Thursday, July 2, 2020

Flashback to 2017: El Paso: The Tumblewords Project: Introduction and Smeltertown

My Saturday habit while I lived in El Paso. The original post here.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

El Paso: The Tumblewords Project: Introduction and Smeltertown

The Tumblewords Project didn't hit my radar until June. A pity.  Because with my very first mid-day Saturday attendance at the weekly writing group, I lamented silently, "Why didn't I discover this before?!"

It only got my attention the first time because of the magic words Smeltertown. Where did I even see the phrase in connection with Tumblewords? The library? Social media? An upcoming-events email? No idea.

I first learned about Smeltertown when I took the guided hike up Mt Cristo Rey. Then I saw an announcement about a photographer with an exhibit of her photos at Smeltertown, but because of a scheduling conflict, I couldn't go. So when I saw the third reference to Smeltertown, I had to check it out.

This article isn't about Smeltertown; it's about the Tumblewords Project. But the leader for this particular Saturday's meeting - Carolyn Rhea Drapes - took us, in our imagination, to the Smeltertown of her youth. Like: 
  • "La Smelta."
  • "Every morning abuela would hang her canary cages on the branches of the cottonwood tree." 
  • Tiny houses as big as an efficiency apartment. 
  • Some people had electric, water and gas. 
  • For a long time, had communal toilets. 
  • "Everything felt caked in sulfur." 
  •  "Those yellow smells had no chance of entering [abuela's] kitchen."


Tumblewords describes its process thus:
The format involves preliminary announcements, the presenter speaking for maybe ten minutes, writing on the spot, and then going around the room and each participant reading aloud. We like to have three rounds of writing and reading aloud, but depending on the number of participants who show up any one workshop, there may only be time for two rounds or even one. Presenters are given free range to present however or whatever they want, as long as the primary amount of time is allocated to writing and reading aloud. Some presenters read the works of writers they revere, show slides of their art work or the art of others, bring in visual art, play or perform music, or read their own work. The participants are free to write in whatever form or on whatever topic they choose, notwithstanding the topic of presentation.

Some rules:
  • You write and you share what you write. 
  • No whining about the quality of your work; at most you can say: "This is shit." But then you gotta read it aloud anyway. 
  • No critiques.

The goal is to write. Simple as that. 

Donna Snyder is the founder and matriarch of the group - it's a remarkable feat to have nurtured a writing group since its birth in 1995. A succinct synopsis about Donna: " ... a lawyer by profession, an activist by inclination and a poet by compulsion, has an extensive list of published work to her credit ... "

I always feel welcomed and supported at the workshops.

And holy moly, there is huge talent in that library room every Saturday!


Getting back to this day's work, as led by Carolyn Rhea Drapes: 

From Carolyn's sharing about Smeltertown, the canaries in the cottonwood tree pricked my senses.

In two writing sprints, I created the following (since edited): 

First sprint:

In the time of the killing in the lushness, the richness of Rwanda, did the birds continue to sing? 

Is it true that the foreign tamarisks crowd and kill the native cottonwoods, usurping their space and water like they say they do? 

Of what use is this man-made border over which the giant Christ looks with his arms outstretched, which separates sisters, but which birds and tamarisks and cottonwoods flaunt with impunity?
Mt. Cristo Rey, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.

Of what use is this wall that hems El Paso, choked like the Rio Grande, cobbled and parched? 

Does the big Christ not shake his head in bemusement when he looks at the rusty wall that separates the sisters he made? 

US border between El Paso and Juarez. November 2016.

Some of abuela's canaries died and they were not replaced. 


Portal, Arizona. March 2013.

Second sprint: 

Outside the red library in Portal, New Mexico, bird feeders hang from leafy cottonwoods. Books in a cart enjoy the air outside. It is fine to sit in the shade of the cottonwoods and listen to the birds sing.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Word of the Year 2020: Build 7: Trail Building

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico. January 2013.

People who undertake long journeys fascinate and inspire me. I've shared some folks' long journeys here and below:
  1. Long Journeys: Movies, Part 1
  2. Long Journeys: Movies, Part 2
  3. Icy Journeys
  4. Movies: Famous American Trails
  5. Cycling Across America
  6. Rootless: Long Walk: "This Wild Call From Inside Me"
  7. Long Journeys: The River ... And a Sidebar on Journeywomen
  8. Long Journeys: Tracks, About a Woman's Walk Across Western Australia

Why do trails inspire me so? Well, there's the wanderlust, of course, and the curiosity. What lies over there, wherever "over there" is.

But more than that, there is the pushing of boundaries, overcoming fear, solving problems, and surviving hardships. The accomplishment.

In the context of this year's word, my focus today is on building a trail.

An important age-related milestone looms.

