Category Archives: our times

Spring 2022

I find myself thinking of the other two springs of our pandemic (e.g., the last trip to the museum in March 2020, the relief with the second vaccination in March 2021). Now, I think about war and children, family and friends–many here and some gone away. Some mornings, I find it hard to get out of bed. This week, however, I can still blame it on the recent change to Daylight Savings Time. I do, by the way, get out of bed–usually by 6:15 A.M. or earlier. I have my coffee and toast with peanut butter and banana, I do my old person stretches as the sun rises, and then I try to do useful things through the day. Generally, the more I do, the better the days are. Now that the weather is warming and the daylight is increasing, I feel more hopeful–in spite of the loneliness of missing far away family and friends, sickness, war, and social strife. I think I am feeling more happy because it is spring in this still beautiful world. Happy Spring!

arugula seedlings
crane-fly orchid, Piscataway Park, Maryland
pear tree and fence, National Colonial Farm at Piscataway Park
Potomac River at Piscataway Park, March 2022
lobelia on our balcony
cherry blossoms and branch, Tidal Basin, March 22, 2022
morning, Tidal Basin, March 22, 2022
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, March 22, 2022

Happy New Year, 2022

When I first considered writing this article, I briefly thought about calling it just “New Year, 2022.” This would be my snarky comment about the state of the continuing pandemic, our national politics, climate disasters, and just about everything else. My terse title would say: nope, not expecting happy things this year either. Almost immediately, though, I remembered that snarky and cynical don’t look well on me. More importantly, I see that all jumbled up with my weariness and anxiety are bits of happiness (or contentment or, at least, acceptance).*

January 31 As it is, I have put off finishing this post until the last day of the month. Luckily, Lunar New Year is beginning, so I am coming in just under the wire. Here is a list of things that make me feel better about going into a new year. I need this list to remind myself of all the good parts of my life.

The people abide. I walk by playgrounds and I see children playing as they always do. Parents are keeping an eye on the kids as parents do. Every time we go to the National Mall, Tom and I see people enjoying the museums, gardens, the ice rink, and food trucks. Despite the continual dose of disturbing news–let alone the wars and rumors of wars–I see helpers and kind people around me every day. I see the workers at my condo and my local grocery store, and those who seek out and help all the lost and lonely ones.

Mosaic Park, Arlington, Virginia

My county still has heart. Tom and I first moved to Arlington County, Virginia in June 1978 and have lived here on an off since. Our children went to school here. In the 1980s we lived a couple blocks from Arlington CentraI Library where I worked part-time. Later I taught immigrants and refugees in Arlington. We were here on September 11, 2001 and saw the Pentagon burning. Again, three decades later, we live a couple blocks from Central Library. Now, in Covid times, Central Library has free WiFi for all in the parking lot, a food pantry, a vegetable patch, and is surrounded by a native plant garden. Most importantly, perhaps, is the library’s strong stand as a safe place for everyone in the community.

Arlington Central Library, Arlington, Virginia

Nature comforts me. I find both wonder and solace in the plants, animals, rocks, and sky that I encounter.

sycamore, Theodore Roosevelt Island
oak tree, Arlington, VA
frog at Long Branch Nature Center
Shenandoah National Park, 2021

Dawn comes. Every day we see the morning light. We follow that light through the day until it is evening. All the light warms us.

dawn comes

We have family, friends, music, and food. I remember the many good parts of my life. I also remember those who have gone. I have listened to Tom play Mozart sonatas almost every day of the pandemic and I feel lucky. It’s the time of year when I remember “Auld Lang Syne.” I shiver or cry or both when I hear the song. I want and need that cup.

For old acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind
Should old acquaintance be forgot
In the days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet
For the sake of auld lang syne

Hope is still around here somewhere. So many words from the wise ones exhort people to live for the day, be in the present, etc. I am on board with that-not that I can do it all that much. I still spend plenty of emotional time in the past and the future, and I am not sure that is all bad. Just a couple of weeks ago, I made camping reservations for early June in Arizona and Utah. Tom and I don’t know how we will feel or how things will be shaping up with the pandemic. We don’t know much of anything. However, we remember the places and people we love from the old days. Maybe we can get to the North Rim another time. Maybe we can visit Capitol Reef and camp on the Aquarius Plateau. Maybe we can go back to Fishlake National Forest and be near Pando (a clonal colony of quaking aspen considered by some to be the largest single living organism on earth) one more time. Maybe we will drink a cup of kindness again with the friends of our youth (now of our age). I am hoping.

