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.


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


Bailey Bridgewater, photo by Azizi and Aaron

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 She is active on facebook and instagram. 


Thursday, October 8, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: 6 Months, a Meditation by Walter Moore

Dear Reader:

It has been only a week since our last shared meditation, and of course, the pandemic continues. Now, the current president (& co.) has received his own dose of the virus, and thousands more in this country have died. 

Last night, I had a nightmare that my six-year-old was diagnosed with COVID--we rushed him to the nearest hospital, he was put on a coffin of a stretcher and wheeled away. We later met him upstairs, and he was wheeled into our view, alive, and the doctor said he was fine, and we grasped each other and him with relief, then seconds later, he died. 

I knew, in the dream, what I had read about more impoverished hospitals, and the barriers those doctors/staff/patients faced with COVID in comparison to more affluent hospitals that had, of course, better outcomes (more people leaving alive than not). And in the dream, I was so angry that we had wound up at that kind of hospital, just by luck of geography. The staff didn't wear masks (because there were none), and while they said my fever was 112 my test returned negative. 

But 112, I said. 

Yes, they said. 

And then I had to call my mother to tell her that her grandson was dead. It was 3 AM her time, and after I told her, she said, I don't believe you--you're lying--it's all a hoax!

The nightmare continued. The grief was utterly immense, intense, and exactly as it would be were it not a dream.

I guess there's one thing the pandemic can't take from me--and that's my nightly nightmares.

So, here we are, readers, friends, onlookers. We are now into our second week of October and moving deeper into the list of artists joining Pandemic Meditations, a weekly series of reflections by artists who speak to the pandemic--in whatever way, form, or style that may take.

Today, poet Walter Moore shares his.



6 Months, a Meditation

by Walter Moore

The Peacock, photo from The Corvallis Advocate

On March 20, 2020, I wrote this:


“Corona Diaries: Part X” a.k.a. “The Viral Twenties: Part 27” 

The season of spring was dark, and the sun was lonely as I walked this Oregon town dreaming of dadaists.

Squirrel’s was closed.

The Peacock: Closed.

Only me and a few skater rats and a handful of streetsleepers with face masks donned the sides of buildings; we walked in the middle of streets & red lights were laughable—but something serene about empty alleyways & no one shooting meth in the bathroom of the China Delight Bar. These were viral times . . . and I walked over the traintracks past a few tiny fraternity parties, a collection of cops at the Circle K, past empty parks and barren lots. It was almost midnight on Thursday during Finals Week in this college town—Thursday, what I call Little Friday—and hardly anyone was around. Not on campus nor downtown. A smattering of small groups of young people on a rooftop or in a neon living room, but that was all. Bars & restaurants closed, and all of the TVs were on in all of the houses.

So I walked, dreaming of those French Experimentalists and feeling the congested pain in my lungs. Twenty years of smoking things and my lungs were shot. Needed to quit, but damn if you can quit cigarettes during a crisis or national catastrophe. I couldn’t get healthy quick enough, but those cigarettes would be the last to go. Actually, joints of cannabis would be the last. After Prozac and coffee and ice cream and television.

I’ve never owned a Smart Phone, and I still drink beer.

The town was down. And I missed the bars, and I missed the people; I wanted to play pool or listen to bad renditions or hear a factually inaccurate story from a stranger, or maybe just not talk at all while observing the rest. No—there was no motion . . . there was no town, only scared & distracted individuals and small gatherings of young escape artists I could never be a part of. It would be too risky to co-mingle fluids, even if it’s exotic Oregon craft beer, with younger people during this thing. I was middle-aged with shitty lungs and a compromised immune system, The Virus having relegated me to some strange shadow status . . . so I walked at night when even fewer people were moving in this sad sparse bizarro world.

Some things did happen though . . . a man was snoring on the sidewalk with a blue sleeping bag and a mask . . . those three skater rats walked over a bridge in black t-shirt glory . . . a woman yelled out to me from a balcony . . . over a half dozen cars lined up diligently outside McDonald’s . . . those cops arrested some guy by that Circle K . . .

