Thursday, November 26, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: A Pandemic Playlist by Neil Elwell

A creepy sort of greeting on this pandemic thanksgiving
Due to rising Covid cases and the predicted second wave of the pandemic, we here in Washington state, like several other states, have have returned to a modified shelter-in-place. This means that today's typical stomach-stuffing and family gatherings are postponed, cancelled, or turned into a round of Zoom and Facetime meetups. 

As a child, I didn't have a family that was big on traditional meals or large gatherings. Once married, my sister tried a few times to create a semblance of the Norman Rockwell's painting with our family and her in-laws, and it was a damn good showing (she cooked it all, and Dad would fall asleep on the floor for the rest of the afternoon, hat tipped over his eyes). Those remain a few of my childhood memories of so many family members in the same place and time. But we were never a family that could sustain a tradition that seemed so asynchronous to who we were as anxiety-riddled humans who prefer small groups, or better, our own company.

As a teenager, I spent Thanksgiving morning working at the town's fine-dining restaurant, which hosted a bountiful Thanksgiving buffet. The tips were good due to the guilt-generosity of diners who relied on us to serve their meals instead of themselves. That morning always passed fairly quickly, and since it was a buffet, it required more preparation than the deep effort and juggling that comes with menu service. And the meal afterward, my goodness (a whole table dedicated to dessert!), and shared among fellow servers and cooks . . . well, it was pretty pleasant to eat good food with equally tired friends. 

Once married, I'd attend a traditional Thanksgiving at my husband's grandparents' house. This experience was a little startling because of its ease--everyone knew the order of events, what to say, and where to sit. Afterward, the elders gathered around the TV, and the cousins met on the carport to share memories of when they were kids at this same house on this same day. I hadn't known such families existed.    

Now, my former husband, my partner, and our son gather sometime after noon to share a simple meal of soup and bread and a warm pie. Afterward, we might go on a hike or walk around the neighborhood. It is finally what makes the most sense to who I am and who we are. That we all live between 400 and 2,000 miles from our first families helps to keep the day easy and delightful. Though, when asked what my plans are for Thanksgiving, I think my plans sound off-key to the questioner--or I imagine they do, lacking as they are the crowd and commotion the day seems advertised to require. 

Thankfully, I won't have any of that.

There is much to be discovered and enjoyed when we unravel traditions, rituals, and routines. 

And so today's pandemic meditation comes from no Thanksgiving tradition. 

Today's meditation is made of music. Many of us have relied on, returned to, and replayed songs and albums that bring us the most needed emotions, memories, and mind-states as we experience these sorrowful and surreal times. There is something to be thankful for, or just simply said, about what helps us cope with, or better think about, our lives and each other. 

Thank you very much to my friend and Spokane musician Neil Elwell for taking the time to create a playlist from the music he's been listening to, as he says, in "the ugly months of 2020." 

Perhaps you'll find yourself among songs this Thanksgiving Day. 

That would be good.

Listen.

~E.P.

๐Ÿ˜ท

Neil's Pandemic Playlist

by Neil Elwell

It would be cumbersome to write about all of the artists and music I've been listening to since the pandemic began, so I've broken it down to a few artists, albums, and tracks . . . Here ya go, Neil's Pandemic Playlist, in no particular order, a tip of the iceberg, but gems, nonetheless. (As always, your mileage may vary.)

Miles Davis' album In a Silent Way is the master's 1969 musical expression featuring keyboardists Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, and Chick Corea, with Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, John McLaughlin on guitar, and Tony Williams on skins . . . The entire side one of the original recording is 18 minutes of bliss, called "Shhhh/Peaceful"-- and it is.


Dire Straits, with Mark Knopfler at the helm released Love Over Gold in 1982. One of several amazing cuts is "Telegraph Road," a 14 minute tour-de-force featuring Knopfler's incredible guitar work and songwriting. DS had a great feel for dynamics, and in this cut, it shows.

Richard and Linda Thompsons' release Shoot Out the Lights (also from 1982) is a soul-baring musical chronicle of the Thompsons' impending divorce, at least in part. The track I find myself singing in my head is "Walking On a Wire," which shows Richard's songwriting talents and blistering guitar.

Musical maverick Paul Simon's 1986 recording Graceland dares you to not engage in foot-tapping and maybe a little dancing around the room. The title track and most of the album features mainly South African musicians. The Everly brothers, of all people, show up to provide background vocals. Wow!!

Ry Cooder's 2013 album Corridors Famosos, recorded live at SF's Great American Music Hall is a tour of the many lands that Mr. Cooder has visited (literally and musically) throughout his career. In this record, and onstage that night, were no less than 17 musicians--with Cooder and the band at the top of their game. My favorite track: "Crazy 'bout An Automobile"

Joni Mitchell's Hits is a mainly user-friendly compilation of her radio hits up until 1990. Another recording full of great tunes, with "Big Yellow Taxi" as one of the standout tracks.

Guitarist John Williams (and others) put together a fine tribute to guitar music Spanish Guitar Music. It offers the six-string masters performing Spain's folk music at a very high level. "Fandango" here is this record's amazing piece.

Tom Waits spends a lot of time blasting out of the speakers, inside and out, here at the hovel. No wonder the neighbors think I'm "weird." Nevertheless, all of Mr. Waits's records are magnificent, especially Small Change\ from 1976. "Tom Traubert's Blues" with the "waltzing Matilda" refrain is a long piece that's just about guaranteed to stick in your mind. All hail Tom Waits, is my motto.

This is just a small sampling of what I've listened to during the ugly months of 2020. Other artists include Muddy Waters, Emmylou Harris, Rolling Stones, Maria Muldaur, Howlin' Wolf, John Coltrane, James McMurtry, Peter Rowan, JGB, Robert Johnson, Weather Report, Earl King, Willie and Lukas Nelson, Neil Young, Django Reinhardt, Johnny Cash. Many more made it onto the turntable and into the cd player. 

It's tough and not a lot of fun, being locked down. 

Music helps. 

A lot.

๐†•

Neil Elwell
Neil Elwell is a Spokane musician, guitarist, singer, and gardener. When there isn't a pandemic, he plays in the two bands Doghouse Boyz and Laffin' Bones Blues Band





















Thursday, November 19, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: Missing in Edinburgh by Regi Claire

Every week since September, creatives of all sorts have been sharing reflections on the pandemic. This week, please welcome writer Regi Claire, who sends us these words from Scotland.

 ๐Ÿ˜ท

Missing in Edinburgh

by Regi Claire

flattened, photograph by MV (fa73)
from flickr, used under CC license

These past few months I have felt increasingly flat. Flat from the bottom up. From the worn soles of my purple docs to my no-appetite belly to the limp cling of my hair. Some days, my skull feels like a thinly papered room whose inhabitants have moved out and taken the furniture with them. 

My lassitude has caused time to slow down, down, down. I dream and dawdle. And yet the months since March have passed in a blur. Saturdays come round rollercoaster-fast; it feels as if my orchids and other plants need constant, rather than weekly watering. Time contracts and relaxes erratically, like a giant heart out of sync. No more rhythm to the beat. No more sense.

