questions, he pointed out, like, if he contracts the infection after being vaccinated, even if he doesn't get sick, or have any symptoms, could he still shed the virus to others? There's too much we still don't know, he said.

Later, I joked to my daughter that he announced his removal from our social family bubble with no sentimentality, and no attempt to "manage mommy." She knew what I meant. Empath that she is, she would have announced her decision more gently, with a sense of regret that it has to be this way. We both laughed, an inside joke.

That bright yellow house lives down the street from the health center where we went for our tests. The house doesn't look much like it would be hanging out on a side street in Harlem, which makes me love it more. We also know and love its occupants, the unapologetically socialist minister of our little activist church, her wife of three-plus decades, and their two sons. Our minister's wife, also a rabble rousing preacher woman, took the picture. The entire first floor is dedicated to social service projects, soup kitchens, sanctuary for the undocumented, shelter for the homeless. This is where my church man husband attends meetings several days each week, most of them virtual now, doing his part to keep the soul of the neighborhood healed and whole, or at least on the way there.

Update: We both tested negative.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Soldiering on

I think I have too much work. I'm dancing as fast as I can, trying to do a good job for everyone, it's the people pleaser in me, but you know, I'm a little worried, even a little burned out. I usually assess more accurately than this how much I can take on, how to keep due dates from overlapping and backing into each other. I didn't do so well this time, so I'm in the trenches, trying to be a good soldier. Thanksgiving with my daughter and her love and their incredibly cute and chilled out puppy was so, so good. Very low-stress. My son had to work, but he and his fiancee came over the next day, and the family togetherness was everything. Then on Saturday the man and I drove our girl and her guy back up to Boston, and turned right around, heading back home to New York the same evening. Eight hours on the road. The company was excellent both ways, and four days later we all seem to still be covid free. I hope you all are staying healthy and that you had a good, low-stress holiday, too. I might be scarce in these parts for a minute, but I'll be back doing the rounds in our lovely virtual neighborhood soon.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

"Time to get more tea. Now I'm in Mexico."

My husband and I are sitting at the dining table, in front of the big window, beyond which most of our trees have lost their recently golden leaves. I am working on the lush and lyrical novel I've been hired to edit, and he is back to geo-tagging fish specimens from his museum's collection, having completed his part of his department's annual report last week. Geological survey maps from countries across the world are displayed on his laptop, as he reconciles collectors' written descriptions of where specific specimens were found with actual geography. It's patient detective work, as many of these collections were gathered decades ago, and some descriptions don't match the topography on his screen. He has just finished tagging a collection from Guatemala. "Time to get some more tea," he announces cheerfully. "Now I'm in Mexico."

Meanwhile, I'm in Armenia, where the novel I'm working on opens. I'm enthralled by the characters, and hope to do this sprawling family saga justice. I pray that it will sell well, and secure the author's family and allow her to dedicate herself to writing full time. She's so gifted, an emotional soul, buffeted minute to minute by internal weather. She makes me look like a stoic, but this, I think, is why she writes the way she does, the story pouring out of her, unable to be contained. I hope and pray you will one day soon know her name.

I learned last night that my next project may happen after all. I thought the deal had fallen through, as I didn't want to accept one of the terms set by the subject's agent. But the subject has now said she wants to work with me, so our agents are renegotiating the terms. I had decided I was at peace with whatever happened, and that I would simply sink into this gorgeously written book I'm working on and when it was done, catch up on reading all the books that have piled up on my nightstand, and on my kindle, for years it seems. It was a delicious alternative to contemplate. But now, I shall have to push harder and be more schedule oriented in getting through the current manuscript—I won't give it short shrift of course, but no more meandering and sighing with pleasure. Another job awaits, and though it includes the always dreaded task of writing a proposal, I am grateful to have work.

I feel so lucky to be here, in this moment, with this man. He is excellent company, even on those days when I'm climbing the walls and have to get outside. I don't feel like that today. It's in the low thirties outside, crisp and cold, the sun casting lacy shadows through the trees. I look out from my apartment several floors up, and the world feels quiet somehow, gentle, even though I know that the cruel and corrupt president, in his last days, is doing his worst. We just have to hang on. There are two covid vaccines on the horizon, both reportedly 95 percent effective, and a president-elect who knows what he's doing is steadily getting up to speed.