But of course the churches were closed, the schools were empty—the liquor stores and laundry mats and diners and hair salons all closed. My record store: Closed. My coffee shop: Closed indefinitely . . . with no community in sight. I was hoping on the side of The Best but preparing for That Worst . . . you know the hideous visions of rioting & looting and a depression worse than that Great One and the loss of millions of jobs with thousands starving and dying, or worse . . . you know the descension of the American Empire by the likes of which we had never seen before.

My heart had closed too to the betrayal of spring.

( . . . & sad dreams of the United States were drifting . . . )

At least I had cigarettes (and a dog & wife who loved me). Very lucky, believe me, I know, to be semi-healthy with a job and some cash after midnight on Little Friday.

Stay safe, everyone. Drink slowly, and try to sleep in if you can. Don’t forget to check in with your neighbors.


I love you THIS much.


 It’s now six months later, and my sweet friend Erin has asked me for a meditation on Covid.

 Well, nothing has changed. Or everything has changed. I only hope I have imagined all of it. That 2020 is my fault, my bad dream. I’ll take the blame. Put it on my back if it makes you feel better. I’ll never go to sleep again. I’ll never walk at night again.

God forgive me.

God, forgive all of us. We know what we have done. We knew.

We know what we have done.

That is the darker truth. The lighter truth or slightly less dark truth is that I went remote in late March, became a recluse, and was a nervous wreck through April. In May I got my shit together, started regularly exercising outside.

In June and July, back to reclusiveness, I was high on marijuana and drunk off beer every waking second of the day. In August, I dried out, lost my brain chemicals, drove out to the desert, and slit my wrist & lay in a bathtub—not to actually die but to feel physical pain and see my own blood mesh with water.

In September, more of my brain chemicals replenished, I still no longer smoke marijuana or cigarettes; I don’t drink alcohol. And I can barely watch the news. Yet I am healthier. I meditate and exercise daily and tell my wife I love her. My dog licks me constantly.

What do I miss about the pre-Covid days? Seeing all of you in person. Most things, really.

I love you THAT much.

And, yes, How are you? 

But make no mistake. This Trump cult feels terrifyingly real. A lot of it crippling. I fear some kind of violent revolt in November, maybe a civil war by Christmas, a sad “reconstruction” in 2021.

After that, maybe tubes in outer space . . .

God forgive us.

God . . . 

GOODBYE, don’t ask?

Dr. Walter Moore teaches in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film at Oregon State University. His book of poems, my lungs are a dive bar was released by EMP Books in 2019, and his novel The Phalanx of Houston will be released later in 2020. He lives in Corvallis, Oregon, with wife Erica and dog Lloyd. Learn more about Walter and his work at

Walter Moore, photo by Erica Fischer 
(used with permission)

❤ Read more Pandemic Meditations here:

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

New Review of Hezada! I Miss You: "It's a gorgeous portrait of small town living"

One of the people who won a copy of Hezada! I Miss You from LibraryThing has already read it AND posted a review. So, if you are on Instagram, you can view/like it here:

Or, you can read it via this screenshot:

 [Text: So much more than a book about a circus, this story weaves together love and tradition and the heartbreaking tragedy of suicide. The story follows Abe and Heza, twin children in love with the circus that arrives in their small town every summer, their mother, a thrift store owner with her own circus history, Frank, a soon to be retired circus worker, and a circus that's down to one elephant and a few acrobats.

Be warned, there are no quotation marks used in this book. I found it a little difficult at first, but as you keep reading it becomes easier and adds to the tone of the conversations. I was not expecting to have my heart shattered by this story but here we are. The topic of suicide is a delicate one to write about, and the writer does this beautiful job of giving the perspectives of everyone involved with inner dialogues and what-if conversations that are so heartbreakingly real I had to read through tears. It's a gorgeous portrait of small town living, with real, nuanced characters, and a circus that dives deep into every reader's memories of their childhood circus experiences.