I recently bought a new head lamp. I am hoping it will lead me through dark nights to bright dawns.

my new headlamp

*If I were grading this essay, I would comment on the need for more specific language than “happiness” or “contentment.” I hope the examples and the photos add some heft to the words. Happy New Year! (Added 1/31/2022: Chúc mừng năm mới).

Summer 2021, Part 2: Photos

This summer–like all the other summers I’ve known–seems beautiful.* Even with the loss, the sickness, the uncertainty, the worry, the fires, the floods, the wars, and all the rest of it, I am trying (fitfully, I admit) to see some good in this world. I do see it in my stalwart family and friends and in the sky, plants, and animals. I don’t have much to say, at least much that is new, but I hope you enjoy the photos.

Bartholdi Fountain, Bartholdi Park, Washington, D.C.
milkweed longhorn beetle (genus Tetraopes) Mt. Cuba Center, Hockessin, Delaware
garden–inside and outside of our condo
Regional Garden, U.S. Botanic Gardens, Washington, D.C.
bee on pickerel weed, Regional Garden, U.S. Botanic Gardens, Washington, D.C.
New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis), Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia
bishop’s hat (Epimedium brachyrrhizum), Mary Livingston Ripley Garden
tawny (?) skipper on unidentified flower
wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia), Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia

*Sometimes I find it difficult to be hopeful without sounding like some superannuated, prissy Pollyanna. I really don’t think I am a Pollyanna; I think I am more of an inveterate idealist. Whatever I might be, I still find myself sad and angry quite often. For example, yesterday I discovered that someone had ripped out the two pink fuzzybean plants off a trellis in Hillside Park. I had transplanted these plants from Arlington’s native plant nursery last fall. I watched the plants as they came up in late spring and cheered them on as they grew up the trellis and spread wider and wider flinging out their green leaves to the wider world. Did someone think they were getting rid of noxious weeds? Was some person or persons just wreaking a little casual cruelty on the park? I don’t know, of course, but I was sad and angry. It was a petty little anger amid the current sorrows of the world and of humankind. However, the hopeful part of me is wondering now whether the plants will grow back from their roots in another season. I wish them well.

Spring 2021

spring near the Arts and Industries Building, National Mall, Washington, D.C.

I started writing a post in early April–it is still in my drafts file–but I got annoyed by WordPress’ new publishing format and let my words and photos dangle in the airless vault of the Internet. Even though “technology” was featured in two of my most recent job titles, I am somewhat of a Luddite. However, I do think that as programs, platforms, applications, and what-all become more streamlined and standardized, it is possible that creative work can become overly lockstep. Enough of my carping excuses for my procrastination: I want to write about spring before Memorial Day!

I might have shaded the truth a bit (above) about the reason/s for my procrastination. What is slowing me down is that I keep thinking about the almost 600,000 people who have died of Covid-19 in the United States and the millions more around the world, and about those who loved and cared for them. Also, I live 4.5 miles away (by foot) from the U.S. Capitol and I was under curfew on January 6, 2021. That spooked me and saddened me. Before the Inauguration, Tom saw an armed gunboat patrolling the Potomac River near Georgetown. When the celebratory fireworks began on Inauguration night, I worried that our country and its institutions were under attack again. I continue to be gobsmacked by lies, disrespect, viciousness, and what-all. Also, I feel somewhat discomfited about how lucky I have been through all this mess and about the–mostly–good spring I have had.

