Dale and I spent a magical day recently at San Simeon Bay along Highway 1, just below Hearst Castle on the California central coast. Quite unexpectedly, we found two sailboats rolling gently in the bay and three elephant seals lulling in the sun. Something we’ve never seen here before. Although elephant seals are found abundantly in this area, it’s unusual to find them on busy beaches. Signs warned us to beware, as these wild creatures can bite should they be disturbed.
One of the boats looked like La Gitana, the 46-foot sailboat that was our home for six years when we sailed around the world. Nostalgia for that magic time hit heavy. I almost felt like I could see our son at the bow with his fishing line thrown into the bay, our daughter riding the boom as she liked to do, and Dale and I sitting on the aft deck with two big green buckets and a wooden plunger, doing laundry.
Further up the beach was a quaint hut made of driftwood that some surfer had built. Like ones we often saw on remote beaches built by yachties when we were sailing.
Along the way as we hiked up the bluff and out to the point, we stopped to visit the largest eucalyptus trees we’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, with their rainbow bark, elephantine trunks and long octopus arms. Magical!
When we reached the point, we could look back at the bay and get a faraway glimpse of Hearst Castle high in the hills, another magical place. On the other side were beautiful views of the coastline.
The last time we came here we headed back after reaching the point, but this time we turned north to a path lined by pine and eucalyptus trees that parallels the coast.
The path grew narrower and darker and spookier as we walked, the trees thicker and more gnarled, blocking out the sun. Sharp branches reached out to grab and tree roots rose up to trip. On one side we could hear the hidden ocean waves whispering warnings to us, while all around the creepy creaks and groans of trees sent cold shivers down our spines. It seemed to go on forever. We could almost imagine ourselves as Hansel and Gretel lost in the stark, dark woods just before reaching the witches gingerbread house. Our path eventually opened up to a sun-filled view of the coastline stretching out as far as we could see, with the very faint outline of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse in the far misty distance.
On the hike back to the beach we came across a strange trail of dark, oily splats along the path, as if dropped from some huge creature flying by. Dragon shit, we surmised, looking up as if to see the dark shadow of reptile wings wheeling by. A fair and fitting end to our magical day at San Simeon.
She calls herself a “musical consort to time.” She once wrote: “I endeavor, through music, to delve into all time spaces to tap resources of knowledge and power as ancient as the Universe and as young as unborn worlds.”
After listening to her music, I’m convinced this is true.
I’ve never been a huge fan of ambient or electronic music, but I discovered Strom’s on Sunday while drinking my morning coffee in bed, as I always do, and skimming through the day’s headlines on my cell phone. I came across an article about her in the Washington Post. Her first new music album in 30 years, “Angel Tears in Sunlight,” has just been released to much acclaim. It is also her last album, as she died recently in San Francisco.
She was born blind 74 years ago and became a pioneer in electronic music. Her her first album, “Trans-Millenia Consort,” which I’ve included below, was released in 1982. But alas, she was blind, she was a woman, she was fiercely independent, and she was playing in a man’s field of music.
After the release of her first album, she released her work independently out of pure passion. While not widely recognized, she had a fan base that kept her music alive underground. Appreciation for her music was reignited when a compilation of pieces from her previously self-released albums came out in a new album called “Trans Millenia Music” in 2017, garnering much praise and a new enthusiastic audience.
One of the things I enjoyed most about listening to her music that morning on my phone was being able to feel the sound-vibrations in my finger tips. It added a whole new physical dimension to the experience. Interestingly, while listening to it, my fitness tracker registered it as a “deep sleep” experience. Perhaps because of how finely tuned-in I was to the sound waves flowing through me, as if I was travelling with her through time in my own inner-space. A fine consort she is.
“Your cold mornings are filled with the heartache about the fact that although we are not at ease in this world, it is all we have, that it is ours but that it is full of strife, so that all we can call our own is strife; but even that is better than nothing at all, isn’t it?
And as you split the frost-laced wood with numb hands, rejoice that your uncertainty is God’s will and His grace toward you that that is beautiful, and a part of a greater certainty, as your own father always said in his sermons and to you at home.
And as the ax bites into the wood, be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it.
