Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Peculiar Blindness, Part 5: Missing Dates

 

Museum and Tourist's Center list of Important Dates in history of Washington, Louisiana. March 2015.
Museum and Tourist's Center list of Important Dates in history of Washington, Louisiana. March 2015.

I'm in Birmingham, Alabama.

Juneteenth 2021 is coming up this weekend.  

I've been going through past photos, editing and organizing. 

I bumped into a photo I took in 2015: A list of Important Dates in the history of the historic village of Washington, in Louisiana. 

Apparently not a thing in Washington, Louisiana:

  • Slavery
  • Civil War
  • Emancipation
  • Opelousas Massacre (with its catalyst in Washington) (or heck, even call it the Opelousas "Riot")

Nor are these noteworthy events: 

April 9, 1866: The first civil rights act in the United States, which overturned the Black Codes and which established that "all persons" (including Black persons) born in the U.S. are citizens. [But: The Act specifically excluded most Native Americans from citizenship.]

July 9, 1868: The 14th Amendment to the Constitution re-affirmed that all persons born in the U.S. are citizens. [Note: But voting rights were denied to all women and to most Native Americans. The 14th Amendment was generally interpreted to deny citizenship to most Native Americans, as well.]

June 2, 1924 (less than 100 years ago!): The Indian Citizens Act allowed as how Native Americans are U.S. citizens, too.

Here in Alabama, the state scrubs out the federal holiday that commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday by bleaching it with a state holiday that honors Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general. 

In fact, Alabama has three PAID holidays that honor those who fought and died to protect their right to enslave fellow human beings.

In good news, there are efforts afoot to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. 

 

A couple of days ago, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. 

Yesterday, the U.S. House voted in favor of same, over the objections of, yes, two of Alabama's four representatives. (On the other hand, Governor Ivey recently proclaimed Juneteenth as an important day.)


Related posts

 


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Word of the Year: Joy 6: Color

 

Colorful coverlet, Birmingham, Alabama. May 2021.
Colorful coverlet, Birmingham, Alabama. May 2021.

 

At the thrift store, a cotton coverlet called to me from atop sedimentary layers of cloth.

The colors!

Sweet 'n juicy cantaloupe, butterscotch hard candy, periwinkle blossoms, hot-skinned August tomatoes.

My spirit soaked 'em up like a parched plant does water.

I felt deeply satisfied. Joyful. I even sighed, I think.

I brought the coverlet home. I shook it out, let it fall floaty-like onto my airbed, and smoothed my hand over the slightly nubby surface. I'm pretty sure I sighed again. These colors, like a dawn that cracks a crevice of red-orange-yellow light from behind the dark.

A few weeks later, I saw a flash of a young woman on the street in a summer dress, ostentatiously, outrageously, loudly, flowery colorful. So fresh! Ah! 

And then, and then ...... when I stepped into a Target, I saw more splashy, happy, joyful colors!  A produce stand of a summer's first fruits. 

 

Colorful summer dresses at Target. Birmingham, Alabama. May 2021.
Colorful summer dresses at Target. Birmingham, Alabama. May 2021.

Colorful summer dresses at Target. Birmingham, Alabama. May 2021.
Colorful summer dresses at Target. Birmingham, Alabama. May 2021.

Colorful summer dresses at Target. Birmingham, Alabama. May 2021.
Colorful summer dresses at Target. Birmingham, Alabama. May 2021.


The colors bring hope that the end of a long sepia COVID winter is coming. They bring joy.

 

 

 

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Word of the Year: Joy 5: The Science of Joy, Interrupted

Flower yellow and blue, Lafayette, Louisiana. January 2014.
Flower yellow and blue, Lafayette, Louisiana. January 2014.

 

 

I'm glad some folks study joy. 

I started to write this post on what science has to say on joy. 

But I got bogged down in my hunt for interesting research on joy.

In fact, the exercise became joyless

So, I say, fuck it. 

Which brings me a nano-flare of joy right there.

To fan that tiny flame, I'm just going to take a moment here ...................... and muster up some joy ........... by looking at the greenery outside my window and listening to the chatty birds outside. 

There we go now. 

So as not to let my preliminary efforts go to waste, read on if you wish:

From Grotto Network (a Catholic medium designed for Catholic millennials): How to Find Joy According to Science:

"The American Psychological Association (APA) defines joy as 'a feeling of extreme gladness, delight, or exaltation of the spirit arising from a sense of well-being or satisfaction.'”

 

From the charming Badges For All: The Science of Joy and Happiness (for a Joy Seeker badge!)

 ... which applies a definition of joy by Ingrid Fetell Lee: "[Joy is an] 'intense, momentary experience of positive emotion.'"