cherry tree, Arlington, Virginia
tulips in Rosslyn
golden ragwort

Some Paragraphs

  • I have been wanting to tell you this for awhile: For months, I got through each day by getting the next day’s coffee ready ridiculously early, like at 1 p.m. I wasn’t sure I had the emotional energy to get the coffee machine ready before bed, let alone the next morning. Not a solution to any problem, but, and this is the truth now, having the coffee ready to go helped me feel ready for whatever might be coming the next day.
  • I don’t usually pray, but I do try to send good thoughts and love to our children and their families every night. Some nights, I fall asleep before I finish my good thoughts.
  • It has been almost nine weeks since our second vaccinations. Tom and I have been lucky to see and hug many family members and friends. We have been to Shenandoah National Park, Williamsburg, Pittsburgh, and Shaker Heights, Ohio. We have more jaunts in the works. Now, we are staying fairly close to home. Later, we don’t know where we will go. We are still waiting to find out which way the wind is blowing.
Shenandoah National Park
  • We have had a beautiful spring here. I think we always have beautiful springs wherever we are, but this season has been another one. On April 26 on Theodore Roosevelt Island I noted these flora and fauna: Carolina wren with oak catkin in mouth, another C wren?, another wren or warbler???, mallards, heard red-winged blackbird, several birds I couldn’t identify, turkey vultures, robins, sparrows, lots of minnows from bridge by the marsh, cabbage butterflies, other butterflies–slight possibility of a zebra swallowtail?, pawpaws-no flowers, tall meadow rue, lots of garlic mustard, Virginia waterleaf, Hartford fern?, horsetails. As usual, I had a few questions about what I observed. I can report that I have now seen some blooming pawpaws and that the tall meadow rue is going into flower. Note: All these nature words aren’t just small items on a useless list; they keep me close to the ground where–even in difficult times–I feel safe.
Virginia waterleaf, Theodore Roosevelt Island
trees and sun, Theodore Roosevelt Island

Spring did come after that difficult winter and now summer is about to follow. The 17-year cicadas are tuning up around here and the roses are coming out. I hope to see some of you soon. So long (as my Dad would say) and best wishes.

Winter 2021

I started this article a week ago during Arlington’s small bout of snow and ice.  I couldn’t seem to figure out how to effectively reconcile my homebound (from weather and pandemic) current self with younger versions of me who always loved to be out in the snow and ice. I didn’t want to have to find the words for all those winter feelings I didn’t feel this year. (See Winter: January 1, 2019 for some of my words about winter). Today, I realize that I don’t need to dig for those words and feelings anymore. I have received my first Covid-19 vaccination, I have walked five miles today, buds are plumping up on the witch hazel in Hillside Park, and spring is coming soon.  Before spring arrives in earnest, I want to share some words and photos about my favorite refuge during this winter of our pandemic and social disunion.

witch hazel, Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia

This winter, I have been walking often on Theodore Roosevelt Island, which is 0.8 miles from our condo.  It’s not the ponderosas on the North Rim or the slickrock in Canyonlands, but I do love this tiny little bit of the national park system, just as I love the other parks.

While TR Island is only 88.5 acres, heavily visited (over 160,000 people visit yearly), and cheek by jowl with our hyper-urban Rosslyn, Arlington neighborhood, when I am on the island I find respite from this distressing time. I would have thought that walking here on this island–a little over a stone’s throw across the water from the Kennedy Center–would be much different from walking on the North Rim or in Canyonlands, but, somehow, it feels much the same. I glimpse a red-bellied woodpecker, I see the mallards paddle around the marsh, and I marvel at the fungus on the stump. I want to hug the beech trees. The underbrush all mixed together with water, snow, and leaves reminds me of the lakes of my childhood. I find solitude on the island’s Upland Trail. Seeing the Paul Manship statue of Theodore Roosevelt lifts my spirits.  None of the U.S. presidents have been without flaws, but, still, on every trip to the island, seeing the statue, of Theodore Roosevelt, who signed the Antiquities Act of 1906, eased some of my pain related to the presidency of Donald Trump. Time after time in these last months, while my mind and heart were filled with worry and sadness, my feet headed toward the island where my body, mind, and heart revived.

I keep meaning to go to the island early in the day with my binoculars. I want to sit on a bench on the boardwalk and listen to and watch the birds. I think I will go next week. Soon enough, I will be hearing the frogs.

 

sycamore along the river

mallards, theodore Roosevelt Island

forest floor, Theodore Roosevelt Island

stump and fungus, Theodore Roosevelt Island

beech leaf, Theodore Roosevelt Island

leaves and log with snow, Theodore Roosevelt Island

marsh, Theodore Roosevelt Island`

Theodore Roosevelt statue, Theodore Roosevelt Island


I hope you are vaccinated or will be soon. I hope you will be able to visit loved ones soon. I hope spring will come soon for us all.