There has been a seismic shift in my approach to writing. I have downsized, you might say. My words now tend towards the miniature rather than the vast canvas. Composing poetry seems the answer to my scattered unsettledness. It all started one morning in May, at the height of the first wave of coronavirus infections here in the UK, when I received an email telling me that my first-ever poem, ‘(Un)certainties’, about my sister’s death at sea, had been shortlisted for the Forward Prizes, the most prestigious poetry prizes in the British Isles. I felt jolted out of myself. Buoyed up. Tearful too, because the poem had been my attempt to deal with a grief that threatened to overwhelm me. Since the arrival of that email, I have written only poetry, putting my work-in-progress, a novel-of-stories, to one side. The poems have come to me in fits and starts, between sleep and awakening, while I am brushing my teeth, putting on makeup, or walking our golden retriever.

The pandemic has made me seek out more solitary places that don’t require complicated choreographies of avoidance: during lockdown in March I discovered the large Commonwealth cemetery in our neighbourhood, where I occasionally meet with a writer friend and her puppy dog. Beneath its majestic beeches, birches, oaks, Scots pines, bushes and cherry trees – yes, with real cherries, though small and hard as marbles, fit only for the dead – rows of weathered old tombstones and recent graves extend across bumpy, root-thickened grassland. There are crows here and magpies, squirrels, owls, foxes and (so I hope) hedgehogs.

My husband reads to me when I do the cooking and the washing up. A treat of the first order. Not surprisingly perhaps, we have now fallen back on Wodehouse’s Blandings novels – a totally escapist indulgence.

I miss not being able to visit friends in their homes or welcome them to our flat. Only once was it possible to enjoy a socially distanced meal (and movie) in the house of friends. But we have been to some delightful outdoor tea parties, even in numbing temperatures, also a fantastic barbecue and several sun-dappled al-fresco summer lunches complete with white tablecloths, wine and strawberries, as perfect as any French impressionist painting. My American writer friend, who lives at the other end of the Meadows park, has promised us a traditional Thanksgiving dinner next spring, or whenever local virus restrictions permit. And we look forward to reciprocating with them all.

I miss not being able to teach face to face. For a while I ran my creative writing and critical reading groups on Skype and Zoom, but the rapport, the magic that binds people together in one room as they breathe the same air, share biscuits and cups of coffee, that atmosphere of quick-flitting glances, nods and smiles just can’t be replicated on screen. For me, online workshops, despite all the laughter and easy familiarity, can never achieve that level of intimacy. Still, many of my students are keen to resume and I have decided to run my courses again in early 2021. I know this will inspire me to read more widely, and I hope my own creativity will take off in all sorts of exciting, unexpected directions.

And I miss not being able to travel. Our annual trip to Switzerland to see family and friends was cancelled by the airline. Thanks to generous Scottish friends who offered us their fabulous pieds-ร -terre further down the coast and who drove us there and back, we had a holiday all the same (we don’t own a car anymore and with our compromised immune systems would have felt uneasy staying at a hotel or guesthouse). That week of sunshine retains a brightness and intensity in my mind that seems to illuminate the whole year – and to hold within it the immensity of the sea and the sky, the joy of our retriever chasing into the surf after sticks, the soar and swoop of birds, the orange flare of the sea buckthorn above the dunes, and the breeze recharging every fibre in our bodies. 

When not writing, walking the dog, doing housework, fiddling with my iPhone or calling friends and family, I spend chunks of time administering our life so we don’t have to go to the stores. Several friends with cars have been incredibly helpful with our shopping. We live in Edinburgh’s university district, which due to its high density of student accommodation has become one of Scotland’s coronavirus hotspots, and I currently buy almost everything online: groceries, dog food, vitamins, CBD oil, red wine, toner cartridges, printer paper, books, specialist lightbulbs for the tenement stairs, a spray shower hose, a toilet seat and, just the other week, a washing machine… 

Instead of novels and thrillers, I often read product reviews, especially the bad ones. Seldom in recent weeks have I laughed as hard as when checking out one-star reviews of toilet seats. The ‘best’ one included a video, complete with sound effects, of a slow-close lid that creaked so hideously it could have come straight out of a Hammer horror movie. It made for compulsive viewing, even at one o’clock in the morning.

Today I ordered a five-star shampoo and a conditioner promising gloss and volume. Tomorrow I will get myself a new pair of docs. And then I am going to bake an apple pie from the fruit picked in the orchard of friends. I will drop off a couple of slices for them and some more for our other friends; and we will sit in their winter-ready gardens, wrapped in our padded jackets, hands round a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and catch up on life. We will eat and drink and be merry (and celebrate the outcome of the US election) even in the midst of looming Brexit and this paralysing pandemic.

๐Ÿ“–


Regi Claire and Leila, photo by Dawn Marie Jones (used with permission)
Regi Claire is a novelist (The Waiting, The Beauty Room), short story writer (Fighting It, Inside~Outside) and recent poet. Born and brought up in Switzerland, she now lives in Scotland with her husband, the author Ron Butlin, and their golden retriever.

Regi’s poem, ‘(Un)certainties’, won the Mslexia/Poetry Book Society Women’s Poetry Competition 2019 and was shortlisted for the Forward Prizes 2020 (for Best Single Poem). She is the winner of a UBS Cultural Foundation award and a two-time finalist for the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year awards.

Before the pandemic, Regi taught a class in creative writing at Edinburgh City Art Centre and a couple of critical reading groups, one of them at Edinburgh University.








Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Erin Pringle to beam into ISU's Theodore Dreiser Visiting Writer Series

Once upon a time, about twenty years ago, I was a college student living in an apartment at the back of a red brick house that shared a back alley with a bowling alley and the dumpsters for Mogger's Restaurant and the Tap Room. 

By day, I spent my time in the halls of Root Hall at Indiana State University (ISU), most often with my best friend Alexa--whether we were in class, picking up free books in boxes outside professors' offices, or smoking cigarettes on the picnic bench outside the building.

By night, I wrote in the screen light of my iMac in my kitchen, drank too much wine, and crossed the driveway to the Tap Room or to my best friend's apartment. Sometimes, I'd carry my dirty dishes to her because I hated washing dishes and she would do that for me, knowing that it was that or I'd leave them to mold then throw away.  

At the time, I didn't know how fleeting those years would be or that not every university would be as wonderful, or that not every English department kept their doors open and inviting to students. 

Of course, twenty years have passed somehow, and Alexa has died, my former professors are retired, teaching elsewhere, or in the grave. A few of the stories I wrote in the Creative Writing classes appear in my first book, The Floating Order ("Losing, I Think"; "Wednesday Night Reflections, Edited Thursday"; and "Remember Ella"), and the initial idea for my newest novel (Hezada! I Miss You) was seeding itself.

One of my favorite departmental events was the "Always on Friday" presentations at which professors shared what they were working on--and, bonus, there'd be doughnuts in the kitchen. 

Another perk was the Creative Writing Department's Theodore Dreiser Visiting Writer Series, wherein the department would bring writers to campus to talk with the students and share their own work. 

I'm happy to say that now I'll be on the other side of the podium, virtual as that podium may be. And I hope you can make it.

As much as I desperately wish I could be there in person, and that you could be there in person, we know what times we live in, so we must be together virtually. 

The event is free and open to the public, whether you live in, near, or far from Terre Haute, Indiana and the ISU campus.




Holiday Book Deal: Hezada! I Miss You all wrapped up

“It’s haunting. It’s lovely. It’s an utterly painful and beautiful look at how life passes." 
The Austin Chronicle 

Hezada! I Miss You

Let's celebrate your person and my book by sending them a copy of Hezada! I Miss You this holiday season.