Building a sustainable, real-life trail requires the designer and builder to acknowledge the terrain, the surface composition, the climate, and how all of these interact with the trail user's (i.e., my) physical, cognitive, and emotional capabilities now and in the future.

As you likely gathered from other Build posts this year, the age thing is on my mind.

I kinda have an idea of what I want my future aged life looks like.

But I'm thinking about, imagining, and designing what my trail will look like between the Rootless Here and the Rooted There.

If I visualize a long trail such as the Appalachian Trail, there are sections, each with different geographic and climate features. I can divvy up my through hike into sections, too:
  1. Money
  2. Health
  3. Relationships
  4. Service and activism
  5. Creative life
  6. Rootless goals I want to achieve

Imagining and designing these trail sections is a worthy endeavor for the rest of this year.

Castlewood State Park, Missouri. April 2018.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Flashback to 2016: Antigua, Guatemala: The Scourge of Pee

Travel does, indeed, expand one's knowledge, as evidenced in this post back in 2016.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Antigua, Guatemala: The Scourge of Pee

I learned something in Antigua that was gobsmacking.

Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

Men's habit of peeing on the exterior building walls in Antigua is damaging the buildings. Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Center, so this is serious business.

It's not just in Antigua. Consider Germany's Ulm Minister, the church with the tallest tower in the world. "Persistent peeing is damaging the historic structure."

Peeing on the limestone walls of the 250-year-old Alamo in Texas is a serious crime because of the damage it does to the historic structure.

In Berlin, the city created a force of "urine police" to protect historic buildings. "Human urine is so abrasive and corrosive that, over time, it acts like a sandblaster," said a scientist.

It's also a problem in Chester, England, which sits atop Roman ruins.

And in Plymouth, England, for a 250-year old synagogue.

There is apparently a Facebook page that has photos of men caught in the act of peeing on walls in Antigua. It's a shaming page. I haven't been able to track it down.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Word of the Year 2020: Build 6: Elevation

On Build thus far

Word of the Year 2020: Build 1: After the Floods
Word of the Year 2020: Build 2: Fronterista
Word of the Year 2020: Build 3: "House"
Word of the Year 2020: Build 4: Chosens
Word of the Year 2020: Build 5: It Takes a Village

Until I began this post, I'd not heard the term, post-traumatic growth.

It is when a person arrives at a post-traumatic mental place where they thrive after a transformation in their worldview.

Following trauma, a person may regain their pre-trauma equilibrium. (And that, by itself, is a tremendous positive.)

Post-traumatic growth, though, from Association Between Resiliency and Post-Traumatic Growth in Firefighters ....
PTG is more than just a return to equilibrium after an experienced traumatic situation. This phenomenon indicates that as a result of an experienced situation a person underwent some kind of transformation and achieved a higher level of functioning than before the trauma.
.... distinguish the two concepts of resilience and PTG, emphasizing that development following trauma results from transformation, which means cognitive rebuilding [emphasis mine]. Resiliency assumes an ability to move forward with life after adversity, whereas PTG involves a movement beyond pre-trauma levels of adaptation. Moreover, researchers stress that resilient individuals do not necessarily have to experience PTG, as not all traumatic events are subjectively identified as challenging.

[PTG] does not exclude the occurrence of adverse effects of experienced trauma. Post-traumatic growth does not mean that the experience of trauma is desirable or necessary to make significant changes in life. It is not equated with a sense of happiness, either. It is, however, an opportunity for a more meaningful and valuable life. [Note: "valuable,' I'm assuming, in the eyes of the person who experienced the trauma]

Another source framed the cognitive rebuilding succinctly, in Resilience and Post-Traumatic Growth: A Comparison: "Post-traumatic growth is manifested in several clearly defined behaviors and thought patterns not necessarily present prior to exposure. [emphasis mine]"

For some of us - maybe most? - it is a 100% good outcome to regain the equilibrium or the life movement we had pre-trauma. There is nothing intrinsically superior about attaining some higher level of consciousness following trauma, in my not so humble opinion.

But for others of us - take me, for instance - when the original equilibrium may have stood on unstable land, then that "cognitive rebuilding" - the mental rewiring - the post-traumatic elevation - is definitely a goal to reach for.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

On the Road: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 22: Into New Mexico

COVID signage outside Walmart. Las Cruces, New Mexico. May 2020.

After leaving Tucson, I headed east on I-10.

In addition to the Welcome to New Mexico border sign, there was another, emblazoned on a giant LED board, which I remember as:

Face coverings must be worn in public settings.

(When, oh when, will I learn to stop and take photos of these documentary things?)

I already knew that New Mexico took COVID protections more seriously than Arizona. The signage impressed me right off, not only for its literal message to inform travelers, but for the sign's implied message: We walk our talk about our concern for your health.