I received this free copy to review from LibraryThing.]


As always, if you have read the book and want to share your good thoughts about it with readers, please do! It helps everyone involved, from the press--to the cover artist--to the writer--to the location from where you bought it--to other readers searching for books with the content/tone/perspectives that you've discovered.

Purchase Hezada! I Miss You from any of these locations (click on name for link):

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: In the Garden of the Pandemic by Ira Gardner

The leaves are turning, and the nights have begun arriving earlier. As we've officially entered autumn and, now, October, this week's COVID news remains much the same in its predictably unpredictable surges, fatalities, surprises, and no-surprises. 

Amidst such a backdrop, Pandemic Meditations moves into its second month. This week, photographer Ira Gardner is here to share his reflections on life and art during such a time. 

Please welcome Ira to the series.



In the Garden of the Pandemic

by Ira Gardner

Act of Kindness (2020) © Ira Gardner

2020 has been a perfect storm of disruptions to my artistic life. I had just completed one of the most productive artistic periods of my career during the Fall of 2019. I had taken a sabbatical from my teaching position and was working on art projects full time at my studio downtown and had a new show open January 1st. Two weeks later, 2020 began to unravel.

The landlord for the building where my studio was located decided to double the lease payments, and our arts organization had to scramble to find a new building. The new building we found was fantastic but needed significant building-out of the space before it could become operational. Then Covid-19 hit and we could no longer occupy our studio because the space was wide open and without clear boundaries (e.g., walls). One by one, the artists resigned from the collective due to their own financial strains caused by the pandemic.

I know I am much more fortunate than most. As soon as the landlord notified me of the rent increase, my wife and I decided to remodel our barn into a home studio for me. Home felt more permanent and something that gave us a sense of stability. I still wanted to be a part of a downtown arts community so I continued to pay my dues, but I hit the pause button on going there until the build-out was complete.

Back home, the contractor we hired did an amazing job of taking a dilapidated old barn and giving a strong structure. It was close enough to completion for me to begin using it before the order to quarantine-in-place took effect, although because it wasn’t heated yet, I didn’t spend much time there. 

My initial response to the pandemic was to throw myself into work. I taught extra classes, formed new partnerships, and started two different podcasts that were intended to help others through the pandemic.  One was a business podcast that I started with a photographer based out of Sacramento who used to be a V.P. of internet marketing at Wells Fargo, and the other was a faith and philosophy podcast that I started with a pastor at my church who is my age and someone I have known since we coached our kids tee ball team.

During the early spring I felt a strong sense of purpose that kept me going. I felt blessed to have a life partner equally driven to help others and that we could come together in the evening to share our gratitude and to cook healthy foods and drink good wine. We felt blessed that most of the products the stores were running out of were not the ingredients we needed to make our food.

As good as all this was, my artmaking had stopped.

The cold wet Spring combined with the daily onslaught of news filled with misinformation, propaganda, and hate speech wore me down. I moved towards distraction and spent days researching parts for my motorcycle and planning trips.  

Eventually, the weather warmed and my wife and I started making plans for our garden. That had been part of our reason for building the home studio. Much of my art practice has been evolving towards compositions based upon the fractal patterns found in plants that stimulate restorative alpha waves in the brain. I can remember the first day that we put in four small raised flower beds. I climbed up onto the back deck to look at the progress and immediately felt a jolt of positive energy from the colors in the garden. I knew my artmaking was coming back.

Our first flower garden was inspired by the concept of a paradise garden found in Iran. These gardens are designed to be an oasis and feature symmetry and a water feature. We had an old claw-foot tub that once lived in the master bathroom just sitting out in the yard so we decided to make a water feature and to grow water lilies, hyacinths and irises.

The Amateur Botanist (2020) © Ira Gardner

The selecting and arranging of the plants in the garden became an important part of my art practice. Watering each plant by hand became a daily ritual. By keeping the plants alive, I was keeping my spirit alive and finding artistic inspiration. In the meantime, we were experiencing random acts of kindness such as the day Sarah came home with a bouquet of daffodils from a checker at Trader Joes as a thank you for remaining calm and patient during a stressful time.