My daughter took this picture on a recent trip to Maine. The way the light falls, a rainbow's end right at her feet, it looks to me like a portal to something good.

Friday, November 13, 2020

How can I resist?


I must have watched this clip a hundred times. In the absence of grandchildren, my daughter sends me pictures and videos of her dog Munch, doing cute things.

Munch and his lovelies will be coming to us for Thanksgiving, as will our son, though he will arrive later, as he's on shift at the firehouse that day. His fiancee will be with her family in New Jersey, so it will be just us five for dinner, and Munch of course. We'll be well under the no-more-than-ten-people guidelines for indoor gatherings. I'm really looking forward to a week of thrice daily walks around the neighborhood with my girl and her pup, though I confess I'm a tad nervous about any gathering at all, now that covid is once again on the march in New York City and everywhere. My daughter and her love seem to be inside a fairly safe bubble up there in Cambridge. He gets tested twice each week, and she's going to get tested before she comes to us, and she even sent me the Harvard dashboard that shows the covid situation on campus, how many tests, how many positives, how many in quarantine, etc. They have a lower rate of infection than the city of Boston itself. The dashboard shows a 0.02 percent rate of infection from the many hundreds of tests they do daily, and they're quick to isolate and contract trace for anyone who comes up positive. My girl said that since the school year began, there was one positive result in their section of about seventy people, students and their partners, and the student was immediately quarantined. Subsequent tests came back negative, however, so the previous positive test was concluded to be a false result. 

I do think people who are fairly fit, like my children and their loves, may be less likely to contract covid to begin with, and if they do, they are likely to have a better time of it. My husband and I cannot claim such prime physical conditioning, however. With our various underlying conditions, we are definitely at great risk. Still, we're going to do Thanksgiving with our kids. I miss my girl something fierce, and so I'm just going to pray for our continued safety and hold my babies tight.

My niece in Texas has been texting our group chat with photos of Thanksgivings past. She can't believe we won't be together this year. For almost two decades, she's missed only one year, when there was a family reunion in Florida that I didn't go to because my mom was too frail to fly there from Jamaica, and the idea of being at the reunion without her made me sad. We had a rollicking Thanksgiving in New York with other friends and family that year anyway, but face timed our missing reunion folk continuously. I guess we'll be doing some face timing again this year. Here's one of the pictures my niece sent. That's her on the left, with my daughter in the middle and another of their cousins, the cello-playing niece who lives with us, on the right.

My niece who lives with us won't be here for Thanksgiving either. She went home to Orlando in September to see her family—and vote—and has been working remotely from there since. She's returning to New York in December. I often think how she always dreamed about moving to New York City, and when she finally did, not even a year later everything got shut down, and she was stuck inside for months with her old aunt and uncle, seeing none of her friends, and unable to really enjoy the city with her boyfriend. I'd half expected her to decide she was staying indefinitely Florida, but a week ago she texted her return date and shared that she's missing New York. Maybe she's one of those people the city calls, and never lets go. Until recently, I thought I was one of those people myself.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Black girl magic!

I find myself at a loss for words to truly describe how I'm feeling, the hope and the release, mixed with the muscle memory of anxiety and outrage at the continuing antics of the party of Trump. I no longer want to waste energy railing at the cruelty and corruption of this outgoing administration, their refusal to admit they lost. I'm aware there's a mountain of havoc they can wreak before the new president is inaugurated on January 20, 2021, but I have also come to believe that Joe Biden is really the perfect man for this moment, a decent human being who is deeply experienced in what will be required once he takes office, and who somehow manages to keep his cool in the meantime. I'm really ready for the whole Republican mass delusion about election fraud to occupy less of my psychic energy so I won't even go into the ridiculous spectacle of Rudy (tuck-your-shirt-in) Giuliani, Trump's demented lawyer giving his big bad press conference from the parking lot of Four Seasons Total Landscaping store in Philly, wedged between a sex shop and a crematorium. Some idiot thought they'd booked the Four Seasons hotel. Of course that seedy back lot was far more on brand, but I can't even muster the sense of irony to care. Here's a sweet story instead. When Vice President-elect Kamala Harris's grand nieces learned that Aunty Kamela had won, the older one yelled, "Black girls can be president!!!" Like it was a revelation. This was reported by the girls' mom Meena Harris, who is Kamala's niece and a lawyer, activist, and lovely social media influencer, with whom our Vice President-elect shares an October 20 birthday. I love that I am looking forward to news of our new first and second families that won't make me want to stab something. Better days are on the way. 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Election Day

