Autumn 2020

Note: I dithered so long that the title of this article originally was “September 2020.”

I think of my mom and dad every day and–almost without exception–that makes me feel happy and as contented as I am able to feel these days. Autumn is a little bit different, though. Sometimes, in the fall, I really miss them and I feel sad. This feeling doesn’t usually last long, but this year it is worse.  No surprise there, I think.  I miss my brothers and their families. Tom and I see all of our children in Zoom meetings and–every couple weeks–most of them outside at a park. I pet the little dog, Randi, but I also want to hug the children. Tom and I–socially distanced/masked–see some of our friends, but I miss our dear ones far away.

I am fine enough, and I think I am lucky. I mostly try to be grateful.

I don’t want to leave you with the memory of my carping, so below are several photos I’ve collected in the clouds, mist, and sunshine of September and October. Love, Lynda


clouds, Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia

U.S. Capitol from Bartholdi Park, Washington, D.C.

Mathews Arm Campground, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

bee and flower after the rain

pearl crescent on white snakeroot

strawberry bush, Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia

milkweed and milkweed bugs, Bluemont Park, Arlington, Virginia

eastern hemlocks, Cathedral State Park, West Virginia

August 2020: Music

double rainbow, July 28, 2020

July finally ended. Some days I felt light headed and a bit dizzy. I mostly thought it was  just my head and heart going wonky from the pandemic/Trump in the Black Hills and all the rest.  Or maybe it was the virus, but the doctor doesn’t think so.  She thinks I am having a little vertigo from an ear issue.  We did see the double rainbow in the sky from our condo when John Lewis was lying in state at the Capitol. The black-eyed Susans we planted at Hillside Park have been blooming up a storm, and the Potomac River rolls on by, so beauty is still around us.

black-eyed Susan

Even though I claim to be an agnostic,  I am always alert to signs from some other plane.  Here is the sign for today: I heard “Let it Be” twice  on the radio this morning and it comforted me. I hope it will do the same for you.

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
Lennon/McCartney
Potomac River and Theodore Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island and Potomac River

July 4, 2020

Most of my life, I have loved the 4th of July.  As a child, It wasn’t just the swimming, hot dogs and ice cream, sparklers, and the fireworks later on at the high school. I loved (and do love) my country and I was proud of it. I became interested in social studies in junior high and high school (thank you, Mr. Bohl, Mr. Torrance, and others). I got a degree in political science and one in English with an emphasis in American Studies. On this particular 4th of July, I am sad and fearful (more on this below).

For years, I have embraced the idea of being an active and outspoken citizen. I

  • butted heads occasionally with teachers whom I deemed were unfair: I got sent to the principal’s office for not backing down to a teacher, paddled by another, etc.,
  • co-wrote a letter about unfair labor practices at my first job (Camp Dearborn, Milford, Michigan) that resulted in some changes. My proudest moment there was when I refused to wait on Orville Hubbard, then mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, who at the time refused to allow African-Americans to live in that city,
  • marched against the war in Vietnam,
  • canvassed for the Poor People’s March after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated,
  • supported the  BAM  (Black Action Movement) student strike at the University of Michigan–except when I crossed the picket line to go to my urban politics classes,
  • sent to Congress my comments related to the possible drawbacks of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline for native peoples, submitted as part of ENACT’s (Environmental Action for Survival) testimony in 1971,
  • spent years explaining to adult immigrants and refugees about civil rights and responsibilities in the United States (Note: I wrote a textbook on these matters: Community Experiences: Reading and Communication for Civics),
  • voted,
  • watched, tears in my eyes, decades of Rolling Thunder rides in D.C.; didn’t like the war, respected the warriors,
  • visited/loved scores of national parks, monuments, memorials, forests, and trails and worked in two (Zion National Park and Grand Canyon National Park),
  • volunteered in my community, from helping children learn about the watershed and planting American elms for the U.S. Park Service to working at programs that feed the hungry.

Reviewing this list, I see the smallness of my efforts. I think I need to do more for our tattered social fabric and for our endangered natural world.

Today and yesterday and these last months and three years have been difficult for me. I am sad about the continuing (possibly escalating) pandemic, and some of the responses to it. I am sad about those who died and their loved ones. I am sad about the current and uncivil strife, within the government and everywhere else. I want the American promises I believed in so much when I was young to be true and available to all. I used to extol the power and goodness of our laws, government, and social system to the adult immigrants I taught. I don’t think I could do that today. I am fearful of catching Covid-19 from those people who sashay past me without their masks. I am fearful of continued undermining of the concept of three equal parts of the federal government and a descent into authoritarianism.