Those daffodils became the first subject in my new studio after they had wilted. Their tissue-thin petals reminded me of the skin of my elderly parents and how beautiful they both are. As I worked through the visual problem of how to compose these photographs I could feel the sap starting to flow in my artistic soul.  

Four weeks into working in the garden, the water lilies began to bloom, and I started photographing them. Their blooms are so delicate and last for only three to four days. I had two water lilies in the tub.  One bloomed on a regular cycle and the other did not. I would watch the bloom rise to the surface of the water and then slowly submerge after it was done. One day as I was out looking at the garden, saw two blooms had emerged simultaneously. I spent two days photographing them. You wouldn’t think it would take so much effort but it does.

Over the summer, my response to Covid-19 has been one of gratitude. In the midst of all the drama and debate of our times, I have tried to help others and create work that inspires wisdom and compassion and creates some psychological distance that will allow people to see the beauty that exists in all life.

I and Thou (2020) © Ira Gardner


Ira Gardner 
Ira Gardner has been a professional photographer since 1989 and is an avid essayist as well. He teaches photography and Digital Media Production at Spokane Falls Community College was an active member of the Richmond Artist Collective (now defunct due to pandemic). He lives in Spokane, WA. View a selection of his photography at Ira also shares his work through a blog on his website called EIDOS Journal. Visit the work at

❤ Read more Pandemic Meditations at

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: Crucial Connections by Freesia McKee

This week's Pandemic Meditations continues with words from writer Freesia McKee. In today's post, McKee covers the pandemic, her life, and how those interact when place in two different parts of the United States. Learn more about McKee and her work at the end of the essay.

Please share this series with friends and neighbors. You can do this by copy/pasting the link into your social media, or by way of the old fashioned method of printing it out and sending it via postal mail.

~ E. P.


Crucial Connections

by Freesia McKee

In the first six months of the pandemic, I watched Miami become one of the COVID-19 epicenters of the world. My present to myself for my thirtieth birthday was a digital subscription to the Miami Herald. My morning ritual of checking the website for virus updates involved bracing myself for bad news. 

I could joke that as a third-year graduate student, I was already used to not having a life in South Florida. But seriously, I already spent a lot of time at home. You learn to make do when you don’t own a car in Miami. I used to take the bus and ride my bicycle to get around, but the idea of bussing during COVID terrifies me. And one bicycle ride through a nature preserve teeming with people experiencing cabin fever induced by the stay-at-home-order put a stop to most of my perambulation. Instead, I took masked runs and walked the dog near our apartment. That was about all I did.

When I turned thirty in April, I hosted a birthday party on Zoom. I graduated later that month without much fanfare and embarked upon the post-grad life I’d been looking forward to. 

Many of us tell our own particular versions of COVID fear stories. Mine involve the fact that I’m a lifelong asthmatic. The profound stress of grad school spurred severe eczema and other skin conditions that are autoimmune-related, and I’ve been struggling with these on a daily basis for a few years. COVID interacts with pre-existing conditions in all sorts of ways. I have no interest in seeing how it would interact with mine.

My neighbor Dmitri was workout buddies with the first person in Miami-Dade County to die of the virus, Israel Carrera. Israel also lived in North Miami and, like Dmitri, was gay, young, and very fit and muscular. Dmitri told me of his connection to this death when we crossed paths walking our dogs one early morning. Dmitri seemed distraught, in disbelief. According to the news, COVID was just reaching South Florida, and I’d read of Israel’s death in the newspaper. But a couple months later, Dmitri said that COVID wasn’t a big deal because his family kept “getting it over and over again” and they were all fine. I never saw Dmitri wear a mask. 

Besides the neighbors on our street, my partner Jade and I socialized with only one friend, Rebecca, kayaking together three times. Rebecca brought her own kayak. We chatted through our masks across the water. And I felt a high every time we did this socially distanced, in-person activity. Seeing Rebecca was the feeling of drinking ice water after being parched.