My experience in Tucson was that stores took COVID seriously: plexiglass barriers between cashiers and customers, sanitized shopping carts, and eventually, cashiers routinely wearing masks. But the percentage of Tucsonans wearing masks while shopping was slow to rise as COVID unfolded, and at best, I estimate only a 70% mask-wearing rate at its peak.

In Las Cruces, New Mexico, mask wearing is de rigeur. When I entered the above Walmart, everyone wore a mask except for one scofflaw dad and his under-the-age-of-informed-consent daughter.

I stayed in a Las Cruces motel for three nights. COVID constraints closed the indoor pool, prohibited visitors to motel guests, and required masks in the lobby. This felt reassuring. 

I met with friends in Las Cruces.

In one case, a friend and I met outside only, in a covered breezeway, with 15 or so feet between us. In another case, we met indoors and maskless, but with at least 10 feet between us.  In the third case, we met inside, maskless - most of the time with at least six feet between us, but for a brief time, we sat together at a dining table for lunch.

No hugs, no handshakes.

A level of confidence among all of us that we'd each practiced pretty-safe behaviors before meeting up.

If I were to apply a sexual-encounter analogy, I'd say the three personal meetings - in their aggregate - were similar to using a condom: pretty darn good protection against infection, but not without risk, and certainly not the 100% protection that abstinence brings.

Gosh, it was good to see some folks face to face!

And a rueful shout-out to my El Paso friend and treasured role model, who I couldn't meet while in the area.   :-(

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Tucson, AZ: Goodbye: A Soft Close

My Louisiana coffee mug in my Tucson apartment. April 2019.

Yesterday was my last day in Tucson.

I expected an unexpected, unpleasant surprise on my move-out day.

Although there was an annoying location glitch in dropping off my internet provider's router, it was relatively mild, so it didn't rise to the unpleasant surprise level. After I accomplished that mission, I thought, wow, it looks like this will be a smooth exit!

But then, when I traversed a side street on my way out of Tucson, I didn't see a speed hump quickly enough to ratchet down my speed to prevent a clunk as I went over the hump. And I thought, oh, HERE is my move-out surprise! Vehicle damage!

But, no, Chez P(rius) incurred no damage, and I was on my way.

The move-out gods granted mercy this year.    

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 21: Masks

Two of my COVID masks. Tucson, Arizona. May 2020.

Getting some

I bought a set of three masks. My decision-making process was a recipe of
  • Two parts --> best-scientific-thinking-at-this-time +
  • One part --> Emotional attraction to the sage green color, which overrode a third important best-scientific-thinking-at-this-time feature (multiple layers of fabric).

Before I bought the masks, I did use the folded-over-bandana-mask-with-two-hair ties model. That actually worked pretty well, except for five buts:
  1. My bandana mask had a tendency to slide down my nose, which exposed two COVID entry portals, also known as my nostrils. 
  2. Ergo, I had to touch the outside of my mask to nudge it back up over my nose, which meant I may have been touching a contaminated surface. 
  3. I couldn't wear my earrings with the bandana mask because the hair ties got caught up in them. 
  4. Sometimes a hair tie slipped off an ear.  
  5. The bulk of the folded-over fabric obscured my looking-down vision, making it treacherous to negotiate steps. (This is a real thing: Recently, I read of someone who broke her arm when she stumbled due to impaired vision caused by her bulked mask fabric.)
I coulda joined the legions of crafty souls who have made their own masks, selecting from any of the plethora of so-called easy templates, but I'm neither skilled nor interested in such things, which is why my mother pretty much made my 8th grade sewing project for me, which was a lovely mossy green jumper made of a faux suede. The color was my favorite and the texture so soft.

I regret that I won't have that COVID Era cultural memory of homemade mask making that so many people around the planet will, but, well, whatever.

Around the ears or around the neck and head? 

I opted for a design that has two slender elastic strings, one circling the top of my neck and the other circling my head above my ears. Because a good fit without gaps is important, I liked that I could adjust the fit of either elastic string.

A little titillating

It amuses me that my masks remind me of old-timey halter tops from the 70s. To wear a halter top on my face makes me giggle.

The fabric is from athleisure wear, so it feels comfortable to touch.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Relocation: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 20: Where Am I Going?

Lake Fausse Point State Park, Louisiana. November 2013.

Well, I am in an interesting pickle. 

With COVID, there is uncertainty about what will be open and what will not - for sleeping, gassing up, eating.

I will leave Tucson on May 29. 

What I know:

I will get into my car and drive east.

What I don't know:

Anything else.

OK, OK, that's a bit hyperbolic. But, really, not much. I have squishy ideas of where I'll stop the first night, and I have a couple of smooshy possibilities of a route I'll take to ..... maybe one place for awhile or maybe another place for awhile but both "one place" and "awhile" are only dimly lit. 