And when you resent the ache in your heart, remember: You will be dead and buried soon enough.” ― Paul Harding, Tinkers. (Bellevue Literary Press January 1, 2009) Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2010
“A Return to Joy!” That’s what I was going to blog about today after watching the horror of the January 6th insurrection, and then savoring every minute of the Biden/Harris Inauguration celebrations on January 20. But it’s not that simple, is it? So much work is yet to do to create the lasting joy we need. And back to normal simply isn’t enough.
One the highlights of that day for me and so many others was Amanda Gorman’s recital of her poem “The Hill We Climb,” which went viral. It was a soulful and soaring oration that inspire so many of us with hope for the future, a new generation.
She starts out by asking “where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” and reminding us of “the loss we carry, a sea we must wade.” She reminds us that “quiet” isn’t always “peace” and the norms we accept as what “just is” isn’t always “just-ice.”
And yet she claims the “the dawn is ours,” and despite all we’ve “weathered and witnessed” what we’re left with is “a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.”
She ends her poem on a high clear clarion call:
When day comes we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid The new dawn blooms as we free it For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it If only we’re brave enough to be it
It’s uplifting hopefulness stirred our hearts. It was the “light” we’ve been craving after four years of “darkness.” We needed to know that there are young people like Amanda who will pick up the torch and move our nation forward.
Not long after the inauguration, I watched another video gone viral, this time of the young rapper Marlon Craft reciting his song “State of the Union.” His vision of America was starker, darker, more painful to hear. He too pointed out hard truths.
How “The state of the union is that there isn’t one /If a house divided can’t stand.”
How “fake superiority created by authority” convinces the poorest “he still one caste up, cause at least you not black.”
How “to keep you off track” when “the elite eat on the backs of your labor, you point at your neighbor—instead of up.”
How we talk about “generational wealth, But outside making money for ourselves, We won’t give the next generation no help,” and “It may already be too late to save the f—ing planet.”
He asks: “How many of us really choose our own thoughts and vices?” and “Who knew algorithms would really dictate what we cheer?” and “Can you track your opinion to it’s origin?”
He notes that while “white liberals” may “acknowledge their privilege, “they aint givin’ it up.” And how “You can’t abuse populations, leave ’em destitute and vacant and then ask them to care /About anything but their next move.”
Truth is if not for COVID, Trump would’ve won re-election in a landslide So we evaded armageddon, for good old store brand oppression But if a leader more savvy, and less sociopathic with true fascist aspirations come along, it’s gon’ be tragic 74 million proved if the right rhetoric is used We could end up on the wrong side of World War II 2
And to defeat white supremacy, you gotta first want to defeat white supremacy I don’t think most of us really do
It was always gon’ get worse ‘fore it got better Racism was never gon’ go quietly to the night
But Marlon, like Amanda, ends on a hopeful note and brings it back to each of us:
I do believe that [racism] along with greed, can make it’s way out of our institutions so that all are free one day I ain’t say that it will,
It depends what we do, there’s only one person the future starts and ends with It’s you
We have to clearly delineate the problem before we can fix it, and these two young people, one black and one white, a poet and a rapper, are doing it for their own generation as well as for us.
The torch that many of us carried for so long is being handed off. And as dark as this current moment in history is with more people lost to Covid in ten months than were lost in WWII in 4 years, with our country painfully divided across party lines, with racial and economic inequity putting a strangle hold on so many families, with raging wildfires and hurricanes and a planet in peril, these two artists give me hope for the future.
They are creating the kind of art that makes all the difference: Shining a light in the darkness so we can see our way forward.
Like so many Americans, I’ve been struggling these past twelve days to wrap my mind around what happened on January 6: The attempt by the President of the United States to overthrow the government by inciting his followers to assault the Capitol and force Congress to overturn a free and fair election in which President-Elect Biden won by a landslide.
It was such a shocking thing to watch live, in real time, on TV. The horror of it still has not faded as we learn more and more about how it came about and who was there. As we learn what they planned to do to Vice President Pence and Speaker Pelosi. As we wait to see if further threats of insurrection will follow.
