Tuesday, September 15, 2020


Today I drove west for a couple of hours to meet a dear friend at a nature preserve. She wanted to see lots of wildlife but mostly it was egrets, yellow flowers that I couldn't identify (tickseed? Something much taller?), a frog in my path that jumped into the grass, a couple of snakes, a huge grey bird that looked like a dinosaur, and a bunch of what looked like enormously fat geese or ducks. Plenty of plants, but it was a bit bleak seeing marshes that looked choked by invasives.
It was a good break from yesterday's work: my lawn guy showed up alone and asked if I wanted to help. I wasn't sure if he was joking but after I talked to the electric company about a weird bill, I got booted up to work. Spreading 2 yards of dirt was no joke, though I was not happy with it because it was clearly not topsoil, looked more like fill dirt. At this point, all of the land is clay so here I go adding a new layer of clay! He seeded today and I had to buy a new hose to start watering. Grubs killing my lawn set me over the edge but at least...we pulled out some invasive weeds? At least I get to throw money at a lawn I don't use? If Fulbright cancels our grants next spring, I may finally get serious about doing my own lawn/yard labor so that I don't have to be disappointed constantly. At that point, I'll need the exercise!
I still love seeing the ironweed against goldenrod at the metro park a mile from me, though it's cooling down considerably. What is NOT cooling down is my general sense of outrage. I listened twice to this great interview between Audie Cornish and Claudia Rankine. I was also horrified by stories about the abuse of women in woodworking as outlined in this article from a couple years ago. The idea that men would be so threatened by a woman doing carpentry alongside them that they would risk her life and actually break her back? Sigh. This weekend I was happy to take in a concert of all new music through Open Space Music, reminding me of a story that a friend told me about her colleague's recent experience trying to buy a book—

My [colleague B] was looking for Minor Feelings at the Strand bookstore, and she asked at the front desk where to find it. The person who was working said, you need to go downstairs and ask the person working downstairs because it’s really hard to find. There was an Asian woman who was also working at the register, and she said, oh, I know where it is, I’ll help you. It turns out that the book was almost impossible to find, stocked in a place where anybody hardly goes. B went up to the front desk and asked why the book was not displayed in the front along with other books that deal with racial equality and so forth. The man said, we only display books that were published recently. B then told him that the book was published in 2020 and they should have the book at the front. He was very defensive and started telling her all the reasons why they didn’t have the book out.
I still don't know what to do with all of this hurt in my body about where we are right now. I know that the twin pandemics are causing my current state of being barely able to stay on top of my life, the weird dreams, the constant clang of things falling out of my head as my mind stops being able to grasp anything for longer than a millisecond. The answer used to be my work, but I can't even see it under the pile of teaching, fall applications, trying to schedule medical appts before year's end, and maintaining my basic life without getting pulled under. I feel desperately sad to miss my niece's transformation from newborn to babyhood and beyond, and miss my mom's cooking. I have to remember that the change of seasons is never smooth, and that the scampering now to see loved ones outdoors before it snows is a real necessity to keep me strong through the winter.

So as not to be 100% a downer, what's good? Watching someone online get really excited listening to a violin/cello duo. Witnessing a composer geeking out on music theory after explaining why it's important to give students a break this fall because they are already feeling so worn this semester. Realizing that I can identify more plants this year than I could in past years, so even if my relationships with people have deteriorated, my relationship with the organisms that keep all humans alive has strengthened. Having too many books to read, so time to crack another one open!

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