As Bones said so many years ago: In ignorance, I await my own surprise.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 19: Naked Toes

Benson Sculpture Garden, Benson, Colorado. May 2016.

On one hand, you could say that cosmetic maintenance in this time of stay-at-home COVID is a superficial matter - and it is, literally.

Art Castings, Loveland, Colorado. May 2016.

On the other hand, we humans, no matter how low or high our incomes, find comfort, satisfaction, pure plain pleasure in having our hair, skin, and nails groomed. We want to look good and thus feel good. It puts a swag to our step.

It has been thus for millennia.

Benson Sculpture Garden, Benson, Colorado. May 2016.

Heck, animals groom each other, and it's not just about removing insects, it's part of group socialization, bonding, mutual support.

So with stay-at-home-ness keeping us from our visits to salons and the skilled groomers who primp us, oh, it's a loss that is more than skin deep.

Today I stripped the red polish from my toes. The pedicure I had two months ago (longer?) looked so bedraggled. I can't remember when I ever had naked toes in the warm seasons.

Niels Chr. Hansen, Four Foot Sketches in Pencil, around 1892
Niels Chr. Hansen, Four Foot Sketches in Pencil, around 1892. Source: via Art Coffee

When we were children, my mother used to tell us that our toes were shaped like the statues of ancient gods and goddesses, our toes curled daintily just a bit, with each succeeding toe shorter than the one before.

This always makes me smile, although I can't say that my naked toes today look like those of an ancient goddess.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 18: Signs of these Times

COVID masked dinosaur, McDonald's at Grant and Tanque Verde, Tucson, Arizona. May 2020.

On today's weekly hunting-and-gathering foray, I saw signs of the COVID times. They ranged from the whimsical to the utilitarian to the ... ironic? wry? earnest? apocalyptic?

COVID mask and gloves bucket, Food City, Tucson, Arizona. May 2020.

COVID shopping carts, Food City, Tucson, Arizona. May 2020.

COVID biotech sticker, Sprouts parking lot, Tucson, Arizona. May 2020.

Two artists for the above sticker? The second unknown to the first?

"Biotech is Godzilla" is a cultural reference for fans of 1980s-90s thrash metal, which presaged death metal.  The Brazilian band, Sepultura, who birthed Biotech is Godzilla, was a thrash metal band. There is even an Arizona connection here, as the band spent some time in Phoenix writing songs for its Chaos A.D. album.

From a 2017 article in Revolver, 5 Things You Didn't Know About Sepultura's 'Chaos A.D.':

Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra wrote the lyrics to "Biotech Is Godzilla"

As a longtime fan of early punk-rock bands, including Black Flag, Bad Brains, Circle Jerks and especially Dead Kennedys, Cavalera was excited by the idea of having DK frontman Jello Biafra contribute to the album. He didn't want him to sing, he just wanted lyrics.
"I don't think Jello is a bad singer, I just think his lyrics are so great. They're so sarcastic and smart. So I asked him to write the lyrics and he said, 'What should I write about?' I said, 'Anything you want to, man.' So he came up with 'Biotech is Godzilla,' which is about the 1992 Rio Summit, where all these politicians got together and talked about technology. Jello's big theory was that AIDS was invented by scientists in laboratories. It was a disease created by us."

The lyrics to Biotech is Godzilla

Rio Summit, '92
Street people kidnapped
Hid from view
"To save the earth"
Our rulers met
Some had other
Secret plans


Say what?

Strip-mine the Amazon
Of cells of life itself
Gold rush for genes is on
Natives get nothing

Is Godzilla

Mutations cooked in labs
Money-mad experiments
New food + medicine?
New germs + accidents!
Like Cubatao
"World's most polluted town"
Air melts your face
Deformed children all around
Ain't what's so bad
Like all technology
It's in the wrong hands

Cut-throat corporations
Don't give a damn
When lots of people die
From what they've made

Is A.I.D.S.?


So you just never know what you're going to discover from a simple sticker slapped onto a pole in a grocery store parking lot.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Flashback to 2015: Jefferson Island, Louisiana: Rip Van Winkle Gardens

I remember the pleasure of standing under cover of bamboo, listening to the softness of the rain and the creaking of the boughs.

A flashback of those moments, and others, in this 2015 post.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Jefferson Island, Louisiana: Rip Van Winkle Gardens

Jefferson Island, Rip Van Winkle Gardens, Louisiana

Yeah, I know, looks weird, yes? It's a slug. Or roly poly, maybe. I like her upturned mouth.

Time's awastin' on my 2nd Louisiana year, and today I wanted to put to bed the Rip Van Winkle Gardens on Jefferson Island. It was my second visit, the first being abbreviated back in October 2014.