๐Ÿ’ Personalized/Signed copy
๐Ÿ’ Handwritten note from you (as transcribed from your order request)
๐Ÿ’ Lovingly wrapped
๐Ÿ’ Sent directly to their mailbox via USPS

$18

Begin your order by sending me a message through my contact form: http://www.erinpringle.com/p/contact-her.html

About Hezada!
The last Midwestern traveling circus is due to arrive in a rural village it has visited for a century of summers. Like the village, the circus is on its last leg. It’s down to one elephant and a handful of acrobats. The circus boss’s sweetheart is dying. The former starring act is recovering from cancer. The assistant, Frank, plans to retire after this show. Meanwhile, twins Heza and Abe wander the hot fields and roads, waiting for the circus or anything better. Hezada! I Miss You is a novel that explores tradition, love, and suicide—set under the fading tents of small-town America and the circus.


๐Ÿ˜

Other ordering options/on the shelves right now:

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: The Expansiveness of a Heart by Jade Violeta Antonette

Every week, artists of every medium contribute their thoughts, creations, and reflections on living during the pandemic. This week's contributor is Jade Violeta Antonette whose essay reminds us that despite how the pandemic has shifted our perception of time, much can still change in our loves, lives, and relationships--and even then, there are rocks to sit among and rivers rushing to reflect our ache and beauty.

Please welcome Jade Violeta Antonette to the series. 

~E.P.

๐Ÿ˜ท

The Expansiveness of a Heart

by Jade Violeta Antonette

Leading up to the due date for this submission, I’d prepared a slightly different (actually very different) Pandemic Meditation contribution. It was focused on inner-child work and the things I realized I was no longer “surviving” from my past. Intuitively, I felt this submission was preparing me to make room for greater emotional capacity for whatever was to come. Little did I know, the day before I was ready to turn in this piece, my ex broke up with me. 

I did not know that my advanced intuition would be so very literal and fast-coming.

I wondered what it meant about me that we couldn’t make this relationship work. I am a healing practitioner in a multitude of ways – I’m a Reiki practitioner, a therapist, and a facilitator. But then I remembered two things – there are wisdom and skill in honoring the natural intelligence of a thing, like when it’s time to part ways. And in a much less esoteric sense, I had also been on the fence and at the end of the day, we had done the best we could. 

Mural: Girl with the D Earring by Sydney G. James
photo from here
We parted ways without enacting self-betrayal that would have had us move beyond our own boundaries for the comfort of the other. 

We parted with a mutual appreciation for each other, our Sunday adventures cooking together, riding across the city on bikes, and viewing the spectacular Sydney G. James mural, “Girl With the D Earring.” 

Like many who began dating during the Pandemic, we had regular conversations around COVID testing, social distancing, and what it meant to be a part of each other’s pods. I’m grateful to have been in practice of what it looks like to date during these times where the grandeur of loss is ever-present. With the closing of this relationship, there is far more to be grateful for than to lament. 

And honestly, I’m pretty happy to reorganize my priorities and get clearer on how I am looking for partners to show up for me while dating inside of so much social unrest. For example, do we emotionally cope with navigating late stage capitalism in a way that is compatible? Do we both have the skills to hold space for new lovers during uncertain times?

I walk away with new questions after this departure. And, it took a lot of generative and beautiful (though sometimes very difficult) emotional labor to romantically connect with another during a pandemic, particularly as a Black queer femme. 

To celebrate the expansiveness of my heart after the breakup, I journaled a little bit on what ‘lovers’ mean to me, and then I made myself into a lover and gave myself a self-care photoshoot! I share both with you this month. 

Sometimes, lovers are hosts through various portals of our lives. They introduce us to deeper versions of ourselves if we're willing. We move through these portals with lovers in a way that we may not with other dear ones - not due to disproportionately centering romantic relationships, but because romantic spaces are also sites of praxis, another window through which we can observe how we show up in the world, another window through which we can understand limitations, boundaries, and the extent to which we're open to expanding. Romantic relationships in many spaces are sometimes seen as tertiary, frivolous, or a-political but that's not true. We can learn a lot about our values or how much we are in integrity to our values through the people we share so much of our emotional, energetic, and physical bodies with. So lovers, I like to think of them as hosts (and not teachers). They are people to say thank you to when hosting duties are complete... 
Jade Violeta Antonette, a dark-skinned Black person, sits on top of a wooden staircase outdoors with a shadow over her face. She is wearing a black top, blue jeans, and a red beret. There are trees with changing leaves in the background.
Jade Violeta Antonette, Self-care photoshoot 1

Jade Violeta Antonette, a dark-skinned Black person, sits on top of a wooden staircase outdoors with a shadow over her face. She is wearing a black top, blue jeans, and a red beret. There are trees with changing leaves in the background.
Jade Violeta Antonette, Self-care photoshoot 2

This pandemic meditation is an invitation for myself and anyone who reads this to give ourselves permission during these wild and uncertain times to do one small thing today to make ourselves into a lover - to acknowledge and celebrate that we’ve made it this far. It is unclear what lies ahead inside of a year with so much involuntary restructuring of our lives, personal losses, a global pandemic, state violence, and more. 

But, is it still possible to affirm that we still have a life worth living by doing the things that bring us into ‘exquisite care’?

I say… 

Yes ๐Ÿ’“

๐Ÿ•ฎ

About today's contributor: Jade Violeta Antonette is a healing practitioner based in Michigan who deeply values working with the health and healing of the mind, body, spirit, and emotional selves. The mediums through which she does this work includes facilitation, introspective writing, and clinical therapy. To learn more or connect, you can find her on Instagram: @black_brewhaha.





Thursday, November 5, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: Walking Away by Cynthia Pringle

As part of this week's Pandemic Meditations, my sister-in-law Cynthia Pringle, shares her Covid story.

๐Ÿ˜ท

Walking Away

by Cynthia Pringle


Age before Beauty by Cynthia Pringle
(used with permission)


About ten years ago, my husband and I moved to a nearby town and into an apartment in a senior living facility. Soon after, I began working there--from escorting residents to the dining area, to helping tidy their apartments, to sitting with them and singing songs to reading or listening to their stories and memories. 

A few years later, my husband and I move into a house, which is better for us and our large dogs, but of course, I continue to work at the facility and with the people who are not only residents but also my community. Sometimes, I bring the dogs by to visit their old friends. My husband and I become involved in helping monarch butterflies migrate to and from Mexico. We share the butterflies and their habitats with the residents. We make a film about it. We give special showing and the residents watch and eat popcorn. 

The residents and I celebrate birthdays and holidays together. We notice the weather. We remark on the news, the food, books, art, the coming days. New friends arrive. Old friends leave. We grieve together. I work there, but it's a work that feels less like work and more like the days I lived with and cared for my grandmother in her final years. 

Years pass like this. 

Then, Covid comes.

When the wave of Covid-19 suddenly hits, the senior living facility is put on lockdown. No visitors are allowed. Outside activities such as the monthly musical entertainment party and popular monthly dinner event that features a speaker are cancelled. The volunteers from the Methodist Church cannot come to lead worship. The beauty shop is closed. And so the staff takes on more duties--leading the residents in worship, calling bingo, playing music via YouTube on a projector screen. Family visits take place via phone calls or FaceTime or window visits. I bring in my banjo ukulele and play old gospel songs during our singalong sessions.

Two months pass. Everything is still in lockdown.