 

In her 2017 abstract, Refining Research on Joy, Dr. Lynn Underwood proposed how scientists might refine the terms they use in reference to joy. An excerpt: 

To find out about joy using the tools of scientific research we must identify what
connects joy of all kinds for many people, something that comes under the wide umbrella of
joy, in order to find some common features .....The kinds of joy that happen
together with sorrow differ from unmixed joy. Variations in intensity may describe joy of
very different kinds. Quiet joy that looks more like deep contentment might be very different
from ecstatic joy. Joy that occurs with others, either with other people or a divine other, may seem quite distinct. ... And each of us is temperamentally different. Some of us
experience the most profound joy in solitude, some of us when with others. Some of us find
frequent calm joy, others have frequent highs in experiences of joy. For some joy is
inextricably linked to a sense of the transcendent, for others there is no awareness of
transcendence in their experiences. The words used to tap into this need to give space for all of these kinds of joy. 


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Birmingham, AL: Mulberries

 

Mulberries, George Ward Park, Glen Iris, Birmingham, Alabama. April 2021.
Mulberries, George Ward Park, Glen Iris, Birmingham, Alabama. April 2021.

Now that the cold winter has finally slunk away, every day in this springtime gives my soul bounce. 

When I spied the mulberries on the park path yesterday, oh sweetness! 

How they took me back to another welcome spring - in Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Georgia: The Tutebi are Here

Rustavi, Georgia. White tuta (mulberry)



There are black tutas and white tutas. In the plural, they are tutebi.

Mulberries! Beloved here. They do taste good.


The black tutas have peaked, I think, and all that I found at one tree were those which had fallen onto the ground.

Rustavi, Georgia. Black tuta (mulberry)


I had a mulberry tree in Missouri, but never saw any fruit. Evidently, it was a male, therefore fruitless.


Rustavi, Georgia. White tuta (mulberry)


 

 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Word of the Year 2021: Joy 4: Happy, Joyous, and Free

 

A happy couple in Nazret, Ethiopia. September, 2006.
A happy couple in Nazret, Ethiopia. September, 2006.

 

We are not a glum lot

I'm not an alcoholic, but I am in a 12-step fellowship that uses the Alcoholic Anonymous Big Book. In that Big Book are some of my favorite phrases: 

But we aren’t a glum lot.  ... We absolutely insist on enjoying life.  We try not to indulge in cynicism over the state of the nations, nor do we carry the world’s troubles on our shoulders. ...  So we think cheerfulness and laughter make for use­fulness.  

We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free.


This, too, shall pass

In the 12-step universe there is a slogan we lean on when we encounter one of life's storms: This, too, shall pass. 

But the slogan also applies to sunny days, when everything seems to go right. Because they, too, shall pass. 

So I'd better savor the flavor of today's sweet air.

 

 

On joy so far

 

 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Missouri: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 8888: A Haircut

 

The Honey Comb Barber Shop, Opelousas, Louisiana. October 2015.
The Honey Comb Barber Shop, Opelousas, Louisiana. October 2015.

 

I got my hair cut the day before my mother's funeral last week.

It was my first haircut since March 2020. Back then, the possibility of a COVID clamp-down in Tucson loomed and I thought I'd better get scissored before that happened. If that happened.

To get my hair cut this month wasn't my Plan A.

My Plan A was to wait until the beginning of May when I would visit my mom for a week. My Plan A was to walk in to my mom's house with my hair at a length it hadn't been in decades. My Plan A was to take pleasure in these three moments with my mom:

  1. Anticipation of the verdict she would render when she saw my hair
  2. The actual verdict
  3. My first flush of response to her verdict

Her judgment could go either way, and I knew it would give her a moment's pleasure, as well, to see something unexpected and to express an opinion about it. 

And then I'd get my hair cut. 

I looked forward to that May haircut - more than a year after the last - because my hair doesn't do well long. I inherited my mom's hair texture. It's fine and on the thin side, so the adjective to describe my hair when it's long is lank and not lush

But Plan A fell by the wayside.

Instead, the day before my mom's funeral I went to a hair salon in my old neighborhood. 

I arrived before the salon opened to avoid any hair cutting rushes later in the morning. There was one man already there with the same idea. 

The three stylists on duty wore masks, as did I. 

It felt safe to be there; I relaxed into the cutting experience. 

It felt good to have a fresh cut the day before I saw my mom, to say good-bye. 

My mom's shining white hair, when I saw it the next day, looked freshly cut, too. Pretty. Except there were two strands slightly askew on her forehead. I tried to guide the strands - lightly, gently - into place, but there was some sort of product on her hair that resisted movement, so I let them be. 


 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Rootless: The Last Monday Letter

 

Carol Cottage, Missouri. January 2011.
Carol Cottage, Missouri. January 2011.

Dear Mom, 

I've written you a letter almost every Monday since mid-December 2018. 

In that first weekly letter, I was at the end of an interregnum Missouri visit, about to depart for a Christmas-New Year layover in South Louisiana before heading westward to my next tourist-in-residency --> Tucson.  