My niece and her husband who live in Dallas flew to Boston for the weekend to visit my girl and her love. They had to post negative covid tests before they flew. It did my heart good to imagine the cousins together again after so many months apart. The two couples apparently ate their way through Boston, rating the meals and the cocktails and having a fine time together. They sent me pictures all weekend, because, well, they know I live vicariously through them. It snowed in Boston, which meant that Munch, the puppy, experienced his first taste of snow. 

One of my daughter's closest new friends in Boston happens to be a lifelong Texas Republican, who wasn't going to vote because she hates Trump, but after many deep and searching conversations with my daughter and another of their friends, she decided to send in her absentee ballot for Biden after all. She is white. Her husband is black. The third friend, who is also white, told her, "You and I may not have anything to fear from Trump, but people you love, do." And my daughter admitted to her that when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, she wanted to purely mourn her, but couldn't because the salient emotion she was experiencing was fear of what her death might mean to people who look like we do in this country. I think these openhearted, nonjudgmental talks helped deliver one more Texas vote for Biden. I imagine this kind of exchange is not always possible with Trump supporters, but then, my daughter's friend is a Republican but not a Trump supporter. I'm hoping that particular distinction will make all the difference when the ballots are counted tonight.

Our son and his love came over earlier to show us his new car, a Honda Accord Sport. His dad got behind the wheel and we drove around the city for a while, before dropping his love off at the salon to get her hair trimmed. The streets were fairly empty everywhere. No long lines of voters, which makes me think most of New York City voted early. I snapped that photo of my boy in the back seat, leaning over his dad's shoulder pointing out some of the car's features. He looked at me like, why on earth are you taking my picture right now? Then we came home and our son hung out with us till his sweetheart was done with her hair appointment. He's going to be working tonight, so he'll watch election returns at the firehouse, where at least half of his fellow firefighters want Trump to win; somehow my boy navigates this world while managing to stay true to himself. Still, I would not want to watch the returns with a bunch of Trump supporters.

I voted on Sunday, in a downpour. A DJ had set up on the Harlem street corner, blaring music, and one of the poll workers was dancing the electric slide on the sidewalk, not caring about the rain. Single-handedly she made the whole atmosphere feel festive, hopeful. And now, we wait. I plan to keep myself quitely at home for the rest of the day. I started a puzzle on the dining table to distract myself, and I'm reading Mariah Carey's riveting new memoir The Meaning of Mariah Carey, which my friend Michaela Angela Davis brilliantly collaborated on. I aspire to write like this. I love the way the narrative verges on magical realism when recounting events from the perspective of a child, or a dreamer, because isn't that how the world can seem to children and dreamers?

If anyone is looking for serious binge watching distraction today, I highly, highly recommend The Queen's Gambit on Netflix, best thing I've watched in a long while. Seven episodes based on a book by the same name, about an orphaned girl who turns out to be a kick ass chess prodigy, a survivor, but also a troubled one, taking on an international gaming world dominated by men. It's set in the 1960s, the cinematography is beautiful, and Anya Taylor-Joy is captivating in the role of Beth Harmon, the chess master.

One relationship in particular, with the character whose name we know only as Mother, was just so moving to me, problematic for sure, but also so true to how it often goes in life, when there is love and need and trauma. I wont say more so as not to give spoilers, but it's definitely worth your time. And though your heart may be in your throat some of the time, I promise it won't leave you in a funk at the end, except maybe the funk of pining for characters who climbed inside you, and now you must now let them go. Let me know what you think if you decide to watch.