Don's beard is getting long. He wants it trimmed.
Opal wants her hair cut and set.
Rowena needs her bangs trimmed.
Even Thelma, the cook, is desperate to get her hair cut.
Everyone’s hair is getting long and unruly.

But then the owner, Jim, decides to reopen the beauty shop for a day of serious haircutting — even for Jim and his wife, Laura. The problem is, the coronavirus is still raging through Illinois, and nursing homes are proving to be death traps for many of the elderly residents.

I'm upset and concerned for the residents. I don’t think the beauty shop should reopen; the risks are much too high. Hair can wait until the danger subsides. I contact the local Public Health Department and express my concerns. The Health Department agrees that the beauty shop should remain closed.

So on the morning of the proposed hair-cutting day, the Director of the Health Department makes an early morning phone call to Jim. She explains the risks of opening the beauty shop during lockdown and that it should remain closed. Jim tells her that he will not open it until restrictions are lifted.

When I come into work the following day, I see that Thelma's hair is freshly cut. 
So is Opal’s. 
Don's beard is neatly trimmed. 

Jim did not keep his promise and reopened the beauty shop anyway. I'm extremely disappointed and concerned that the residents' health was put at risk for a haircut that could have waited a few more weeks.

Less than a week later, a new resident, Imogene, is scheduled to move in. She's a transfer from a rehabilitation facility, which is experiencing an active spread of coronavirus. I inform Imogene’s family that when she moves in, she will have a 14-day quarantine — as per health department requirements. The family agrees with this, and Imogene moves into a studio apartment.

A few days after she moves in, it's around noon, and I'm setting out the drinks for the residents in the dining room. Jim pauses in the doorway and confronts me about calling the Health Department in regards to the opening of the beauty shop. I ask why he allowed the residents to get their hair cut when the Health Department told him not to. He evades an answer, and tells me to escort Imogene to the dining room. I remind him that she needs to be quarantined for fourteen days, especially since she has transferred from a facility with active coronavirus.

I call the local public health department, and the Director of Nursing ensures me that Imogene should still be under quarantine. To bring her to the dining room with the other residents is to risk the health of the other residents. So I refuse to escort Imogene down and instead bring a tray to her apartment. But the next day, Jim orders other staff members to bring her down to the dining room.

At this point — even mask-wearing is haphazardly enforced — I know that I can no longer work at a place where I feel the residents health and lives are put at risk. So after 10 years of working at a facility of people I love, I decide to resign.

I miss the residents. 
I miss our special times together, the singalongs. 
I miss their stories, their wise advice. 
I miss their smiles, their presence.
I miss hearing their voices as I play.
I miss Mary sitting in a chair in the window light, knitting a colorful hat. 

๐Ÿ•ฎ

Cynthia Pringle, photo by Kirby Pringle
Cynthia Pringle is a photographer, writer, and filmmaker. She grew up in a small town in Central Illinois and earned her photography degree from University of Illinois-Champaign. Much of her current work is done in collaboration with her husband Kirby Pringle. Learn more about their work at http://www.dogtownartworks.com/











Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: Now and Then by Farley Egan Green

Welcome to November, and to you, reader. Pandemic Meditations is a weekly series in which artists of all sorts share work that responds to life during COVID-19. 

This week, Idaho writer Farley Egan Green joins the series. 

 ๐Ÿ˜ท

Now and Then

by Farley Egan Green


Teeth

Be a good girl, says mommy,
let the dentist do his job.
I stop sobbing.
Does the man have a light on his head?
He puts his hand in my mouth.

Sixty years later
a hygienist, double masked, 
holds a curette, 
zooms in,
and scrapes my teeth by hand.

We are all scraping/by/hand
We are all scraping/by/hand



Chutes and Ladders

She lived
at the top of a hill
in a three-story house 
painted red,
and was taught the rules:
help others, 
read books, 
avoid sudden slides.

Now she stays
in safe spaces, 
sprays 
disinfectant
and wears gloves.
She plays defense, gains home,
and always 
speaks
through a mask.

Still trying to blow bubbles 
that won’t pop
before she does.


๐Ÿ•ฎ

Farley Egan Green
Farley Egan Green is a Scripps College graduate and retired from a writing/communications career. She has published poems in four literary journals. Read "Canada" and "Love Note" in EmergeFarley lives in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.











❤ Read more Pandemic Meditations at http://www.erinpringle.com/p/pandemic-meditations-series.html



Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: The Neighbors by Rachel King

Since the pandemic began listing its casualties on websites, in newspapers, under graphs in magazine articles, we have heard much about the numbers of those dead--rising or falling like ships--where the most are at any given time--how to lower or prevent the numbers--why the numbers are what they are; and we are told about strangers whose family members have died, of people who didn't believe in COVID and then died from it, of people outside of the pandemic's statistical target practice who died from it anyway. 

More rarely does the coverage focus on the empty spaces that have begun appearing in all of our lives--whether that's a child sent home from preschool because they have COVID symptoms--or the now-empty house down the street.

This week, writer Rachel King, shares two poems that take into account the kinds of loss that often aren't discussed. Please welcome her to the series.

~ E.P.

๐Ÿ˜ท

Neighbors by Paul Sableman,
used under CC license



The Neighbors

by Rachel King


One Neighbor

My neighbor across the street died from COVID.
Right now, his extended family members are over there
digging up his rose bushes. Every morning
and every evening he was outside trimming.
Every morning and every evening he said hello to me.
I know, from his wide-open windows, 
that he kept his house’s interior sparsely furnished.
And he told me that he once took a trip with his sister
to Italy. He isn’t really mine to mourn.
But the roses, wilted and untrimmed, mourn him.
I hope his family replants the bushes near his grave.


Other Neighbors

Yesterday, extended family members of my dead 
neighbor across the street moved his belongings, 
a U-Haul in the driveway, just like the people 
down the street with pit bulls. Someone driving 
down 115th probably thought two families were moving-- 
not one family and the belongings of a dead man.

A Middle Eastern family just moved in next door.
Every morning, the two little girls say hello to me
as they ride their bikes, up and down, up and down
the street. They smile, and smile, and smile
some more. It’s summer. “It’s summer!”
one tells me. “I love bikes, and I love the heat.”


๐Ÿ•ฎ

Rachel King is a writer and editor. Learn more at https://www.booksrachelking.com/

❤ Find more Pandemic Meditations here: http://www.erinpringle.com/p/pandemic-meditations-series.html

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: A Wild Rabbit by Trace Kerr

Pandemic Meditations is a weekly series in which writers, artists, musicians, and all the creative sorts share reflections, journals, and more in response to the current pandemic. 

October is about to go, but you need not worry--we will return next week because November is scheduled, even if the pandemic refuses to be.

Please welcome YA author Trace Kerr to the series.

~ E.P. 

๐Ÿ˜ท

A Wild Rabbit

by Trace Kerr

By nature, I am an Optimistic Pessimist. I’m always certain things will go wrong. On the face of it, I may sound very doom-scrolly, like some Cassandra shouting all the terrible crap that might happen to the world. 

However, as an Optimistic Pessimist, I also constantly formulate contingencies in case SOMETHING needs to be done. 

Honestly, in a good year it’s tiring listening to my anxious mantra of “what might be?” 

And now? 

2020 is driving my brain into the ground. There’s an entire pet store’s worth of thoughts running in the wheel of my brain. How can you plan for this kind of year? I can’t. None of us can.  