Jefferson Island, Rip Van Winkle Gardens, Louisiana
Gosh, what a pretty place. With so much shade, it's a pleasant escape from Louisiana heat. Many spots to sit and be contemplative.

Jefferson Island, Rip Van Winkle Gardens, Louisiana
There was a short afternoon rain while I was on the paths, and I took cover under a stand of bowed tall grass and bamboo. A taste of this rain below:

At another spot, I sat in front of thick bamboo and listened while it creaked and the peacocks complained loudly to each other. And my belly rumbled a couple of times, too. Here it is below:

When I was here last fall, there was some exciting snake action, which I caught on video here:

Can you see the snake in the picture below? It's a copperhead.

Snake in the bamboo, Jefferson Island, Rip Van Winkle Gardens, Louisiana

No? Let's get a little closer:

Snake in the bamboo, Jefferson Island, Rip Van Winkle Gardens, Louisiana

And let's get a real good look:

Snake in the bamboo, Jefferson Island, Rip Van Winkle Gardens, Louisiana

Hahahaha, I like snakes.

As I said here, I much prefer the gardens on Jefferson Island to the gardens on Avery Island. That is, if one is ambulatory. Jungle Gardens on Avery Island is a driveable experience, so it works much better than Jefferson Island for people who find walking difficult.

A slide show below of Jefferson Island's Rip Van Winkle Gardens:


Friday, May 1, 2020

Word of the Year 2020: Build 5: It Takes a Village

Kazbegi, Caucasus Georgia. May 2012.

On Build thus far

Word of the Year 2020: Build 1: After the Floods
Word of the Year 2020: Build 2: Fronterista
Word of the Year 2020: Build 3: "House"
Word of the Year 2020: Build 4: Chosens

There comes a time when a solo woman observes that she might have to leave behind the cachet of a "woman of a certain age" and enter the land of a "woman of age."

"Not today," she says to herself. But it's coming some day, not too far away, because from her ship's deck, she can just make out the shoreline, and her boat inexorably inches closer to the beach.

In preparation for landing, she's got to consider aging issues.

I've talked about building a chosen family. A chosen family brings mutual intimacy, emotional sustenance, wise counsel from brains not our own, soft places to fall.

For practical, simple transactional needs that arise as singletons age, it's good to build a real-life or virtual home in a village.

Money Crashers offers a useful article on How to Plan for Old Age and Elder Care When You Don't Have Kids.

The advice isn't just for elders without kids - it's also for elders who have kids, but the grown kids:
  1. Live far away
  2. Already have care-giving obligations to others, such as special needs children or in-laws for whom they provide care
  3. Struggle with personal challenges
  4. Are well-intentioned and enthusiastic about being supportive, but just don't have the skill set their parents need
  5. Exploit their parents' finances or are emotionally/verbally/physically abusive
  6. Don't want a relationship with their parents

The article uses the term "elder orphan," a label with only sad, victim-y connotations that I don't believe are helpful. However, the advice in the article is solid.

Some highlights for what solo elders do to build a village around them:
  1. The Village to Village Network
  2. Work longer and save more to pay for future in-home care expenses that will help you stay in your own home
  3. Choose a supportive neighborhood (e.g. walkable to grocery store, library, park)
  4. Consider house-sharing or communal living
  5. Make new friends
  6. Wellness-tracking or wellness-alarm systems
  7. For folks who have the means: geriatric care manager

One of my daydreams is to buy a plot of land that is, literally, here:

In this daydream, I have one or two dogs to provide companionship and safety. I live in a tiny cabin. I might not have any internet access. I have water. I have this stunning view.

Although this might work for a year, realistically, I'm going to want to age in a town, in a walkable neighborhood, with internet, live music, diversity of age around me, a library, pocket parks.

I'll want a village.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 17: Laundry Economics Revisited

At the laundromat. El Paso, Texas. February 2019.

As a renter who lives in budget apartments that don't include washers and dryers, I use communal laundry facilities. Fortunately, all of my domestic apartment choices thus far have included facilities on-site.

It was in 2013, when I lived in Lafayette, Louisiana, that I first learned some lessons about laundry economics. This was the first time in my domestic rootless life when I had to pay to use a washer and dryer.

Not mentioned in that 2013 post about laundry economics was another lesson I learned. I remember clearly the elation I felt upon this discovery. Which was: Buy more pairs of underwear! What a eureka moment!

Underwear takes up so little space and is so light! By having more pairs of underwear, I could extend the number of days without having to do laundry! I don fresh underwear each day, and although I could handwash it, I don't want the hassle. I do feel okey-dokey about wearing external clothing three, or maybe even four times, before tossing it into the laundry bin. (Since COVID keeps me home most days, four times is common.)

So now enter COVID.