Okay, people, let's all send powerful wishes into the ether, just in case it's as plastic as the sages say, and can be sculpted by the collective force of our desires. Here's my obligatory "I voted" photo. May decency and hope prevail when this election is over. And may we know it to be so on this very night. 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Strumming along

I got back the copyedited version of my manuscript and the copyeditor is simply lovely in her comments, respectful of the work in a way that leaves me completely open to her every suggestion, resisting nothing. Before I turn this back in on November 12, I am to add an update on the election, and God alone knows what I will write for that. I'm praying the outcome will allow for a triumphant ending to the book, rather than the utterly depressing "the fight continues."

My son's financee's dad said no matter the outcome, he will cry. If Biden wins, he says, he will cry for joy. "But if Trump wins," he added, "I will weep for weeks." I feel this down to my very atoms. 

How could we be in such a state of vicious and vacuous criminality and disarray, people sick and dying, going hungry, hurting, and yet Trump still has a chance of stealing the whole damn thing? No one will ever convince me, if he wins, that the election wasn't stolen. Then again, the theft of it has been so obvious and ongoing, so blatant and systematic, I doubt anyone will try to convince me otherwise. 

Turns out, the key ingredients for the most crass kind of power-grabbing corruption are a complete lack of anything resembling empathy and shame. If you have no empathy and can't be shamed, death can litter your wake and all you do is shrug and lie and step over the bodies, like the president and his henchmen. 

Three more days. 

Let's find the sunlight.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Happy birthday to my love!

Today is my darling man's birthday, this wonderful husband and father, my best friend, my life's true love. It says everything that there is no one I would rather be stuck inside the house for months with than him. Here he is with our son, who came over a few days ago and ended up fixing some cable issues for his old fart parents. 

Our son and his fiancee are coming over tonight to sing happy birthday. They'll also return our car, which our son borrowed for a week to go see her family in New Jersey, after he successfully sold his 2014 Jeep for a price that left him above water. He's looking to lease a car next, but he's still doing his research. Price is paramount, and so is a four-wheel drive vehicle; as a first responder, he will generally be out in gnarly weather. Turns out he is a very methodical and patient researcher, which is how he managed to sell his car for $2.6K more than any dealership offered him. Also, while he had our car, he decided our tires needed to be changed, and so he organized that, and for a very good price with his firefighter discount, at a place that does business with his current firehouse. He is getting all four tires changed today before be brings back the car. 

These two men named Radford are the finest of humans, as was the first Radford, my father-in-law, after whom they are named.

Every day lately I have wanted to post here, but my head feels too full of everything to sort through, and so I just curl up and read, and let the flood of thoughts, anxieties, conspiracy theories, rage insights, disbelief and stubborn love swirl right on through. Lucky for me, love is always in the mix, leavening the rest. 

Six more days.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

A clear path

I got chosen. I got the job. So now I know my next project, which I will start in mid December. I’m a little bit in a daze. My mother always told me I need to have more faith. 

Also, today would have been my dad’s ninety-seventh birthday. My brother texted me: “Missing them both with love and tears.” An unexpectedly tender sentiment from my stoic, unbothered brother. We hit the jackpot, us two. We had such good parents, and we knew it even when it was still happening. 

Tonight’s debates. I couldn’t watch after a while. If Trump’s lips are moving he’s lying. As a piece in The Atlantic put it, our path is clear: “Two men are running for president. One is a terrible man. The other is a decent man. Vote for the decent man.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

An extraordinary American

How much do I love Barack Obama? I will never stop missing this man. He just did a blistering drive-in rally in Philadelphia, and I’m reminded that this man is the most gifted politician of our time. He took the gloves off, he called Trump out, and dear God, I’m here for it. He pointed out that not only can we vote the cruel fraudulent president out, in doing so that we can also reclaim the best of ourselves, the best of our nation, the values by which we hope to be defined. As one commentator just said, “Not only does he have that cool factor, he is truly an extraordinary American.” 