That trailing spiderweb in the wind of loss and uncertainty has stretched me to a ravelling. When I’m at my most desperate, I turn to poetry because painting with words makes me feel safe and gives me hope. Here is one.

October

Tuesday morning bit with the teeth of autumn

and I felt. For the first time 

I didn’t worry over shoulds.

Nothing amazing happened 

yet the day was wonderous:

a golden treasure of small things.

I

Baked bread

Hung out laundry and watched my hens bully yellow petaled Brown-eyed Susans

Read and read and read

Talked with my children and marveled at how damned funny they are together

My mother-in-law texted: A wild rabbit needed rescue

He was calm in the old fishing net before we let him go

held the day in my hands and didn’t think 

about how March to September passed in a confusion 

of masks and 

social distancing and 

our fucking pandemic. 

Seven months. Until I woke up 

on this single Tuesday 

and discovered myself

outside my head.

๐Ÿ•ฎ


Trace Kerr is a lifelong Pacific Northwesterner who loves writing stories about undaunted queer teens and magic. Her debut YA novel, The Names We Take came out in May of 2020. 

When she isn't writing, Trace is the producer and co-host for Brain Junk, a lighthearted fact-finding podcast that sometimes airs on Spokane Public Radio

She lives, loves, and sometimes goes a little crazy in Spokane with a gardening-crazed chemist, one kid who's still at home, several chickens, three cats, and the sweetest chocolate lab named, Ruby.

You can find her on Twitter as @teakerr, on Instagram as trace.kerr, and on her website TraceKerr.com






❤ Read more Pandemic Meditations at http://www.erinpringle.com/p/pandemic-meditations-series.html

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: Eight Nations by Chris La Tray

Pandemic Meditations is a weekly series in which artists and writers share work that responds to the current pandemic. Please welcome Chris La Tray to the series.

 ๐Ÿ˜ท


Eight Nations

by Chris La Tray

Photo by Chris La Tray, used with permission

[Author's Note: In July I traveled all over Montana visiting each of our resident Indian reservations to report a story I was writing for Montana Quarterly magazine about Tribal responses to COVID-19. I was flying under the radar, talking to people when I could, and just looking to observe. The following are some reflections in the wake of that trip. I've taken sort of a pseudo-Haibun approach to this, combining haiku poetry—sometimes related, sometimes not—with prose. I hope it works for you.

It should be noted that in the time since I made my visits and reported my story (currently available on newsstands around Montana in the Fall 2020 issue of MQ), COVID-19 infections in Montana have spiked dramatically and continue to do so, with Tribes particularly hard-hit. This isn't close to being over.]

*

Glimpse of sunrise
From haunted overpass
Warm morning breeze


Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes

Highway 93 north out of the Missoula valley in the second week of July. The powwow in Arlee—122 years running, created as a 4th of July celebration back in the days when it was illegal for Indians to practice our religions—didn't happen. Nor are they happening anywhere else. For folks who make their living off the summer powwow circuit, it's devastating.

RVs and gigantic pickups towing boats form a long glittering line of metal and glass snaking through the Jocko and Mission Valleys. My friend Shelly Fyant, the CSKT's Chairwoman since last fall, says she'd love to close all access onto their land but that isn't an option. Too much state tourism money is at stake. Instead the CSKT close access to Tribal recreation sites because they are being overrun by tourists and non-Tribal people hiding out from COVID. Now, anyone who can't show Tribal ID at the entrance checkpoint is turned away.

Last January, addressing the audience at the celebration in Great Falls to honor the Little Shell Tribe's federal recognition, Shelly says, "I've only been chairwoman for a couple years . . . I mean, a couple months!" The crowd laughs at her slip. "I guess it just feels like a couple years," she says.

I wonder how many years it feels like now.

 

Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians

We are a scattered people still figuring out what is next for us. The bureaucracy involved, and the limited resources of tiny federal offices stretched thin in their efforts to serve huge swaths of remote landscapes, makes for glacial progress in determining a way forward for something, likely a newly-recognized tribe with thousands of members, without an established framework. So federal recognition so far amounts to little more than some grandiose words from people having had little to do with it and some nauseating photo ops (like Matt Rosendale, currently running for Montana's single seat in the House, who voted twice at the state level against Little Shell recognition, but has the audacity to show up at our pipe ceremony to grin in photographs with Chairman Gerald Gray).

Fistfuls of clouds
Crumpled tissues over the Hi-Line
Winter evening drive

The upside here is that our recognition means we are eligible for money when the federal CARES Act is passed last June. Our bank account swells. What do we receive, a tribe only recently upgraded from being financed by bake sales and raffles? $25 million. That's $23.5 million more than Chairman Gray, in his wildest dreams, imagined getting. We are able to initiate projects that would likely have taken years to begin. We upgrade the kitchen in our community center, repair facilities in our Tribal offices, and, most importantly, buy our own health clinic. We don't have any other option because if we wait for IHS—Indian Health Services—to provide one, they tell us that, given current level of appropriations vs. Tribes in front of us, repair backlogs, etc., that we will have to wait more than 100 years. We already waited 156 years for federal recognition. We are finished waiting.

 

Blackfeet Nation

The Blackfeet are in the news for denying access to Glacier Park through their lands. Businesses are closed. I am struck by how much of a ghost town East Glacier is as I roll through town, particularly stark after the experience on the other side of Marias Pass where Glacier and its surrounding towns, like West Glacier and Polebridge, are overrun with tourists. A man holds a sign along the highway, beseeching the Tribe to open Glacier National Park—that he is not afraid of getting sick. He is not Indian, but tells me he loves the town and he loves the Tribe. But he also tells me that he doesn't believe the disease is real—that it's a hoax.

At the park entrance I see a gaggle of rangers, all white guys with buzz cuts and beards, loitering out front, armed and armored and laughing, as if preparing to deploy to Portland, Oregon, where protests are raging and federal thugs are engaged in the 200+ year American tradition of violence aimed to keep the plebes in line, whatever it takes.

Browning looks hot and tired, but the drive I make to pass through Heart Butte on my way south, with the Front Range of the Rockies before me, during a July where the rolling landscape is still surprisingly green, is one of the most beautiful routes I've ever chosen.

Open East Glacier!
Beseech the unemployed
$1M RV rolls by

Crow Nation

Photo by Chris La Tray, used with permission

The town of Crow Agency is completely locked-down. Has been for months. The tribal headquarters was already condemned and vacated when it burned down over a year ago, but its blackened shell lingers—right next to where people in crisis are supposed to seek aid, delivered as best as the social workers can manage under the conditions of a global pandemic. It breaks my heart to think of someone at their lowest, driving up, seeing these remains, and wondering why bother to hope when their own people can't seem to get their shit together? This is harsh, I know, but in coming weeks the Crow Tribal Chairman will take the stage with Vice President Pence to endorse President Trump in his scorched-earth campaign for reelection. He—Chairman Alvin Not Afraid, Jr.—also endorses the other shithead republicans running for office. This is unconscionable, as his people die and die and die from COVID. The Crow are in the most stricken part of the state. What is so damaged in Not Afraid, Jr. that he can't see that this Trump administration is the epitome of everything bad that has ever come from colonial motherfuckers in America, all the way from the tip of Patagonia to the Arctic Circle?