There are two laundry facilities in my apartment complex.

One day, in March, the managers suddenly closed the facilities due to COVID!

They directed tenants to nearby(ish) laundromats.

To protect tenants and apartment management staff.


Diverting tenants from a relatively low-traffic, on-site facility to one that would be often filled with customers? And where one must hang about said laundromat until the laundry was complete, thereby extending the duration of exposure to and from others?  It was a decision that would result in greater danger of exposure to tenants (and to other Tucsonans), rather than less.

And what about the tenants who had no transportation? Or single-parent tenants with young children, who would have to schlep their kiddos to the laundromats, putting them at greater risk for contagion? 

Fortunately, after (I assume) some consternation expressed by tenants (including me), the management sought and found processes to protect both tenants and office staff, and they re-opened the on-site facilities some days later.

But the closure prompted me to consider strategies to change my usual practice of once-a-week, one-load laundry work to every other week.

I counted out my underwear. Twelve.

I have bought six more pairs of underwear.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 16: COVID Artwork

COVID art: Ethiopian Orthodox Easter. Tentative artist: Habesha Expat. April 2020.

The friend of an Ethiopian friend posted the Habesha Expat (fka as Habesha in Dubai) image on a social media site several days ago. I was really taken with the marriage of culture and message in the artwork.

Below is a forlorn Mother Georgia stuck at home. It made me laugh out loud. 

Mother Georgia quarantining at home. Artist unknown. Source: I Am Tbilisi. March 2020.

Another art piece via I Am Tbilisi, a picture of a mural by artist Gagosh:

"Less Than 2m," a mural by artist Gagosh. Source: I Am Tbilisi. April 2020.

Via the Washington Post to the Art-Eater (Richmond Lee) Twitter account to the Tensor Chan Twitter account, there is this work on the Ghana Pallbearers' meme, in which the message is: Stay home or dance with us:

COVID art: Stay at home or dance with us. Tentative artist: Tensor Chan. April 2020.

And another take on the Ghana pallbearers below from Yuki Geriawan aka

COVID art: Stay at home or the music starts. Artist: Yuki Geriawan aka anzuarden_art. April 2020.

Additions subsequent to original post:

COVID Facebook meme. Artist unknown. May 2020.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 15: Mind in Detention

Old jail. Columbus, New Mexico. April 2013.

There's a 12-step aphorism: Never venture into your head alone; it's a dangerous neighborhood. 

In this stay-at-home time, there are advantages to being an introvert queen in her queendom of one.  Especially a queen who has sufficient resources to stay in touch with family and friends via her phone and the internet, income to pay her bills and buy groceries, a vehicle to get to the grocery store, and power to keep herself cool as the Sonoran Desert heat ramps up.

The queen is also resourceful in finding myriad ways to amuse herself and in glamping her nest with soothing smells, sounds, and visual treats.

Nevertheless, there is danger in spending too long alone.

Old jail. Columbus, New Mexico. April 2013.

One's interior world can telescope with the loss of stimuli from:
  • Adventures in the outdoors - movies, dancing, hiking, museums, cafe lurking, meals with friends, family gatherings, new books, driving around, neighbor chats
  • Entertaining or provocative stories told to us by our friends and family
  • A diversity of news content
  • Tactile contact with others, whether platonic hugs, professional massage, haircuts, or sensual touch with a partner

Old jail. Columbus, New Mexico. April 2013.

One's interior world can shrink when every day: 
  • One is subjected to verbal and emotional abuse from a dry-drunk tyrant who drinks the teardrops of women, men, and children for his sustenance; and
  •  The media are the abuser's enablers - delivering every assault by eyewitness video, by written quote, by Greek chorus, by analysis - regardless of their so-called journalistic credentials, ethics, political or social biases, or revenue venality. In other words, none of the news organs gets to claim a higher moral ground on their collaboration in the abuse.  

It is not much different from living in a household with such an abuser, who is the center around which everyone revolves, always in reaction mode. Or in walking-on-eggshells mode, so as not to provoke an attack.

It is like watching, unwillingly, the video of that plane crash into the World Trade Center building again and again and again and again and again and again and again. [Trigger warning: This video is still so shocking; think carefully before choosing to click on the video link. I am not kidding.]

Old jail. Columbus, New Mexico. April 2013.

I've witnessed - outside of COVID - how some of us allow our worlds to become smaller and smaller, and we enclose ourselves in a dim cell, swaddled in fear and suspicion and darkness. But feeling safe, perhaps.

Old jail. Columbus, New Mexico. April 2013.

I don't intend to fall into that camp, whether it be in the time of COVID or as I age further. 

The light is what I seek. And this requires both decision and action on my part to keep it bright before me.

But glory be, some days are harder than others.