Internal weather

I'm feeling anxious. There is the possibility of new work on the horizon, a book collaboration that an editor I previously worked with sent my way, which may or may not work out depending on whether the subject chooses me. I realize that if she doesn't choose me, I am making it mean something about me, something negative, something she saw and didn't like, which may be the fee I quoted her for the project, which is only the usual sort of fee, or perhaps my timing, when I can be available to start based on the work I already have, and yet I see anything that makes her not choose me as a failing on my part, even though I know, I know, I'm being silly, and that sometimes we get chosen, sometimes we don't, and sometimes, not getting chosen clears the path for something even more wonderful to choose you. Anyway this is what I'm trying to tell myself in this moment, as I write here, trying with everything I am to quell the churning inside me that I wish was not my nature.

I envy those people capable of serene faith that all will be well. I seem possessed of a deficit of faith and a surfeit of imagination. My catastrophic thinking is in overdrive. I need to quiet these fretful thoughts, this inner child sense of being somehow not right, and therefore not chosen. I need to recenter myself, so I can get back to the work I do have, from someone who did choose me. I am editing the most wonderful book, a novel based on the life of the author, who writes brilliantly, feels deeply, and has the most unorthodox yet perfect way of putting things. I'm not at the editing stage yet, I'm still just reading, and such a pleasure it is to go on this journey with her. I just need to shush all this noise in my head and get back to it. Maybe I'll go sit under a tree and read there.

That picture up top, under the small tree on the left, that's where I sat in Central Park a week ago, reading as children scrambled over the low slung branches. Maybe I'll take my sturdy folding chair that my husband researched to the smallest detail before buying two for us, and go sit in that place again. Let the fall breeze waft away my angst. Let the laughs and calls of children distract me, let the strings of classical musicians up on the path remind me that the outer world keeps wheeling along, no matter the weather within.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

16 more days

Artwork by @cedricsmithstudio

Thursday, October 15, 2020


I just heard on the news that two members of Kamala Harris's campaign team tested positive for the corona virus. Though the candidate tested negative as recently as yesterday, she will quarantine for the next several days out of an abundance of caution, doing only virtual appearances. Meanwhile the super spreader in chief is holding mass rallies in states where the virus is already spiking. I don't get the cult like following he has, the suspension of all reason. Is hatred of "the other" really such a powerful aphrodisiac? I suppose for some people, it is.

I did a different kind of puzzle from the usual beach, lake, mountain, architecture, nautical, and natural world scenes the other day. This one was an Olga Suvorova painting of a Renaissance court scene. I've long been drawn to the Renaissance. I devoured everything I could about it as a child, knew all the artists and the art, and felt a strange familiarity with it all, as if I was remembering rather than learning anew. I felt the same way about the Paris art scene in the 1910s and 20s, and was obsessed with Modigliani in particular. I wondered why the child of a judge and a realtor growing up in Kingston, Jamaica should have had such a hunger for those eras, wondered if I had walked those paving stones in other lives. Maybe it was nothing more than I was drawn to the lives of artists, who knows? Anyway, when I saw this puzzle, I was a goner. 

Apropos of nothing, here are three photos of me, all so different as to hardly be the same person. That's so much the truth of my life. I feel such different energies depending on the day and the circumstance, and I point the phone camera at myself as the moods shift, trying to figure out who I am being today.

The first is the public me, the woman who shows up when forced to behave like a socialized human. The second is me on a day last week when I left my house to do a Zoom conference call for work, which I couldn't do at home because of incessant hammering and drilling in the apartment above me, so there I was sitting on a bench beneath balconies on a chilly Fall day, masked and as I recall, sort of miserable. In the last I am happy under the covers on Tuesday just past, rain drumming on the windows, and me working as it happens. I have been hired to edit a novel by a wonderful writer, but first I get to curl up and just read the work for the pure pleasure of it. That last one is the me I wish I could be everywhere, but as soon as the world sets its eyes on me, I feel awkward and ungainly in my body. It has always been that way, so I can't blame latter day structural impairments that have me limping and rocking as I move, and so, of necessity, I have learned to carry on, a smile on my lips, sincere and hopeful, impersonating said socialized human.

Today? I think I'm going to take my folding chair to the park and sit under a tree and read and revel in the fact that that I get to do work in such a setting. Happy Thursday, dear ones. Thanks for meandering with me here.