TX, CA, VA
KS, TN, FL, IL, NY
MO, WA, UT

— License plates in parking lot of a non-Native owned tourist trap on a locked-down Indian reservation

Photo by Chris La Tray, used with permission


Northern Cheyenne Tribe

It is 105°, the first real heat wave of summer, as I visit Lame Deer. It is tense. There is conflict between the Tribal council and groups of traditional Northern Cheyenne warrior societies who have been engaged to help police the reservation, enforce curfews, and keep out-of-state traffic moving. Life is complicated on these remote reservations, and resources are stretched. People need help. A man at the Tribal headquarters offers me a blessing, won't tell me his name, and says I should probably go. I don’t linger long. It is not my business and I don't need to be warned twice.

North out of town I pick up two hitchhikers, a young man and his uncle. It's no time for standing roadside when the pavement is shimmering with wavy distortions of heat. I give them a lift to the town of Colstrip where the younger man has plans to visit his Grandfather. The wind blasting through my car, with all the windows down, is furnace-like and stifling and I love it. This is a part of the state I've never visited before, and it is good to have companions if only for thirty minutes or so. The young man is very grateful. So am I.

The breeze
Calls the flag to dance
Pole knocking on wall

 

Fort Peck Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes

In Wolf Point, the county seat of Roosevelt County, the only places even requiring masks are the corporate chain gas stations and grocery stores. I'm told it is because mandates out of the governor's office in Helena require masks only for counties with more than four active cases. I'm pretty sure this county has more than that, but who am I to argue? I'm wearing my mask. I consider driving farther onto the reservation, to the Tribal headquarters in Poplar, but I don't. I'm road weary and even though the day is cloudy I still feel the effects of the previous day's blazing sun and heat. I'm also depressed. On the way back west on Highway 2 I stop to take photographs of pelicans and cormorants hanging out in a wetland just off the highway. This cheers me.

 

Photo by Chris La Tray, used with permission

Fort Belknap Indian Community (Assiniboine/Gros Ventre)

My Great Great Grandmother, Susie Moran La Tray, was Assiniboine. She was adopted and raised Catholic by a white family after she was found on the plains as an infant in the wake of the US Cavalry chasing a band of Indians who had escaped the reservation. Of her biological parents—were they killed? did they simply abandon her in their flight?—I know nothing. But I also question this narrative. There is so much going on along the southern borders of the United States right now with echoes of how our government has always treated the vulnerable, whether it is murder, forced sterilization of women, or the trafficking of children, that I don't know what to believe. All that matters is she survived. Which is all it feels like we can try and do these days ourselves. More history, echoing.

Fort Belknap is also on lockdown. I chase a media contact via phone for a couple hours but then I move on. I don't hear from her until the day after I file my story. She fears I will list her as "unavailable for comment." I assure her that isn't my view. "We are all pretty overwhelmed right now, aren't we?" I say, and she says yes.

Two quotes in my journal from this trip:

 "I contain love as if it were a warhead." — May Sarton

 "The world appears beautiful so that the living may love being alive in it." — Carl Safina


Rocky Boy Chippewa-Cree

Rocky Boy has been locked-down since early in the pandemic and today is no different. There is a checkpoint set up just off the highway at the town of Box Elder. A small group of excited, chatty young women are checking cars moving on and off the reservation, taking names, destination, etc. This is my last stop and I am still hours from home, but I am uplifted by my conversation with them. It is good to encounter wry humor and curiosity at the end of what has been a bleak journey.

My tribal ID lists me as Chippewa-Cree, though I identify as Mรฉtis. There is close relationship between the people of Rocky Boy and my Little Shell Tribe. As the most simple of definitions, one could say that the Little Shell are people who didn't fit on this land allocated as a reservation for all of the displaced mixed-race Indians of the high plains. In some ways, Rocky Boy is as close to a reservation as I will ever have.

I could live here, but I never will. That doesn't mean I won't fight for it. We are all in this together, no matter where we live.


I am a fat,
barely employable, middle-aged Native guy
with a chip on his shoulder
and no health insurance,
living below the poverty line
with huge love for much and many,
and you can believe I have a stake
in all of this

 

๐Ÿ•ฎ

Chris La Tray
Chris La Tray is a Mรฉtis writer and storyteller. His first book, One-Sentence Journal: Short Poems and Essays from the World at Large (2018, Riverfeet Press) won the 2018 Montana Book Award and a 2019 High Plains Book Award. His next book, Becoming Little Shell, will be published by Milkweed Editions in 2022. Chris is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and lives near Missoula, Montana. 

Learn more about La Tray by listening to this interview at Mountain and Prairie: https://mountainandprairie.com/chris-la-tray/ You may also read him semi-regularly via his newsletter, An Irritable Mรฉtis, at https://chrislatray.substack.com/.













Thursday, October 15, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: Cutting back the dead by Bailey Bridgewater

This morning, the New York Times sent me an email with headlines about new waves in Europe, outnumbering the U.S. (that's how awful it is). 

The pandemic continues, as does this series. 

Please welcome writer Bailey Bridgewater. She shares a piece that is meditation, plague diary, and gardening journal--all in one. Learn more about her and her work at the end of this piece.

~ E.P.

๐Ÿ˜ท

Cutting Back the Dead

by Bailey Bridgewater


I’ve been struggling with writing ever since Covid started.  It comes in fits and starts. For weeks I can’t write a word, then I’ll suddenly produce a flash piece that’s darker than anything that’s come before it.  For the past 3 weeks I haven’t been able to write, and yet I had committed to writing about the pandemic. So what I’ve done here is excerpt pieces of my pandemic journal and intermingle them with notes from my gardening journal.  The effect, for me, sums up what life has been like since March of 2020. 

The Plague Journal – March 19, 2020

Ok, so it’s not really a plague. Covid 19 is caused by a virus and not a bacteria, which is apparently the difference. Not that it’s comforting to know the medical definition for what we have here: a pandemic. It started traveling the world around January, and now it’s here, infecting about 15k people a day.  The end result for some of those people is having tubes shoved down their throats and then dying anyway. 

Thinking I’ll do something with the front garden. Last year when I had mono, the landscapers threw some basic plants in there that I wouldn’t have to maintain, but they’re spaced really far apart, and I’m pretty sure some of them are dead. Maybe dormant? Can they be brought back to life? For now, I’m going to assume they’re casualties.

We were sent home from work today, finally. Other people were sent home weeks ago. I ended up calling HR and the Mayor’s office. The mayor himself sent an email promising to address the issue and, tada! the same day we get an email telling us to go home. And then I got called insubordinate. I wonder if I’ll have a job to come back to. I’m a single person with a mortgage and student loans. I can’t afford to get fired. Other people are losing their jobs. Fuck. Did I just throw mine away like an idiot?

April 6, 2020

Indiana is under a stay-at-home order, but no one seems to be following it. We have 337,343 documented cases and 9,648 deaths.  

April 7, 2020 

It’s 1:25 PM and the US is at 18,834 new cases and 1,356 deaths just so far today. I know I shouldn’t look, but it’s impossible not to, and once I do, and it’s bad, I lose all my motivation.

I don’t know anything about gardening, honestly. No one in my family gardens – we always just rented houses that didn’t have flowers or anything. I guess I’m a first-generation gardener. Or I will be once I actually start planting things. My neighbors are all out cutting back and clearing. Hard to say if it’s because those things are necessary, or because they want to be out of their houses.

April 8, 2020

The world is at 1,478,439 cases and 86,748 deaths. The US has over 14,000 by itself. It’s unfortunate timing for Bernie Sanders to drop out of the race, just as we’re staring right in the face of our crippling healthcare system and the fact that people are risking their lives to work at Walmart for $9 an hour when you can’t even rent an apartment on that. 