However, writing this article has cheered me up.  From my window, I see the flag of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial blowing in the wind. The mockingbird who flies around here  landed on our balcony a little while ago. On our walks, many people in this diverse National Capital Area give us hearty, happy greetings and we send our goodwill back to them. Tom is making pizza for dinner tonight.  I think we will watch another episode of The National Parks: America’s Best Idea tonight.  I am feeling hopeful now, so I am ending with a few national park photos.

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Chisos Basin, Big Bend

Chisos Basin, Big Bend National Park

Lava Beds National Monument

Lava Beds National Monument

Grand Tetons

Grand Tetons National Park

wild horses, Assateague National Seashore

wild horses, Assateague National Seashore

View of Cape Royal and Wotan's Throne, Grand Canyon

View of Cape Royal and Wotan’s Throne, Grand Canyon

 

Comforts

Note: I began this post the last week of May 2020.  I had an idea to write about things that comfort me in, as they say in those T.V. ads, “these uncertain times.”  I have been thinking about these uncertain times.   I thought about the plagues of Europe I had read about. I thought about the Navajo Nation. I miss being with my children, but I know I am lucky; I just can’t hug them right now.

Then, things fell apart (even further than they ever have since January 2017). How can a pandemic with over 100,000 dead not be first on my list of sorrows this morning?  I feel like I am back in the uncertain times of my youth, circa 1967-1968, but worse.

I need comfort even more today and I hope I can offer some respite for a few minutes.


About seven or eight years ago I asked my sister-in-law Judy if she would teach me to knit and she said sure.  I have always admired my relatives and friends who could knit, crochet, and do other crafts.  I thought I would enjoy knitting while I talked or watched T.V.  Lord knows I could use the comfort and calm that such activities are supposed to provide.  I bought enough soft brown (mostly) alpaca yarn to knit Tom a scarf.  You will see below how far I got on the scarf.  I wanted to concentrate on my knit/ purl tasks, but sitting with my family on reunion weekend, I just couldn’t. The words were more important to me than the task, I guess.  Back home, I asked my friend Robin to help me back on track a couple of times, but I did not understand. I did not persevere.

my knitting

A couple of years later when my friend Donna heard this story, she offered to teach me to crochet instead. I tried. Donna was very patient. She told me there were YouTube videos I could watch to help me when I forgot–again–what I was supposed to do. You can see how far I got on whatever I was making below.

my crocheting

While I have not yet learned to do calming and lovely crafts–no March sister here knitting socks for the Union Army while waiting for Marmee to come home–I can do some things that comfort me some in these times.

 

 

For example:

I love nature and I love writing lists. Related to that, I have–sort of–wanted to be a naturalist for about 50 years. So, I love writing lists that include plants, animals, and specific tidbits about nature.  I recently started a list describing the flora and fauna of Hillside Park, a nearby little public park where Tom and I volunteer.  Just setting up the table and starting to list the trees helped me feel more relaxed than I had in days.  Here is a sample from the list:

Name Scientific Name Native? Notes
Trees/Shrubs  
arrowwood viburnum Viburnum dentatum yes
beech Fagus grandifolia yes
black cherry Prunus serotina yes
fragrant sumac Rhus aromatica yes
black locust Robinia pseudoacacia) yes
catalpa Catalpa speciosa yes blooming now; end of May
hackberry Celtis occidentalis yes
kousa dogwood Cornus kousa no
mulberry, prob white Morus alba no if this turns out to be red mulberry, it is a welcome native, but not likely, I think

oaks, Hillside Park, Arlington Virginia

Books about trees comfort me. Last week, Among the Ancients: Adventures in the Eastern Old-Growth Forests by Joan Maloof reminded me of old forests I have walked in. Just writing this now, this morning, calms my anxious heart a little.

Like so many others, I have been doing quite a bit of baking these last months.  Actually, I have needed to curtail this urge somewhat because a) while we do exercise and take walks, there has been a great deal of sitting while reading, watching T.V. and, for me, compulsive solitaire playing b) we don’t have the metabolisms we had back in the day when I would bake a treat every day.

butter tarts with Michigan cherries and walnuts

Even more than my baking, watching Tom cook old favorites–remembering happy times with family and friends–comforts me.  Both my appetite and my heart have been satisfied with Tom’s meals: Lasagna, albondigas soup, chile verde, meatballs and tomato sauce!

I don’t think listening to music calms me down; more like it excites me, makes me cry, and, sometimes gives me the shivers–but those reactions provide their own comfort. Mostly, we listen to classical music, but lately we have also been listening to folk and rock, too.  Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Doc Watson, the Beatles, even the Beach Boys (Good Vibrations), have caused that sharp intake of breath.