Monday, October 12, 2020


That's my little niece Lauren, who lives in the Cayman Islands. I have no reason for posting her picture except that her sweet joyful face fills me with a sense that there is yet goodness and innocence and light in the world. I've just pressed send on my manuscript, and am now listening to the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for nominee Amy Coney Barrett. I probably wouldn't be tuned in if I didn't have to write an update to the book that includes it, and hopefully also the outcome of an election in which progressives take back the White House, the Senate and the House.

Last night, I couldn't sleep. My brain was on fire with what ifs should the criminal fascist president win a second term. We all know it's possible, given the rampant perversion of a free and fair election that the Republicans are engaged in before our eyes. They can’t win in a fair fight, so they cheat and disenfranchise. Last night, thin on hope, I reached for my phone, and in the quiet after midnight, I found myself searching out thinkers of a spiritual bent who could interpret this present moment in the larger context of our human experience, our shared illusion of separateness, unless we happen to be among the souls currently incarnated here to be lightworkers, which I sometimes believe my own daughter surely is, and perhaps little Lauren, too. In my own darkness, I climbed all the way down into the rabbit hole of mediums and astrologers and angels and channelers, and finally climbed back out with this piece of a promise from Patricia Pearce:
“Despite how frightening our present circumstances appear, they are lending immense momentum to the quiet coup that is preparing the way for a new world to arise, a world that reflects the inviolable truth of Love.”

I'll take it. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Weird World

This is a completely scattershot post, a stream of consciousness ramble, plus some the pictures I wanted to save on my blog, but didn't, because I was working, and also, y'all, how to make sense of the world we're in, where nothing unfolds with any predictability, the $421 million debt the president owes taking over the news cycle one day, the horror show presidential debate the next, and then suddenly, everyone in and around the White House is dropping like flies with the covid, and orange man himself, the new covid evangelist, may well be the spreader in chief. Don't let it dominate your life, he says. Tell that to the 210,000 who have died, a number so large we can't even wrap our minds around it properly. I heard that more people have died under this president's watch than in World War I, the Vietnam War, Afghanistan and the Gulf Wars combined. And what was that scene the other night when he checked himself out of the hospital so he could stand in stage light on his balcony, posing like Mussolini while struggling for breath thanks to his covid pneumonia. I almost felt sorry for the man, with such grandiose visions of himself playing in his mind. He was ridiculous and pitiful, and I found myself taking in at a whole new level how utterly broken this human impersonator is. But enough of that, at least until I turn on the news today and get my mind blown again. 

In happier news, my son had a birthday, and he and his lovely fiance spent it just hanging out here with us. One of his friends came over later, and as this young man hugged us and took off his mask, I thought, well, I have no idea where you've been, who you've seen, and our quarantine bubble is all shot to hell anyway. Still, now I'm counting days again. Of course, my son is still out there working as a firefighter, though he's now with a ladder company, so he's seeing more fires than medical calls. I don't know whether to be happy about that. But it was a lovely low-key day, with him watching football games with his dad and sleeping on the couch for a good part of them as he'd gotten off from his overnight shift at nine that morning. Look at his sweet bald head.

What else? My girl and her guy continue to work hard and play hard, and their puppy is now the official mascot of their business school cohort group. Their section had a field day last Saturday, with egg tosses and basketball games and various other fun activities. Someone posted this picture of my girl and her dog.

As long as I'm swiping photos from social media, here's one of my niece in Dallas, doing her job as a dentist in all her PPE. Extra points for the Snoopy cap.

So the good news is I finished the book two days ago, at least the draft that we're all calling final. I'm not finished working on it of course, because now I have to do one last read from beginning to end before turning it in by Monday, and then it has to go through copy editing and the legal read, as well as first pass pages, and maybe second pass too, and I shall have to respond to edits in all those rounds. Then, there is the updating at the last minute once we know the election results, and also just how crazy the Supreme Court nomination hearings will be. I am not thinking about any of it right now. I'm looking forward to moving on to my next job, which I was supposed to have started a month ago. But first, I have a Zoom call in a few minutes with my subject, her comms director, and her agent, to go over and choose photographs from her life to be included in the book, for which I will also have to write captions. It's good to have work, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. But really, though, gotta go, so forgive any incoherence and  typos. One more thing:

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Running on Fumes

Watching the presidential debate last night was grueling, soul crushing, what a fucking sh*tshow. You can't debate a swaggering, sniveling, truculent third grade bully. And yet I just know Trump's base thought he turned in a fine performance. I think Biden should boycott the next two debates, and let Trump crow about it all he wants. There may be about three people in this country who are undecided about who to vote for anyway, and frankly, anyone who is still be undecided after everything we've witnessed from the fascist in the Oval is already in Trump's camp, clinging to their ignorance or privilege. Dear God, how would we survive four more years of this? I'm burned out and bleary eyed from work y'all, but of course I have to keep going, have to push through those late night calls discussing the shadings of legislative theater, and the solitary early morning revision sessions, trying to translate jargon into human. This is the hardest book I have ever done, but I hope it will eventually be one of the best, and that it will stand as a witness to these times. Also, the magazine for which I edit furloughed half of its staff yesterday, supposedly for six months while they try to shore up the business. I seem to have been spared, possibly because I am part time. But the woman I report to is gone, and so is the entire copy and research team, so how will this work exactly? Head down. Onward.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Another day in front of the window

This political book I'm doing seems to have no end, like the crazy surreal world it is attempting to capture. I feel guilty, because I had accepted another job editing someone's manuscript, and the author of that work has already waited a month for me to get started. With RBG dying last week, it is possible she may have to wait a month more. I am trying to craft an email to her explaining things. I know she is anxious to get her book done and sold, her family could use the money, but I simply can't abandon the first project until it is completed. This is why I've been a little scarce around here, working intensely all day and reading your posts on my phone when I fall into bed at night, but not commenting much. Please know my silence is not a lack of care.

My niece who has been living with us for the past year went home to her parents in Orlando for a while. She hadn't seen them since January, and decided she could work remotely just as well from there as she could from here. She doesn't go back into her office in New York City for at least another month, maybe more, so it's just the man and me again, puttering together, being outraged at the news together, moving around each other with gentle humor and untucked ease. 

I'm starting to reconnect with friends I haven't set eyes on in forever. I went for a walk and then sat on benches in the gardens where I live with two different women on Friday and Saturday last, chatting and soaking up the sun. And the week before, I sat with five other women under a tree in Central Park, our folding chairs in a socially distanced circle, catching up on our lives in quarantine. On the bench we wore masks. In the park circle, we took them off, trusting the wafting breezes to blow our invisible droplets away. New York continues to do well, with positive cases at less than one percent, and fewer than five covid deaths a day in the state, none of them in the city most days. But people are still dying from this thing. We are trying to figure how to live this masked life and love each other safely.

Up there in Cambridge, my girl and her guy continue to live a rather more social existence on campus, meeting up with their new friends almost daily. Last Sunday, her love's section group and their partners all went on an apple picking outing, organized by the school. It was outdoors and masked, ergo safe, though these young people have also begun to gather in each others homes. Most of their get togethers are still in rooftop bars or on lawns. But it's getting colder now. I wonder if the school created these section pods within the larger class so that new students might get to know one another, since classes are still all virtual. The students (but not the partners) still get tested twice a week, so if anyone comes up positive for covid, they can quickly trace contacts within the designated sections. Maybe they also intentionally placed my girl and her love in a section where almost all the students relocated with partners.

That's my girl with her puppy, Munch, with whom we have all fallen in love. Munch also has fans on campus, with human friends scheduling regular play dates with him. My daughter reported that one woman told her she had overheard her husband on the phone to his mom saying, "There's a dog here I  love so much. His name is Munch and he has such a joy for life." Munch is indeed scrappy and affectionate and energetic and sometimes hysterically bored. Did I mention they tested for his DNA? He is half English Bulldog, a quarter Beagle, an eighth miniature Schnauzer and an eighth mutt. His shaggy brindle coat probably comes from his Schnauzer ancestry.