While the House immediately impeached Donald Trump for the second time, this time for inciting insurrection, we are waiting to see if the Senate will convict him, ensuring he will never be able to run for public office again.
And we are waiting to see if the majority of Republicans in Congress, who are now calling for unity and healing, will admit that Biden won the election fairly, as all the countless court cases, recounts, and investigations have proven. For there can be no unity or healing if nearly 80 percent of Republicans, as a new poll tells us, believe the Big Lie that the election was stolen from Trump.
But we citizens cannot wait for others to do the right thing. We cannot wait for a new administration to heal our nation. It’s not just the alt-right media that is promulgating the Big Lie. It’s not just government that’s divided. It’s WE, THE PEOPLE. And we must do what we can to dismantle the Big Lie and bridge the Big Divides that are threatening to destroy our country.
I have some ideas about that. But first let’s hear what Martin Luther King, Jr. has to say on his celebratory day.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“Tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”
“Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.”
First, MLK reminds us, we cannot be silent. We have to speak out to our neighbors and family members, our local newspapers and political pundits, our state and national representatives. Wherever we hear the Big Lie about the stolen election being repeated, we must counter it with facts as relentlessly as they promulgate the lie. And we must do so not as adversaries, not with outrage or scorn, but as concerned citizens with facts and reason. Patiently, steadily, calmly. Over and over and over again.
Second, we must not wait. We must see this as the “fierce urgency of now.” We must do so with “vigorous and positive action.” We can’t wait until after the Inauguration, after the Senate trial, after the investigations and hearings to speak out, to dismantle the Big Lie. Those who erroneously believe the election was stolen are taking up arms against America NOW. Each of us individually cannot stop the collective action, but we can individually, one-on-one, each in our own way, by whatever means open to us, help to dispel the Big Lie and bridge the Big Divides wherever we encounter them, and especially in our own families, neighborhoods, and communities.
Third, we can join with others to do so. Bridging the Big Divides between Red and Blue, Black and White, the immigrant and native born, the privileged and disenfranchised, the wealthy and those struggling to pay the rent is long, hard work. Endless, it seems. And endlessly needed. We cannot shirk it, or wait for others to do it for us. But we need not do it alone.
Fortunately, there are lots of organizations working to address these disparities, reaching across the divides, working to find common ground. We can find these groups and support them locally or nationally, with our donations or as volunteers. We can support these causes on our media pages and blogs, as poets and artists, each in our own way, doing what we can.
There’s one cause I would like to take up. I’m not sure where or how, but I will be researching this, and I think it is essential for not only dismantling the Big Lies but bridging the Big Divides. And that is trying to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It was a policy that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable, and balanced. It was introduced in 1949 and abolished in 1987 by President Reagan.
It was after the policy was abolished that all the hate-filled talk-radio shows began to indoctrinate their audiences with all sorts of Big Lies. It’s when unprincipled media organizations like Fox News, and now NewsMax and others became the propaganda arms of political parties. It’s when “alternative” “facts” began to compete with true facts.
We can’t build common ground if we can’t agree upon a common set of facts based on the truth. We can’t debate the issues, we can’t develop persuasive arguments, we can’t change hearts and minds if we are living in alternate realities.
The horror of January 6, 2021, will be with us forever, just as the horror of 9/11, and the horror of this Covid pandemic. And sometimes it seems that so many “horrors” are piling up that we just want to turn away from the chaos, turn off the TV, retreat into some private and soothing oasis. And sometimes, to save our sanity, to refresh our souls, that’s just what we need to do. But not now. Or at least, not for long. Because our Nation needs us to speak out, to do our part in dismantling the Big Lie, bridging the Big Divides, so we can HEAL.
Martin Luther King, Jr, once again, puts it so eloquently, this “fierce urgency of now,” and leaves us with a final aspiration of hope.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”
The year 2020 may have been the most turbulent year any of us have ever known. Blogging in such a year was challenge enough. Trying to recapture that whirlwind may be beyond any of us.
But I will try. And at least it ends on a note of joy.