Art in the Park, Old Missouri State Penitentiary, Jefferson City, Missouri. February 2006.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 14: Plans --> Pouf!

Dandelion seed head. Source: Wikimedia. Photo credit: Greg Hume

My original plan was to leave Tucson at the end of this month - the end of April.

My original plans for this summer were grand!
  • A 20-year commemorative road trip to Alaska.
  • A road trip with my mom. 
  • A week's trip each with my youngest descendants, one of which is to Washington, D.C.
  • A circuitous recon romp through spots in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi to scope out potential spots for my next year-in-residence. 
  • Leisurely visits with friends in New Mexico. 

My original plans are ....... pouf! Scatter shot like an aerosol blast of pollen from a dandelion seed head. Or virus.

As COVID's tendrils wickered through our populations, I thought, OK, maybe the Alaskan road trip isn't realistic. I'll be so ready to emerge from my cave, comfy though it is, wanting to trade hundreds of contemplative solo miles for social connections. Instead I thought: Maybe by summer there'll be an all-clear that will bring outrageously affordable plane fares to faraway places. Vietnam, maybe! South Korea! Romania! Maybe this was the year for Rwanda! A door of possibilities opened!!

Delaying Tucson departure

In March, I peered into the future and tried to guesstimate when COVID would peak in various locations. Realistically, I thought, things in my target recon trip aren't going to peak before mid-April, at least. So if I left in April as originally planned, I'd probably just have to find a new hidey-hole.

Several options presented themselves to me until I asked myself: Why leave a perfectly good hidey-hole where I've already got things set up for my comfort? And in which I am the queen of my own little queendom of one?

My landlords and I were mutually happy to extend the lease another month.

Now, where after Tucson?

 In the moment I'm writing this, I don't have a fucking clue.

At the end of May, I believe things will still be dicey in many locations. At the moment, I'm only thinking about the month of June.

My assumptions

  1. It will not be safe to take that trip to D.C. in June with my descendant. (BTW: He is graduating from high school this year. Only there won't be a graduation ceremony in May as originally planned. BTW: And one of my nieces cancelled her original wedding arrangements for June, postponing them til June 2021.)
  2. Wherever I decide to go, it will be east of Arizona, as this gets me closer to my year-in-residence candidates and other summer plans that might be possible to resuscitate. 
  3. There may still be restrictions on what we can do and where we can go, so choosing a destination because of, for example, its BC (Before COVID) music and dance scene is likely to disappoint.

Do I want to work in June? If yes:

Deal-breaker: Needs to be a place with reliable, fast internet access. Libraries (which usually have decent internet access) may still be closed in June in most communities, so that means that my home needs to have the requisite internet access. Given how "developed" and "First World" the US alleges to be, it's absurd how many US homes with internet have sucky internet or phone service. (What's that you say? You want an example for comparison? OK. Almost a DECADE ago, I had phone service in Ethiopia no matter where I was, from big city to a spot in the middle of nowheresville. And, oh yeah, they had solar phone chargers, too.)

Option 1: Rent a room from a friend eastward of Arizona who has fast, reliable internet. Not all of my delightful friends have the requisite internet capacity. Also, the friend-potential landlord needs to be willing to bring in a possible contaminator (me) to their infection-free bubble. And we each need to feel comfortable with the other's behaviors in mitigating infection threats when we leave the bubble.

Option 2: Motels might offer drastically-reduced rates to month-long guests such that I could afford to hang out in one.

Option 3: I can likely find an airbnb-like arrangement through friends-and-friends-of-friends (FFF?) and craigslist inquiries. (I say airbnb-like because I divorced actual airbnb.)

If I go the motel or airbnb-like route, I'm considering Livingston, Texas, in Polk County. This is my new hometown, after all. Living there for a month will build my domicile cred. I can get a library card, visit a dentist (if offices are open and feel safe to me), and use that as a base for day trips to two places on my recon route for year-in-residence candidates. 

Do I want to work in June? If no:

An attractive proposition is a camping spot in a place that isn't too hot, and which, ideally, has some amenities that are functioning, such as: at least a pit toilet, access to clean water, access to electricity for charging devices, and enough cellular bars to make phone calls possible.

Polk County, Texas, remains a possible candidate for this scenario. There are some nearby state and national park lands. Whether their campgrounds (and any of the campground amenities) will be open in June is a question mark.

Today, I know nothing about what June will bring. However, it is something to have the beginnings of an outline of a pre-plan.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 13: First 3 Things I Want to Do AC

Tequila overlooking Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

AC --> After Corona.

Seven Springs Winery, Missouri. October 2009.

The top three things I want to do within days of AC are:
  1. Pedicure
  2. Massage
  3. Get happy-drunk with a friend or two, which is, to say, not sloppy or stupid drunk, just a little happy drunk

Traditiona wine accoutrement, Kachreti, Kakheti, Caucasus Georgia. September 2011.