Because many of us were isolated, Jade and I became extremely close with the neighbors on our street. We all helped each other, a true demonstration of mutual aid. Jade assisted a neighbor who didn’t have internet with all sorts of online tasks, including applying for unemployment through Florida’s famously defective system. Others helped this neighbor move from one building on our block to another after the first landlord kept pressuring her to let him enter for non-essential tasks like painting a wall. 

Neighbors shared food, money, moral support, and flowers. Meanwhile, the South Florida Mutual Aid Network of which I was briefly a part got inundated with requests before they were even off the ground. This has been one of my biggest lessons of the pandemic: that there are always ways to help. It’s up to us to build crucial connections our government has decided to ignore.

The first six months of the pandemic held their share of loss for Jade and me. The death of my aunt and uncle, the loss of our beloved cat, job loss, and the persistent feeling that something in our immediate sphere was about to go terribly wrong. I am still brought to tears thinking about what my students faced during the spring semester. Society still tends to think of college students as young people supported by financially stable parents, but this generalization leaves many of our students dangerously behind. 

All along, there were horrific daily headlines in the Herald, refrigerator trucks full of bodies, elected officials concocting bold-faced lies, worried phone calls from my mom, and not-worried-enough phone calls from my dad.

And then there is the other hand. At moments, the first six months of my pandemic felt like a retreat. I suppose I should be ashamed to admit this. Part of it was that after the finale of my graduate program, a huge source of stress evaporated from my life. I felt my trajectory could return to a manageable pace with a new, useful credential, better critical thinking skills, and a more informed perspective. And I gained a profound vocational clarity that writing and teaching is what I was put here to do. Another positive effect of hardly leaving my apartment was that I no longer worried whether an early bedtime was uncool. I didn’t care about missing out. I got a lot of writing done through assigning myself daily prompts and tricking myself to do creative work through journaling. 

For a few months, I cooked elaborate meals every day. Vegan paella on a Wednesday, that kind of thing. I’ve loved cooking since I was a teenager, not just the food, but the act of cooking itself. In 2020, I comfort-cooked until I burnt out and it felt like a chore to clean up after baking a frozen pizza. It’s hard to describe, but I feel I have now ventured to the farthest islands of my culinary abilities and interests. I have felt out the entire coast of what I am capable of in the kitchen. I know my edge.

Part of burning out was the realization that I could have spent all that time writing. A worse realization was that I didn’t know how long it would be until I could cook for my friends and my family. Jade is vocally appreciative of my food, but as any happy home cook knows, it’s satisfying to feed a crowd. During grad school, I’d cook when we’d occasionally have friends over and sometimes, I’d get comments about how long it had been since someone had eaten anything homemade. Cooking for friends is another act of building community and mutual aid. 

Sometime after I stopped cooking and moved to the boxed pasta version of dinner, Jade got a job in the library at Purdue-Fort Wayne in Indiana. The leaving-Florida part of the pandemic is blurry in my mind, and because I didn’t journal during that time, perhaps it will always be. I wonder in general about delayed grief. Maybe I am not done mourning my aunt and uncle even though I have stopped crying. I wonder if the death of our dear cat will hit me once all of this is over. Leaving Florida was both a sadness and a relief, something I still need to unpack. As fascinating and beautiful as I found Miami, I never thought it was an easy place to live. 

The day we left, our friend Rebecca and another friend, Rachel, came to our place to pick up some odds and ends to take to Goodwill in Rebecca’s pickup truck (such good friends!). Roller derby person they are, Rachel arrived on roller skates. I’m not quite sure what the symbolism of the skates is in my telling of this story, but I love this detail. Before we pulled away, the neighbor without internet gave Jade six pairs of synthetic, decorative socks because, she said, they were too small. This neighbor is barely higher than five feet and Jade and I are both tall, but somehow, this act of sharing seemed like the perfect sendoff. 