I have been thinking about Leonard Cohen these last several days. The song I am particularly  thinking about is Democracy. I hope Leonard is right and that someday (soon) , “Democracy is coming to the USA.”  This idea comforts me and I still (mostly) believe it. Please be well. Please be safe. Peace.

Love,  Lynda

 

This May and Others

At least by my personal reckoning, we didn’t have real winter this year here in Arlington, Virginia. There were a handful of cold days and some smatterings of snow, but that was it.* Missing winter, spring began earlier than usual.  Maybe that was a foreshadowing of catastrophe that I shouldn’t have missed.

I last went to a museum on March 11. We had two of our children over for dinner on March 13. We went camping March 14. Things were changing and then they were changing more.

March ended and April came–sometimes with its showers–always with sadness and worry.   It is May now and we do have flowers.  I still have few words worth sharing, but I thought I would post some May flowers from now and from other times.  I wish you well; I hope you will be safe.

May 2, 2020, Arlington, Virginia

May 22, 2019, Arlington, Virginia

May 22, 2019, Arlington, Virginia

May 4, 2018, Washington, D.C.

May 4, 2018, Washington, D.C.

May 10, 2017, Charlottesville, Virginia

May 19, 2016, Washington, D.C.

May 16, 2015, Charlottesville

May 16, 2015, Charlottesville, Virginia

May 19, 2014, Denver, Colorado

May 14, 2013, Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia


* I admit to wearing my long underwear quite a bit on my walks even without the winter, but  that’s just because I am such a bona fide sweater-wearing old person now. This from one who used to pride herself on running out to the mailbox barefoot through the snow!

April 15, 2020

On my solitary and socially distant walks, I think about what words to write here and what photos I might share.  Then, in the face of almost 27,000 deaths just in the United States, let alone the whole world,  I know I can’t write about socks, as I recently mentioned.

afternoon walk garb, pandemic

I wake in early hours beset with worry and sorrow. I go down the list of my loved ones: please be safe. If you can’t be safe, please know I love you.

My glass half-full is leaking.

Still, I try to say thanks and to be grateful and that helps.

Thank you

  • to all the thousands–millions–of medical workers, service workers, cleaners, post office workers, workers from home, moms and dads, the workers now without jobs, the volunteers, the homeless, and the hungry–all of you.
  • to Rebekah, Donna, Dorothy, and all the others making face masks here in the land of plenty.
  • to the food banks, Jose Andres, David Guas, and all the others in my neighborhood and in yours feeding people.
  • to Shilpa, who got us our groceries, and all the other helpers.
  • to my friends for being in my heart, as always.

face mask

I am grateful

  • for Tom and our children. I say their names in the early morning darkness. Be safe, be well.
  • for my parents, brothers, and their families– even more grateful these days.
  • for the mockingbird who sings on the top of the holly tree in the (almost) secret garden I have been walking in alone this past month.
  • for the other birds and the flowers and the spring trees.

mockingbird on holly tree

cherry petals and liriope

Freedom Park, Arlington, Virginia, April 2020

Please be safe and please be well and I will try to do the same. I will be back soon.

 

Trees, Part 2: Photos

I’ve had plenty of time on my hands and I haven’t been reading as much as usual, (except for the coronavirus news). As I mentioned in an earlier post, I haven’t been going to the condo gym and exercising in the living room hasn’t been too interesting or invigorating.  Anyhow, to soothe myself, and maybe you, I thought I would put up some more tree photos with little narratives to go with them.

Well, I found the photos I wanted, but the little snippets sounded like I was back in high school journalism class (if not junior high journalism class).  The writing needs work, but I don’t have the words right now.  However, Virginia’s Governor, Ralph Northam, just gave us the stay-at-home order. I want to send the trees out now with the promise of some words soon.

Please stay safe; please stay well.

Trees

Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) in the neighborhood, Arlington, Virginia

Garden of the Gods

Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum) Garden of the Gods,  Colorado Springs, Colorado

smoothbark Arizona cypress

smoothbark Arizona cypress (Cypressus arizonica), Sedona, Arizona

Congaree National Park

old growth bottomland hardwood forest, Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) at sunset, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Transept Canyon from Widforss Point

ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa), Transept Canyon from Widforss Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Shenandoah National Park

mixed forest, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

American elm (Ulmus americana) in front of the Museum of Natural History

American elm (Ulmus americana) in front of the Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.