Here's a blast from the past I ran across recently. The photo of my husband and me was taken during carnival in Antigua one summer. We weren't yet married. I was a year older than my daughter is now, and the man was two years younger than me. Honestly? I still wonder how I got so lucky that this tall handsome man with the dancing wit and steady heart chose me. Thirty four years later, I choose him still.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

She, too, was a great soul

June Omura Goldberg also died this week. I can’t bear to think of the world without her kind spirit, her dancing eyes. I first met June when I was a young, fresh out of J-school reporter at LIFE magazine. June was the chief of research and she was my rock, my center of calm, the person I could go to for anything, with anything, or just to share stories or a laugh. She talked about her family with such love and pride and let us share our families as well. She was at my wedding on her birthday, August 23, 1986, and every year I think of that, and feel that it’s a special blessing to have been married on June’s birthday. She took care of all us reporters, made each one of us feel that she was looking out especially for us—and I really believe she was at that. She had the hugest heart. A laugh like music. That giggle. She was my safe place in my first job in journalism. She made me feel as if I belonged in that rarified world and could do whatever I was called on to do. I have carried her belief in me ever since. The photo is from the last time I had lunch with her and two others from our LIFE magazine days. We dined in a cafe at Lincoln Center. June loved the ballet and the opera. She was a gift to us all. Rest now, dear June. You are so loved.


Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance, fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable
ignorance of
dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.


Saturday, September 19, 2020

May her memory be a revolution

I don't even know how to write about her. There's so much tumbling inside me that I would like to say, I can't be coherent. So I will dispense with coherence, or the expectation that I will do her giant legacy any sort of justice. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, leader of the progressive wing of the U.S. Supreme Court, died as the sun was setting last night. Someone on twitter wrote: Never have so many simultaneously typed the word "fuck." As the news spread, thousands spontaneously gathered outside the Supreme Court. The crowd, almost every person wearing masks, hauntingly sang "Amazing Grace," seeking a way to honor the Notorious RBG. I woke up this morning and the world felt infinitely more fragile, because this champion of equality and democracy and gender rights was no longer in it. Our condolences today go out not just to her family; they go out to all of America, because we have lost a woman who fought for us with her last breath—literally. In her final words, dictated to her granddaughter, she said, "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed." Battling cancer for many years, she tried to hang on for a new administration, one that has not systematically demolished the rule of law, not to mention crushed any notion of human decency. But in the end she died at the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. In the Jewish tradition, a person who dies on Rosh Hashanah is a tzaddik, a person of great righteousness, which RBG surely was. They are the ones who God could not take until the last moment, because they were needed most. I think we should all now don the lace collars she wore with her robes, in appreciation of this warrior for justice, who should have been able to live her last years in peace, instead of fiercely holding together the fraying threads of our institutions and our laws. All over social media people are reposting a call to action: "May her memory be a revolution." May we be worthy as we carry her flame.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020


Naomi Osaka, the US Open tennis champion of 2020, wore different masks for every match, each one printed with the name of a victim of police violence. She later explained that she had to get to the final match so that she could wear all thirteen masks to honor the dead. This woman, who is Japanese and Haitian, and plays tennis for Japan, is the very definition of a goddess. She staged her one-woman Black Lives Matter protest with fierce talent and commitment, and she didn't speak a word until the trophy was won.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Meanwhile up north

My girl and her guy seem to be having a good time up there in Cambridge, Mass., where he is at business school and she's working remotely at her job ensuring food security. They've met lots of new people, seem to be making new friends, including other couples, even going on double dates, which in the time of covid means dinner from Chipotle while sitting on the grass. The school has a philosophy of students learning from each other, and forging bonds that might later lead to business partnerships, so it creates cohort groups, which meet up regularly outside of class. Partners are included in these gatherings. There seem to be many students who moved with their partners, most of them working remotely, like my daughter. "It's like the highly social college experience I never had, only without the classwork," my daughter texted me. Her love, like the rest of the students at the university, gets tested twice each week. Classes are also still virtual, people still mostly wear masks, but they're not exactly in a tiny bubble. "It's like a quarantine pod," is how my girl put it, "but a large one, with maybe forty people." Last night, she sent me these photos, with the text, "Date night." It feels sweet to post about this, as if the president and his crime syndicate aren't burning shit down.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Salt mines

"Eat, Your Highness."
"Everything tastes like doom," he whispered.
"Then add salt." 
—Leigh Bardugo, King of Scars