Looking back at my first blog post of 2020, I wrote about how challenging 2019 had been. My wish list for 2020 was the same as my 2019 list, as one year had not been enough long to bring the happy endings that I had hoped for. My wish list for 2021 would be a repeat of the last two years, except I’ve put wish lists on hold for the time being. Things are too uncertain, and the turbulent times are still with us.
In April I wrote about The Joy and Grief and Everything in Between that came with Covid, the mixed feelings and emotional turmoil so many were feeling as we tried to survive the initial lockdowns and isolation. We did not realize then how long all this would be going on, the horrendous death toll it would bring, or the economic disaster.
In May I wrote about Poetry in the Time of Corona. It must have resonated with a lot of readers as I saw it move into my :Top Ten Posts” list and rise to number 4.
In June during all the racial strife, the police brutality and protests, I began a series of posts about my “Brushes with Blackness,” how Black lives and Black culture colored my whiteness, and helped shape my sense of justice, fair play, and compassion for others.
In August I wrote the unsettling and surreal world in which we all were living in Still Waiting to Land . . . . I wrote: “Clearly we live in interesting times. A curse? Possibly. A cleansing? Hopefully. No wonder we feel as if the rug has been pulled out from under our feet. And we haven’t quite landed yet.” I still feel that way.
I followed that with Wildfires Everywhere, Politically and Literally about watching wildfires gobble up California and cast an eerie and ominous red glow over the land, even while the Democratic National Convention was providing a glimmer of hope midst all the devastation.
Unfortunately the political turmoil did not end with Biden’s victory as hoped, and perhaps even has gotten worse, which seems unimaginable. Yet, for me personally, 2020 has still ended on one ecstatic note.
At the beginning of this year I wrote: “The one gift 2019 gave me (which is huge and fills my heart!) is hope for my granddaughter when she came to live with me. Hope that she will remain in my care, happy and safe, healthy and strong, responsibly cared for and dearly cherished as she grows into a young woman.”
That gift kept growing in 2020. Everything I had hoped and planned for concerning my granddaughter’s welfare came true, as I wrote about in My Arms Are Empty, but My Heart is Full. She is happy and well and living the life of her dreams with her aunt and uncle: surfing, hiking, biking, movie nights snuggling on the couch, reading the Harry Potter series together before bed, laughing with her new best friends at school, and telling me all about her fun-filled days on our weekly video-chats. She was asked recently what the best thing about 2020 was. She answered, “Moving here. Else I wouldn’t have this life I love.”
So for all the turmoil of 2020, and whatever upheaval 2021 might bring, I can comfort myself with that huge gift of joy.
One of the things I love most about Christmas is the music, especially the classical carols. Listening to them brings such strong memories of my childhood and my faith, filling me with a sense of warmth and comfort and inspiration. With Christmas day only a week away, I’m sharing a few of my Celtic favorites from my playlist.
I hope you enjoy them. Please share with me your favorite holiday songs and the artists who sing them. I’m always looking for new songs to add.
Loreena McKennit is one of my favorite singers and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen one of my favorite carols, so I’ll begin here.
I love Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring and found this lovely version by the Celtic Women.
I’ll end with my favorite Christmas hymn, O Holy Night. This one by the Celtic Trio is deeply moving.
Forgive me for fantasizing. With so many Trump followers now calling for succession after their loss in the Supreme Court, I can’t help but wonder what a Trump Nation might be like.
What follows is a lazy Sunday afternoon fantasy of how such a horror could evolve and what a Trump Nation might look like, based on what Trump has already done or advocated.
So here’s how it happens: Trump and his cohorts of rebel militias threaten civil war. Riots break out, chaos reigns. To avoid further violence and outright war, the Biden administration agrees to allow up to 5 contiguous deep-red states to succeed, if their citizens so approve by a 75% majority. North and South Dakota, Wyoming, and Idaho vote to withdraw, and pressure Montana to do likewise.
But Trump isn’t satisfied. He wants Florida as well. To end the conflict for good, a compromise is made. Mara Lago and its surrounding golf course becomes a sovereign state within the state of Florida, like the Vatican in Italy— a retreat where Trump can rule in the winter months.
Half of the 7 million who voted for Trump in 2020 eagerly migrate to Trump Nation. New cities named after Trump, his family, and their Confederate forefathers, rise in once rural areas. Among them are Trumptopia, Barronapolis, New Melania, Stonewall, and Ft. Bragg.