We must do what we can to revive the economy, n'est pas?

Wine in Signaghi, Kakheti, Caucasus Georgia, at Pheasant's Tears Winery. April 2012.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Creative Life: A Love Note For a Waning Moon

My mom in the arms of her mom. 1930.

I'm thinking of my mom today. Her baby sister died last week. Due to COVID, a memorial service will not occur until an as-yet-undetermined date.

My mom's closest brother - her confidant - died a couple of years ago, maybe less. She and her brother could talk about things my mom didn't want to talk about with her adult kids. My mom misses him terribly.

My mom isn't one to express her fears too much. She doesn't like to show her soft underbelly to others. From her mother, she learned the gruff family motto: "Never show the white feather."

The first time my mom faced cancer, which resulted in surgery and chemo, I pointed out, so helpfully, that there were cancer support groups at the hospital. She could talk with other people who walked in the same shoes as she, deriving strength and solace from each other. "Pfft," she sniffed in some disdain. "Why would I want to do that?"

A couple of years ago, my mom had no choice but to enter a hospital and then a rehab facility for a time. Which she loathed.

Sometimes I spent the night with her at the hospital or, later, at the rehab center. On several occasions, my mom said to me, "Come lay down beside me on the bed."  I did so, and I wrapped my arm around her torso, and I laid my head near her shoulder, knowing this was a rare privilege, indeed. Mostly, we just lay quietly, maybe while watching a TV show. I cherish those times.

Her light wanes.

I think of a poem I wrote at a past Tumblewords Project workshop. The leader that day, a poet named Rios de La Luz, walked us through a writing model called "corporeal writing," in which we focus on a part of our body, and how our bodies hold memories. One of the poems I wrote that day arose from childhood body-memories of how my mom would comfort me when I was ill.

As I Die

When I die.
No. As I die,
I want this:

The hand of a lover
On my brow,

Skimming slowly up my forehead,
Across the border of my hair
Atop the remnant of my infantile fontanel.

Pausing there, then
Sliding down the
Silkiness of my hair.

And again.
And again.

Like my mother did
When I was a toddler,
Maybe feverish or maybe
Just settling into a warm sleep.

Like I did for my daughter
As she leaned into me,
Pressed against my belly and my breast,
The rhythmic smoothing of her brow

Up and over,
Up and over.

Like past lovers did for me
As we lay in bed, under covers,
Quiet, thinking of nothing.
Sensing only, that tender instructive
Smoothing of my brow.

Up and over,
Up and over.

"This," I always thought,
"Is how I want it to be as I die."

I hope it's like this for my mom, when that time comes.

Related posts: Travels With Carol

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Tucson, AZ: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 12: An Opinion on Opinions

Newspaper in Gallup, New Mexico. May 2013.

My opinion on opinions: Henceforth, I have none. None on corona, is what I mean. To be more specific, none that move beyond my portable six-foot bubble.

Until yesterday, I floundered at the bottom of the bottomless swimming hole of everyone's opinions. They are everywhere. Inescapable. On my Washington Post (and before that, New York Times) news feed. On the Google News aggregate news feed. On social media. Some in-person acquaintances. 

To rescue myself from that pool, I dog-paddled my way to the surface, got the fuck out of the water, and shook myself off like said wet dog. 

We are in the midst of an enormous anthropological experiment. Most folks, including epidemiologists and other medical folks, are still learning on the job about what's happening medically.

Six months from now, and better yet, a year from now, we'll be able to look back and take note of what the hell happened, what helped, what didn't help, and what we need to learn from this for the next time.

Not that we - "we" being our respective societies - will actually apply any of our learning the next time, as competing interests will always come to the game and flip the board. It's more of an intellectually satisfying learning that will occur.

CDC's 2011 zombie preparedness campaign, which makes damn good sense in a creative way.

So until AC (After Corona) and the flurry of Important White Papers, I'll ignore the pandemic chatter. I'll excuse myself from any conversations about COVID's origin, its comparative virility and lethality, and treatments.

Instead, I'll:
  1. Make the most informed decisions I can by following subject matter experts (SMEs) that seem reliable, based on their past records of clinical rigor; 
  2. Follow the rules of the land I'm in re: physical distancing; 
  3. Take measures that "my" SMEs recommend to protect my health and the health of the souls who enter my physical orbit (even if the powers-that-be decide to open everything wide sooner than my SMEs recommend); and
  4. Be of assistance to some folks who need a kind word, a generous action, and cold cash. 

I feel relieved to let go of the debates, to let cool the inner turmoil that boils up when I see click-bait headlines, pimped not only by the usual trashy vendors of salacious stuff, but by the so-called venerable news organs.

This is self-care.