 

 

 

Observations: Words and Photos

Note: Since I last posted on November 21, 2020, about 60,000 more Americans have died of the Covid-19 virus.  Despite the title of this article, I don’t have any words or photos able to deal with that.  I do, though, have the need to keep on– to crouch here close to the ground and reach upward–and to feel (much of the time) hopeful. So, here are the words and photos I do have.


Sentences

On Wednesday, I heard the Kings College Choir, Cambridge  rendition of  “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” including the words, “peace on earth and mercy mild.” Of course, I know the lines–I have been singing that song for over 60 years.  I can see myself in my bedroom back in Detroit singing carols alone in my bedroom. I don’t know why the words like peace, mercy, silent, holy, gloria, and the rest seemed so important to my earnest little self, but they did.  What struck my heart this time around were the words  “mercy mild.” In this year and in this time of year, I am wishing for mercy. The word sounded fine enough when I was a little girl and I didn’t understand it; now I believe mercy is what all we humans need. Mild, too–what a concept–for these dragon-ridden* times. Mild like the touch of a little dog’s leg reaching out to pat my arm. Mild like the rustle of oak leaves on a walk through the woods in Shenandoah. Mild like the sounds of children playing outside.

holiday CDs**

leaves, Shenandoah National Park

Tom and I having been spending a great deal of ( I might say, “too much”) time at home, but it has been okay.  We have Zoom meetings with our children and others. Tom plays bridge online once a week with friends. We’ve also started playing games at the kitchen table that we used to play at campground picnic tables: Upwards and Boggle.  On the table we have a tiny hydroponic garden, which gives off a full spectrum, but mild, light. Tom has always been an excellent cook, but now he is outdoing himself.  For example, last night he made Pati Jinich’s tacos bravos and Sam Sifton’s chile crisp green beans! All I can say is that when we can host guests again, we will be ready.

Zoom platform

garden and light, December 2020

tacos bravos and chile crisp green beans

Tom and I  watch more TV than usual, but we also read, volunteer, and exercise (most days, I take walks and/or do my weights and stretches, but maybe not today).

planting black chokeberry

I hope you have happy holidays, and a more merciful and mild new year.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

*”Dragon-ridden” just came to mind. Then, I realized the word came from a favorite poem from my favorite 20th century poet: “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen” by W. B. Yeats. I recommend this poem in reference to Two Thousand and Twenty.

**For an agnostic, I have a surprisingly large collection of winter holiday music!

November 21, 2020

Thursday morning, I thought of a title for my latest (this is it) post: Hope in the Time of Pandemic. At 9:30 A.M. while Arlington County staff and volunteers were restoring native habitat in a corner of a little park [Benjamin Banneker Park) formerly covered with invasive bamboo, this self-assured title sounded about right.

Benjamin Banneker Park, Arlington, Virginia

getting ready to plant, November 19, 2020

planting, Benjamin Banneker Park, Arlington, Virginia

A few hours later, I decided that my nod to Garcia Marquez was too flippant when more than 250,000 people have died in our country. So, I thought I would call this article Hope and I wished that word would be appropriate and accurate.

Then, Thursday afternoon the news came about the mess in certifying the Wayne County, Michigan presidential votes. I took this issue to heart; I was born in Wayne County.  I did not feel hopeful at all.  Now, I didn’t have a name for this piece I was trying to write.

And so it has gone these last months: I am hopeful; I despair. My mind, heart, and gut seesaw.

Friday and today, Saturday, November 21, I feel more balanced. I am seeing the hopeful signs again: in my family and friends, in nature, even (sometimes) in the news.

I realized, again, that I do better when I am close to the ground.  When I tuck in the native plants, cold soil invigorates my senses and my hope revives. The fall palette–heavy on yellows and browns–calms my soul.  In the evening, the early darkness comforts me. The concurrent bonus for this early darkness is that Tom and I watch beautiful dawns from our living room almost every morning.

Amsonia (bluestar), Freedom Park, Rossyln, Arlington

strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus), November 20, 2020

stonecrop I planted in Hillside Park in late summer

dawn from our window, Rosslyn, Virginia

dawn from our window, Rosslyn, Virginia

My condolences to the families and friends of those who have fallen ill and died. My thanks to all those helpers out there.  Like Mr. Rogers’ mother told him to do, I do look for the helpers and I see them out there all around.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

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