Casey’s got me into watching Monty Don, the British gardener. He’s got a show that tells you what to do in your garden every week. I’ve been catching up and learned that apparently you’re supposed to cut back long grasses in early Spring so they can start growing and not be hindered by their own dead members. So I cut it back. It’s nice to not be staring at those jagged brown corpses, but now the space just looks empty.

April 10, 2020 

We had a really severe storm with a lot of wind damage the other night. The neighbors are all in their gardens today, picking limbs out of plants that are turning green. My yard didn’t suffer too much, thankfully. 

Is it selfish to worry about not being able to get the biopsy my doctor told me I needed right before Covid started? The same day he called to tell me my pap was irregular was the day the hospital stopped doing all non-essential procedures. So now I have to wait, maybe for months, to know if there’s something wrong. 

I started researching what plants might be good in the front bed. There are already some startling yellow irises and aggressively flamboyant pink peonies that I inherited when I bought the house. They’re not really my style, but they seem happy here. Best leave them I guess. There are some drift roses that the landscapers put in. They look spindly and sick. Maybe they’re dead. I’ll have to watch them. Maybe some catmint would be good to grow around their stems if they’re still alive. I think I’ll try a hibiscus too. They look like vacation, and I won’t be hitting a tropical beach anytime soon…

Bailey's hibiscus

April 10, 2020

Watching the governor’s daily press conference, and a caller is trying to pressure Holcomb to bar all abortions during the pandemic.

Sometimes I feel guilty because honestly, I like staying home and not having to go out or see anyone.  I’ve been living in an extrovert’s world, doing an extrovert’s job for 38 years.  I want to enjoy everyone living in an introvert’s world for a little while. But without people dying.

Apparently plants with double blooms aren’t as good for pollinators. Maybe I’ll try some bee balm. And I’ll need some sort of ground cover to hide all those blank spaces that are driving me crazy….

April 13, 2020

It’s becoming more and more clear that the US is doing something terribly wrong in handling this. We now have more deaths than Italy. People are starting to go stir crazy and do stupid shit. Some of the women I know are bribing their manicurists to come to their houses and do their nails. 

It’s hard to concentrate on work, especially when all of our meetings are on Skype or Zoom or Teams or Yuja. It’s too easy to just stare out the window or obsessively refresh the Worldometers website and watch the numbers jump up.  

A friend mentioned that a mockingbird outside her window has started imitating Skype noises.

April 15, 2020

Today I made the mistake of watching a White House Press conference. Trump’s talking about starting to ‘re-open’ the economy even though we’re adding 25,000 or so cases a day. It seems very possible that our own elected officials will get 10s of 1000s of Americans killed on top of the 30,000 already dead just by sheer negligence. 

There are little buds forming in the Southeast corner of my garden.  

Bridgewater Butterfly

April 19, 2020

As if things couldn’t get weirder, Trump is now inciting protests by tweeting things like “Liberate Minnesota”-- encouraging people to defy stay-at-home orders.  

The irises are starting to bloom.

April 21, 2020

Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia’s governors decided to re-open the beaches today, prompting many a brilliant Jaws meme. Seems what’s really happening is that politicians are realizing our own “best economy in the word” is so fragile that it can’t take 1 month of people not indulging in non-essential services, and people are realizing they can’t live even a month without a paycheck.  The government strategy is clear – get people back to work so they’re distracted and placated again. 

The peonies are clearly going to be next to open, and it seems the roses aren’t dead after all! They’re starting to grow, though their new growth looks red and the leaves look scraggly. I didn’t know if that was normal, so I googled it and it sounds like maybe Rosette’s disease? It makes the growth bright red, like mine, and it causes a wild abundance of thorns, so that the stem is virtually covered in them.  The leaves become malformed into something known as "witch’s brooms" and the disease eventually kills the plant. You have to dig it out of the ground and destroy it before it infects everything around it.

The governor of Texas just justified re-opening by saying “There are more important things than living.”  
Bailey's roses

April 27, 2020

This weekend saw the US’s worst day yet, with 38,958 cases. Today, Indiana is having its worst day.  And yet the president, the governor, and my university’s president are all talking about opening back up. It’s clear what their priorities are.

Grub. Grubs! GRUBS!  Here a grub, there a grub, everywhere a fucking grub.  I cleared and tilled the raised beds today since I want to plant vegetables this year, and they’re everywhere, lying there curled up in the fetal position, looking all pale and sickly and innocent and just waiting to explode onto the scene as beetles decimate anything that has any chance of living. I’m not having it. I will not be deterred! I’m researching nematodes.  


May 7, 2020

The advice of the day for Indiana is “don’t hug your mom on mother’s day.” Thankfully mine is 11 hours away and I had no intention of doing so anyway. Still, this advice is issued as we’re opening back up. Why? Because the economy. Our cases are up. We’re #14 in the ranking of states with the most Covid. But money. Clearly we should all just think about the money.  

Governor Holcomb was asked in his press conference why we’re re-opening when we have the highest number of deaths per capita.  He said that’s just because Hoosiers have a lot of pre-existing conditions. Got it. So if you’re already a little sick, nobody cares if you die. 

Roses don’t have Rosette’s disease. I need to stop being paranoid and trying to micromanage them.  The red seems to just be new growth, which then turns green with a normal number of thorns.  But I think they do have white powdery mildew. 


May 15, 2020

I feel like all I do is stare at a computer screen, stress out over Covid data, and sleep.  When I’m asleep I dream about Covid data.  When I stare at a computer screen, I feel like I’m pretty much asleep. Why am I so exhausted? The most strenuous thing I do right now is a leisurely walk with the dog. But I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck filled with ACME anvils. Like Wile E. Coyote, I need to pop back up with a sign that says “Help!”  But everyone’s holding one, so no one’s going to notice.

Planted today: 
  • Japanese iris (near downspout) 
  • Persian Leaf Shield (SE corner full sun.) 
  • Endless Summer Hydrangea (NE corner)  
  • Russian sage x4, front amongst rose bushes 
  • Bronze Bugle Carpet x2. Ground cover. Front. 
  • Periwinkle x2. Ground cover. NE. 
  • Ivy Geranium x2. Front between roses.  
  • Dwarf Plumbago x2. SE groundcover.  
  • Biokovo Crankesbill. Front groundcover. SE front. 
  • Liriope x2. Tall structural.   
Still some empty spaces. There’s a gap between the peonies and the lilies.  Don’t know how many of the plants I just put in will survive. I don’t know what I’m doing with planting. They all have such specific instructions. I should have bought just one kind of ground cover. What if one kind just overtakes all the others? I don’t know what diseases and fungi they’re prone to. I should have done more research, but my eyes kept crossing while I was reading about plants at two in the morning. I shouldn’t have planted anything. I’m wasting money because I don’t know what else to do.

May 17, 2020

There’s rumors that the students will be back in August. I don’t know how. Nothing is getting better. Some days the numbers dip, like on Sundays, but then they rise even higher. All the scientific information about Covid conflicts. It seems like nobody really knows how it spreads or how to stop it. I feel like they’re just making things up.

Planted today: 
  • Hollyhock, NE corner. 
  • Balloon flowers x2, NE bed. 
  • Artemesia ground cover x2, NE corner
  • Luna White Hibiscus, South front. 
  • Monarda Blue Stocking. SE bed.  
I always underestimate how many plants I need. I keep feeling this overwhelming, compulsive urge to cover every single exposed piece of bare soil. I want the flowers piling on top of each other, but I can’t seem to get it right.

June 1, 2020

I’ve been trying to stop constantly looking at the numbers. I just feel tired. Doesn’t help that I talked to my dad the other day, and turns out he’s one of these fucking conspiracy nuts who’s convinced that Covid will ‘just go away’ after the election. And what? The people who died will just rise out of their graves? He honestly believes that it’s a “liberal hoax to make Trump look bad.”  How egocentric does anyone have to be to believe the whole entire world is so invested in America’s president that they would intentionally spread a deadly disease (or make up a deadly disease. I’m not sure which it’s supposed to be) just to try and defeat him in an election? Especially disconcerting is the fact that my dad’s a truck driver, and if he’s not taking precautions, he could literally spread it up and down the east coast.

The hollyhock doesn’t seem to be growing. I can’t tell if the Japanese irises are or not. The drift roses are in full bloom at least, and the periwinkle and some of the other ground covers seem to be establishing ok. I’m nervous about the hibiscus. Maybe I put it in too narrow a spot. I only bought one. I should have bought more so they repeat. The hydrangea is flowering blue, so that’s good at least. The hosta is growing rapidly. Did I plant other things too close to it? Will it choke everything out trying to find the sun from its shady corner?

Bailey's balloon flower


June 6, 2020

It’s back to work day. May the odds be ever in our favor. 

The vegetable garden is coming in, and I planted pumpkins, spaghetti squash, and butternut squash in five mounds. They should be ready around late September or early October. I’m worried that they’ll try to grow over the neighbor’s fence. Maybe I should add vertical supports.

June 23, 2020

The numbers are rising a lot, especially in states with beaches. People here are refusing to wear masks. What is wrong with this country? How can we be so stupid and selfish? When I’ve traveled in the past, folks in other countries have always talked about the image of Americans as free-spirited independents. Now I guess they see that really we’re just selfish asses. 

Oh, and there are protests going on because police won’t quit killing Black people for no reason. Also, Covid disproportionately kills racial minorities, so not only are police killing Black people--now people have to go out in the streets to protest that shit, and a lot of the people out there are at higher risk of dying from the disease on top of the heightened risk of dying from violence. 

Planted today: 
  • 2 astilbe
  • violet phlox
  • cool water phlox
  • professor van der weilen  (mainly just because the name is great) 
I can’t stop buying plants. I ordered 3 blueberry bushes and 2 plum trees. I ordered a bunch of bare root columbines. I can’t even tell which side is supposed to go down. If you can’t control anything else, you might as well throw your money away. At least you’re in control of what you get with it. And it’s helping the economy maybe. 

Something like that. 

July 10, 2020

60k cases a day just in the US.  Hospitals in Florida are running out of ICU beds. Everything is pretty much opening back up like normal. This is fine. It’s fine. Everything’s just fine.

I can’t stop researching plants. As soon as I finish work that’s what I do. I research plants I want to buy next year, but I’m impatient and end up just buying them right then and there. I feel like if I don’t plant them now maybe I never will. 

July 17, 2020

Looks like it will be a day of over 70k cases. I can’t focus on work. My novel isn’t coming along well. I’m sleeping too much.

It’s so hot I don’t even want to go out in the garden. The pumpkins are getting big. I only go out after 8pm, and there are a lot of bugs and bees. I have to drag myself outside. Harley and I aren’t taking our long walks – she overheats.  I feel exhausted after 5 minutes.

Bailey's pumpkin

August 1, 2020

Got a Covid test because I feel so tired and terrible. It wasn’t bad. Results in a few days.  

Some of the plants look wilted and withered because of the heat. I’m trying to stay on top of watering. My tomatoes look good but the vegetable garden is overrun with weeds. The pumpkin vines are getting long. I keep having to move them. They’re spiky, which I didn’t anticipate. There are what looks like stink bugs on some of them. The bee balm has some fungus all around the bottom that looks like a frat boy threw up all over them. 

August 4, 2020

Test was negative. So why am I so tired? Maybe it’s mono again. I don’t want to go to the doctor’s, but what if it is? It was horrible last time and took 6 months to recover. I’m having more migraines.

A gardening blog says the stuff on the bee balm is “dog vomit slime.” Accurate naming, at least. I dug the fungus up and threw it away (not on the compost). We’ll see if the plant survives.

August 27, 2020

The students are back. The university has been hiding how many cases there are, but from what people who work in res life say, there are dozens of cases, especially among the athletes. One of my colleagues has it. I don’t see how we can stay open. 

The pumpkins are under attack by squash beetles. It’s disgusting. When I turn over one of the tiny squash so they don’t get misshapen, dozens of beetles scamper away. I’m trying neem oil.  

September 9, 2020

Another colleague has it. She got it singing with her choir. I talked to her on Zoom and she sounds awful. She said her elderly mother and her sister have it too. There are over a hundred students isolating or quarantining. All of my student workers are quarantined. They’re all roommates. Everything is a shit show.

I’m leaving the squash to ripen as long as I can, but the beetles are decimating the vines. I’ve already lost my spaghetti squash. It’s been so hot that the front garden looks sad, except for the Russian Sage, which is a champion.

Bailey's Russian Sage


September 19, 2020

My colleague’s mother died today.  I talked to a student who is severely immunocompromised because of having had cancer. He’s living in the residence halls, taking classes in person. I can’t tell him not to. In his eyes, the school wouldn’t have re-opened if it wasn’t safe, right?  How am I supposed to tell him that actually…..

I harvested the handful of butternut squash and 6 pumpkins. The squash beetles got the rest. I’ll cut the vines tomorrow and burn them. They’re not even fit for the compost.

September 27, 2020

We’ve passed 200,000 deaths.  A couple people posted about it, but not a lot. It doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore.

I’ve been trying to water the garden once a week. It hasn’t rained in about a month. The lawn is brown and brittle. Harley likes to roll on it to scratch her back. The roses need to be deadheaded. I doubt they’ll re-bloom. The hibiscus and passion flowers are wilting before they bloom. One daylily has made it attempt, but it’s sad. The bronze bugle carpet is doing well, but it’s about the only thing. All the master gardeners I know have admitted defeat. I’ll stop watering mine, too. No point in wasting water.  

But I’ve already got plans to tarp the whole backyard. In the Spring I’ll throw down some compost and plant Prairie meadow seeds in wide swaths of color that will cover the whole half acre with a grass path through it. I’m already researching what kinds of flowers and tall grasses I want. 

On Gardener’s World, Monty Don just said that planting a garden is to have faith in the future. 

Bailey's Astilbe


๐Ÿ•ฎ

Bailey Bridgewater, photo by Azizi and Aaron
at atozcreations.org 

Bailey Bridgewater comes from a coastal state where blue crabs reign. She now resides in tenderloin-focused Terre Haute, Indiana. She is the author of numerous short stories and flash pieces that appear in publications like Crack the Spine, Molotov Cocktail, As You Were, Eunoia Review, Fiction on the Web, and Esthetic Apostle

Her first short story collection, A Map of Safe Places, is forthcoming from Red Bird Chapbooks this winter, and her new piece "In Silence, the Decision" will be published by Hoosier Noir in summer.

Find a selection of her writing at www.baileybridgewater.com. She is active on facebook and instagram.