Grateful Trump Faithfuls ecstatically pronounce him Supreme Leader for life and establish his progeny as legal heirs to that title. No Constitution is necessary, just as no Republican platform was needed in the 2020 election. All agree that Trump will rule with wisdom and courage to protect and bring prosperity to his people.
The individual States within this new nation will remain states in name only, governed by Trump appointees. A system of oligarchs will be set up to control industry and natural resources, as advised by Trump’s mentor and closest ally, Putin. Safety and environmental regulations are abolished. Industry will be regulated so as to maximize profits. Unions are outlawed, and the minimum wage abolished.
People of color are considered second-class citizens and and seen to be a dangerous threat to the nation. They are forced onto tribal lands where they can be isolated and controlled. Tribal leaders who cooperate are compensated. The others are threatened and penalized.
Michael Flynn is named General of the Armed Forces. Militias and their weaponry are drafted to serve under his command. Citizens are no longer allowed to own guns for fear they will fall into liberal rebel hands and be turned again Trump Faithfuls. A draft of all able-bodied citizens between the age of 17 and 25 is initiated to build Trump’s army, which, Trump proclaims to wide applause, will become the biggest and most powerful in the world. Military parades become wildly popular events. Children between the ages of 12 and 17 attend military summer camps to help prepare them to serve.
Although forbidden under the Succession Agreement, Trump enters into secret negotiations with Russia and North Korea to obtain nuclear weapons. When the USA learns of this, it threatens crippling sanctions on the new nation. But Trump is not deterred. While his citizenry will suffer, it will be for a noble cause, and the sanctions will not interfere with the Oligarchy’s lavish lifestyle.
Public education ends in the new nation, and for-profit education run by Betty De Vos takes its place. If citizens cannot afford tuition, they will be required to provide homeschooling for their children using a Trump-approved curriculum. History will be rewritten to favor and flatter Trump, his Confederate forefathers, and strong-men nations.
Free speech and the right to assemble are no more. Trump creates a law and order police state where criminals are not coddled. Suspects are considered guilty until proven innocent. Ted Cruz establishes a judicial system that rivals Russia’s. Prisons are run for profit, and inmates are charged for room and board which they must repay at labor camps.
The media and internet servers are now under government-control. Disinformation tactics are used to spread conspiracy theories that help to control the people by making them fearful of what is happening beyond their borders and grateful that they live in Trump Nation.
A border wall is built around the country to keep citizens safe from the outside world and keep defectors from leaving and spreading lies about life in Trump Nation.
Healthcare is run by pro-profit Health Networks, where people with pre-existing conditions pay dearly, abortions and birth-control are outlawed, and women who attempt to defy this law are sent to prison. Same-sex marriage is outlawed, and LBTQ communities are encouraged to go back into the closet because there are no protections for them under the law, physically or civilly.
Social Security is eliminated. Citizens are encouraged to work well into their senior years and then turn to their own families to take them in. Poor Farms and Debtor prisons will take up the slack.
Freedom of religion will end. Christianity becomes the state religion. A hierarchy of state-approved evangelical churches is established and run by Jerry Falwell and his wife. Trump is worshipped as the Savior of Christmas, the champion of Christianity, and the second-coming of Christ. His statue is displayed in every town center, and his image decorates the walls of all public buildings. His face is etched into Mount Rushmore, bigger and better than all the others.
In time Trump will feel restless and land-locked. He will covet the rich resources and harbors of Alaska and send his military to take it by force. The USA will stand strong and defeat him. His nuclear proliferation will be ended. New punishing sanctions will brought against him. His people will wake up from their fever-dream of Trump-worship. Realizing their mistake, with the help of the USA, they take up arms against him. Eventually Trump Nation is overthrown. The individual states that succeeded ask to be reunited with the United States of America, and we graciously allow it. Democracy reigns once again in the land of the free.
So goes my fantasy. What do you think? Any changes or additions you’d suggest?
BTW, that’s a real flag at the top of this post that you can buy on Amazon. Scary, huh?