Before our drive across the country, I’d gone weeks at a time without riding in the car. We hadn’t driven far from Miami in over six months, so it was nourishing to move through various landscapes. I was disturbed by the things I always notice travelling cross-country: anti-choice propaganda, deeply troubling bumper stickers, and a South Georgia plantation site billing itself as a wedding venue with the tagline, “Where dreams come true!” 

Photo by Filipe Fortes
, used under CC license

It took us a few days to get to Indiana. I suppose because we’re sheltering in place here, we’re also sheltered from a lot of Indiana’s pro-Trump vitriol because we barely interact with anyone. The move has been good for both of us. Instead of a tiny one-bedroom apartment so full of stuff that we could barely unfurl a yoga mat, the rent prices here allow for a spacious-to-us rented house.

Though we’d love to make new friends, we can’t go to poetry readings, music shows, bars, or other gathering places. But we’ve tried to be optimistic and look at this limitation as an opportunity. I take long walks through the neighborhood every morning, memorizing tree species and watching birds. We have a backyard and spend hours out there each day with the dog. I’m reading books I’ve owned for years but never looked at. I took social media off of my phone.

There is, admittedly, also a bit of culture shock.

As I walked the dog our first week here, a woman screamed at me out of a car window for wearing a mask.

On a drive to buy something off of Craigslist, we saw a group of twenty or so adults, many of them senior citizens, standing in a church parking lot preparing for some kind of demonstration. From the car, I could see that the theme of the protest was “Pray for America!” I don’t know what crisis in particular they were praying for, though I have some suspicions. 

Many, many homes in this city sport American flags. Stars and stripes seem to be our new neighborhood’s most popular decorating motif, and I wonder in how many cases this is a coded symbol for racism and anti-BLM sentiment. 

As in South Florida, the restaurants are now full of people, though we know this only from driving by the full patios and parking lots.

We continue to witness so many outdoor youth football practices hosting hundreds of kids and dozens of adults, none of them taking COVID safety precautions. 

One of the few indoor places we’ve gone in our new neighborhood is the coffee shop, but only before we were fully moved in and had the ability to make coffee in our own kitchen. After a few visits, part of me still wanted to sneak in every day because I’d been chatty with the barista (he’s friendly, I know, because he accepts tips). It still feels like he is my only new “friend” here. But after we unpacked our boxes, we never visited the coffee shop again. Why take an unnecessary risk?

The most worthwhile activity Jade and I have taken on during COVID was a joint meditation regime we dutifully practiced every day for a few months. The recorded meditations were verbally facilitated against soundtracks of croaking frogs and crickets or rushing water. Eventually, I did feel different, calmer, a noticeable shift somewhere in my body that provided relief to the other anxious parts of me. When my subscription to the meditation app expired this summer, we moved onto other things. Here in Indiana, the sounds of crickets and tree frogs are tremendous. We fall asleep to them each night. I used to turn to my phone for this bedtime soundtrack, but now, it’s part of our natural environment. 

On Zoom, our new yoga teacher said that he’s started to host in-person classes again. I tried to maintain a neutral expression, though I guess I should have asked him why he’s doing such a thing since the COVID numbers in the state are going up every day. Later, I researched community acupuncture as an affordable treatment for my skin conditions but ditched the idea when I read on the website that masks are optional, even though many patients are being treated in the same room! Jade and I have visited the ReStore several times for second-hand furniture. There are always people, usually white men, who walk around bald-faced, and I fantasize about saying something about masks, but I also don’t want to get shot. 

I don’t want to get shot. I take part in a poetry reading online. Afterwards, I realize that I no longer have the fear I had every day in the classroom and at crowded literary readings that someone with a vendetta would march in and pull out a gun. Here, I start to write that staying at home, we are safe from that danger, but I realize it’s just my white privilege speaking when I remember Breonna Taylor. 