 

cottonwood near Canyonlands National Park

cottonwoods (Populus fremontii) near Canyonlands National Park, Utah

redbuds (Cercis canadensis) and gravestones

redbuds (Cercis canadensis) and gravestones, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

old growth white pine (Pinus strobus), Cook Forest State Park, Pennsylvania

Trees

treehugger, Inyo National Forest, California

I love–and I don’t believe that is hyperbole–many kinds of trees. When I was a small child,  I loved the Colorado blue spruce on a nearby street in my Detroit neighborhood.  Even as a little kid, I think I knew what an excellent blue spruce it was and at Christmastime there were holiday lights on it.

In my mind, I see the trees of our home on the lake almost as vividly as I see my dad raking the leaves or my mom taking care of the petunias in the window box by the door (later, as the trees grew ever larger, I think she had to put in impatiens). Mostly we had oaks–my Dad said they were black oaks– and hickories.  We had a sassafras down by the lake and, for a while, a cherry up by the mailbox.

Once I traveled west in 1970, I loved the ponderosas, pinyons, junipers. aspens,  bristlecone pines, and many others. When I moved to Virginia, I fell in love with the tulip poplars.

pinyon pine, Canyonlands National Park

pinyon pine, Canyonlands National Park

 

aspens, La Sal Mountains

bristlecone pine, Great Basin National Park

tulip poplar, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

What I can’t understand is how I failed to focus on sycamores for so many decades. I started noticing them about six years ago in Arizona.  Then, back here in Virginia, I finally noticed that sycamores stand sentinel along the Potomac and the Shenandoah Rivers (among others). Wild, ragged, and ghostly:  Sycamores make me think about the tangled beauty of this world.

Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii), Ramsey Canyon Preserve

Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii), Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Arizona

sycamore on the banks of the Shenanandoah River

American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) on the banks of the Shenandoah River, Virginia

Spring 2020

I’m here and I’m okay.  I guess you are there at your place and I hope you are okay, too.

Today I

  • made a half-hearted attempt to do my “classical stretching” with Miranda Esmonde-White on PBS,
  • thought about and talked with Tom about who and what I am grateful for,
  • did 55 minutes of stretching exercises in the living room (because we don’t feel secure using the condo gym now),
  • completed a desultory ten minutes of  focused/deep-breathing meditation or whatever ( I am so bad at this),
  • walked a couple of miles in the cool and sunny early afternoon,
  • and made a loaf of Irish brown soda bread.

Irish brown soda bread

The easy, quick, and tasty recipe I use comes from Cook’s Illustrated, but there are many other recipes available from The Fanny Farmer Baking Book to King Arthur Flour and Food Network online. I was going link to the recipe or write it out below, but, since one can’t access the recipe without registering on the Cook’s Illustrated site, I decided I may not have a clear right to do that. So, when this mess is all over, maybe we can break (this) bread together.

What I really want to write about today

It’s my mother’s stainless steel mixing bowl I am thinking about today.  I don’t know whether or not my parents received the Revere Ware mixing bowl set for their wedding or at some time later. I do know that I have used this bowl all of my life, since I could first stir anything.  I first learned the difference between beating, mixing, and folding within this bowl. In this bowl we took turns beating the eggs for the angel food birthday cakes that we loved. My brothers and I used this bowl when we made cookies on summer days (see Swedish Ice Box Cookies).

my mother’s stainless steel mixing bowl

I used the bowl again today to make the Irish brown soda bread to brighten up our self-isolating dinner tonight. The bowl worked perfectly, as it always does, and the loaf looks good.

Irish brown soda bread

What I want to think about today

Every day, I think about my mother and father and I think about how lucky my brothers and I are to have known them and felt their practical love and kindliness. Today, particularly, I am thinking of them because of the current world crisis we are sharing in. If my parents were here now, I believe they would face the challenges with practicality and kindliness. I hoist my slice of bread high with gratitude and hope.

 

 

The News I Need

I started  compulsively reading The Washington Post online the morning of September 11, 2001 in my office in Northwest Washington, D.C. After the attacks there were the anthrax letters and the snipers. My office was only a few miles from my home, but it was across the Potomac River. I used to fantasize about how –if Chain Bridge were blown up–I could swim across.  I didn’t need to resort to that and things returned to an uncomfortable new normal.

The last few days, I have been reading the  paper compulsively again. Sure enough, almost every time I log on, there is a new red (or sometimes black) breaking news banner. I am resolving to control myself. Tom and I plan on going camping tomorrow.

The News I Need Today

Although people will not be able to see it for awhile (the Smithsonian Institution is closing for now), there is a lovely exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum: Chiura Obata: American Modern. Obata’s art and his words are the news I need today. Please be well.

Sequoia feet

Sequoia feet