When I wrote you that letter, I still had my 1995 Toyota Camry. When I wrote you that letter, I didn't know that, two weeks later, I would say good-bye forever to that sturdy stalwart of my rootless life.

It looks like this will be my last Monday letter to you, and I'm putting it here, seeing as how you don't live at Carol Cottage anymore, seeing as how you've died, of course. You, too, were a sturdy stalwart in my life. I think you'd chuckle at being compared to a car. Or you'd be annoyed. 

Carol Cottage, Missouri. January 2011.
Carol Cottage, Missouri. January 2011.


So let me tell you about your funeral and burial.  It was everything you'd asked for.

You lay in your casket in a long-sleeved, white cotton nightgown. White-thread embroidery just below the neckline, a band of hand-stitched eyelets below the neckline, a pleated bodice. Pretty details, yet still in the range one can call simple. Exactly your style.

The James Lee Burke book, Pegasus Descending, featuring our mutual hero, Dave Robicheaux, rested on your belly, propped against the open half-lid of the casket. You had a perverse fondness for Dave's violent, psychopathic side-kick, Clete Purvis. 

As you'd asked, we ordered your casket from an online supplier and had it shipped to the funeral home to side-step the markup costs assessed by funeral homes for their caskets. We selected a poplar casket in a cherry finish that, like your nightgown, had pleasing details of interest, but overall, evoked the comfortable warmth and intimacy of your living room. And, gosh, did you know you can buy a casket at Costco? We chose yours from a different company, but knowing Costco's got caskets is something to tuck away for future reference.

As for how you looked in the casket, you didn't just "look good" like in the cliche about such things. You were beautiful. Astonishingly so. I'm serious, Mom. Even your nails were manicured and polished (with the barest of pink blush), just as you would like. And you wore the exact right shade of lipstick for your complexion. I'm not saying you looked beautiful "for your age," a woman of 91. No, you were beautiful in that casket irrespective of age. 

You wanted Ave Maria sung at your funeral. The soloist, a young woman, sang it to you, to us, in a clear, warm, mezzo-soprano voice, from the balcony behind us. The notes of that transcendent song washed over me.

Your Ave Maria was gorgeous. But when the young singer began to serenade you with Amazing Grace while your descendants escorted you from the altar to the waiting funeral car, well, that took my breath away.   

 

 

The car procession that followed you to the cemetery ... an unremarkable journey. 

No Fellini-esque plot twists on the way, as happened after your brother, Clement's, funeral. Remember? When dozens of us, including you and Dad, idled outside the church, seemingly forever, waiting for the priest to lead the vehicular cavalry? And when you asked the funeral director what was taking so long for us to get started, he conjectured that maybe the priest was eating a sandwich. 

We eventually did get going, one car following another, as they do in a funeral procession. We seemed to drive a long time, first on a congested arterial road, then on the highway, then off the highway onto another arterial road and then, oddly, the funeral car took a right turn onto a small side street. A dead-end, in fact. We followed, of course, only to understand that the funeral car driver had taken a wrong turn somewhere and he'd only entered this street so he could turn around (turn all of us around) and get onto the right path. Remember how we all poked our vehicles' noses into residents' driveways so we could then back up and restore our places in line behind the retreating funeral car?

There had been so much idling in front of the church before getting underway that your youngest child had to pull out of the funeral procession so he could gas up his truck before he ran out of fuel.

Oh, what a dramatic third act that was!

But getting back to your memorial day. It had rained earlier, but the rain abated for the final stop of our long good-bye to you. Chilly, though. If you'd been among us en vivo, at the cemetery, under the final-words canopy, you'd have been rolling your eyes and sighing while the priest used his bully pulpit to convince us of how fun it is to be in heaven. Me, I just shivered in the cold and waited impatiently for him to cut the commercial and get back to the program: you

Daughter Kit had a mission to visit Dad's grave (where you were about to join him) and her paternal grandfather's grave. She'd already obtained their grave 'addresses' and their locations on the cemetery map, and following your closing ceremony under the canopy, she and her family and I drove to Dad's cemetery neighborhood. 

So it was that we came upon the newly dug grave, into which you would be interred. We watched while the cemetery crew brought you to the grave in, let's call it a carriage, albeit a humble, utilitarian one. We watched how the crew pulled your casket from the carriage, centered you into a harness of sorts, and carefully lowered you into your grave with straps and winches, guiding your slow descent by hand. 

You would have been quite interested in watching this process. 

It felt good to be with you in your most final of final moments.

OK, then. This is my last Monday letter, Mom.

Love, 

Mzuri

 

Related posts

 

Post office and cows, Topawa, Tohono O'odham Nation, Arizona. July 2019.
Post office and cows, Topawa, Tohono O'odham Nation, Arizona. July 2019.