When we venture out—and oh, I want so badly to venture out and build community face-to-face in this new home—I most often think about two risks: the virus and its strongest engine, those who deny its reality. Plenty of virus-deniers say, “I don’t want to live in fear,” even though fear is a perfectly appropriate emotion. Fear is a companion, a roommate, a neighbor, an item on the menu everyone receives. I’ve accepted that my charge during COVID is to learn to live with a new-to-me fear. Each day, I try to thrive as much as I can and support the people I love.


Freesia McKee
Freesia McKee is a poet and essayist who writes about apathy, empathy, and power. Headmistress Press published Freesia’s first chapbook How Distant the City in 2017. Her series of post-election poems is called For the Immediate Aftermath.

Freesia’s words have appeared in So to Speak, Bone Bouquet, CALYX, cream city review, and more. She won the 2018 Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry.

Freesia lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She serves as an adjunct professor, a book reviewer for South Florida Poetry Journal, a writing coach, and a freelancer. She is working on a collection of poems about Florida and a series of essays about walls. Freesia has an MFA in poetry from Florida International University and a BA in Gender & Women’s Studies from Warren Wilson College.

Learn more about her and her work at


Thursday, September 17, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: Disapproving Corgis by Ellen Welcker

For those of you just joining Pandemic Meditations, welcome. Once or twice a week for the next many months, poets, writers, actors, artists, illustrators, and perhaps a juggler or two will share creative works in response to the pandemic that we all find ourselves in. 

Today, poet Ellen Welcker joins the series. I'm not sure where I first met Ellen because she's simply just here in the way that trees are just here and one doesn't know when an acquaintanceship was forged. But I do remember her remembering me, and me remembering her, at an annual autumn run in which, at the end of the Sekani Trail in Spokane, each runner gets to choose a pumpkin. Ellen was there, and so was I. The annual run will not be held this year, but luckily, I recognize Ellen in her words, here.


Disapproving Corgis

by Ellen Welcker

Once upon a time a kid said, “can someone tell us a story?” A mother began telling one, though everyone wondered where it would go from here, and in truth so did the mother telling it. 

“Once upon a time a kid said, ‘can someone tell us a story?” the mother began, though everyone wondered where it would go, and in truth so did the mother telling it. 

One kid gave a little laugh, and the mother documented it, saying, “One kid gave a little laugh,” which made another kid laugh just to see if she herself would be written in, as it were. 

“This made the other kid laugh just to see if she herself would be written in, as it were,” said the mother. 

How long would this go on? Could anyone stand even one more minute? This the mother said aloud, and no one knew whether the mother was telling the story, or whether she had stopped. 

Was it even possible to stop? 

Disapproving Corgis is a Facebook group I have asked to be a part of, for obvious reasons. There are several pertinent questions, my responses to which their administrators are now weighing. I like their pants, the sassy little fluffernutters, and I like their spunk. When I lived on an island, every day I watched two very fast dogs, built for speed, sprint gleefully down the beach and tear back toward their humans, back and forth, back and forth, the way dogs do. There was a corgi, undeterred by stumpy legs and quintessential fluffiness that would race down the boardwalk and leap the five feet to the beach below--hit the sand with a thud. His legs moved faster than the dogs that ran faster, his body carving divots in the sand as he flew this way and that.

People on my block are done chalking the walks with messages of solidarity. You can’t help but see how done they are. The chalk messages, when they were new, made me love people but also flared an anger in me. The desire to positive-think it. To tell oneself a story, and one’s children. It feels like willful ignorance, something I am (too late) starting to recognize as whiteness. Something I see in myself. It’s hard to write about. I guess that’s why I put corgis in here. 

Corgis and bald eagles are both animals made symbolic by countries used to the sound of their own power. Corgis are historically inbred and royalty is too. Eagles are not bald but white-headed sky kings. One was shot in the beak and couldn’t hunt or eat. She should’ve died, but scientists 3-D printed her a prosthetic one and it worked; they named her Beauty. Now Beauty sits in old-growth branches, preening, keenly eagling with her yellow eyes. Beauty’s nests are the biggest nests. You can’t help but think of the money she’s on. It isn’t Beauty’s fault she’s grown synonymous with us. Our opportunistic natures, our white-headedness. 

This year almost none by the river, and why? We have no one to ask but our phones. 

Back and forth we run, back and forth. 

Is it even possible to stop?


Ellen Welcker
Ellen Welcker’s aesthetic inclinations range from engagement of the lyric to narrative and prose poems. Her work is concerned with ecological desperation, boundaries and borders, the parent-child relationship, and the concept of ‘deep humanity’ as an animal state. 

Her books include Ram Hands (Scablands Books, 2016), The Botanical Garden (2009 Astrophil Poetry Prize, Astrophil Press, 2010), and several chapbooks. She collaborates with artists across the spectrum and lives in Spokane, where she works for the Bagley Wright Lecture Series on Poetry and is a cofounder of Scablands Lit, an organization that supports writers and readers in the Inland Northwest. Learn more about her and her work at

❤ Find more Pandemic Meditations here:

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: The Beauty within the Ugly by D.S. SENSE

There is, of course, the act of meditating--of clearing one's thoughts and finding a space within the body to dwell. There is also the act of focusing on a single object: a leaf, a shoelace, an image, a thought, a moment. 

No doubt, the dictionary has a numbered list of possible meanings for the word meditation. But I think, a dwelling, seems right. To dwell, in mind, in space. The pandemic seems to be meditating on us, having burrowed into our breaths in a way that it can exist without us feeling it there, much less knowing it. It can pass into others' breath without anyone knowing--the virus itself or the experience of living amid the virus. And, like this, we live within the pandemic only aware of it when someone else brings it up, when the streets go empty, or when we can't hear ourselves through or masks--or, in those moments we wake briefly from having lapsed into that former state of mind that existed before Covid-19.

Today, the Pandemic Meditations series continues, in dwelling, thanks to hip-hop artist Deidre D.S. SENSE Smith. I met Deidre in Detroit when I shared the stage with her and, from then on, her words have never let go and so I haven't either.  ~E.P.


The Beauty within the Ugly



A blue surgical mask trimmed in white adorns the archway of my bedroom door. There are seventeen windows opened on my smartphone screen as I try to meet today's demands remotely. I lay naked in bed in eighty-degree heat, with my right leg atop my left while cicadas sing a song that keeps prey at bay. My bedroom window is opened and the afternoon breeze ushers in a scent of freshly mowed lawns and the occasional cicada or mosquito. My cat, Eastside Gidget, is in a state of bliss as she chases the flying insects and snags my sheer curtains in the process. She takes a break and joins me on my bed for her afternoon nap. I envy the way she can rest anywhere in any space without a care in the world. I think to myself "how wonderful it must be" to only be concerned with how many snuggles one could fit into a day and how many trips to a saucer filled with kibble one should take. Why am I so entertained by this? I guess when your days merge into one big immeasurably timeless void . . . you find ways to fill it. COVID-19 has made us all so reflective, observant, and cautious. As someone who has aired on the side of caution for most of my life, I find myself being freer with my thoughts, hopes, dreams, and opinions. I am a "Rigid Bohemian" who has been contradictory in my desire to go with the flow while attempting to control the wave. Right now something is outside of my window out of my control, and I think that I'm okay with that. For once, I have been able to sit still, not know, know for sure, and not care to know anything . . .  it is the beauty within the ugly of the current state of the world. So I'm going to human and patient with the beauty and ugly within me while Mother Nature balances hers. 


Deidre D.S. SENSE Smith
eidre D.S. SENSE Smith is a hip-hop artist living and working in Detroit. She's the creator of the community project and brand #OnMyDetroitEverything, is deeply involved in the Detroit arts community (listen to an interview with her here), and served as an ambassador MC to Brazil as part of the Next Level program run by the Department of Agriculture and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has four albums to her name, Start Up Money, her self-titled album, and Space Audissey. Her newest album, Cooper St. Chrysalis, was recently released on all major platforms. Find it at Deidre also took part in the Summer Library Series; read her essay here

❤ Find more Pandemic Meditations here: