Friday, December 31, 2021

Words of the Years: Looking Back and Forward ... and COVID, of course


A New Year's Eve fire and wine. Missouri. December, 2006
A New Year's Eve fire and wine. Missouri. December, 2006

Tomorrow I'll launch my word of the year for 2022. 

Today is a retrospective, as befits the last day of a year.

I inaugurated my Word of the Year in 2018. It felt a little schmaltzy, but that didn't deter me.

I intended to publish a word-of-the-year post on the first of each month. Mixed results, as you can see below.

2018: Courage

2019: Action

 2020: Build

  1. Word of the Year 2020: Build 1: After the Floods
  2. Word of the Year 2020: Build 2: Fronterista
  3. Word of the Year 2020: Build 3: "House"
  4. Word of the Year 2020: Build 4: Chosens
  5. Word of the Year 2020: Build 5: It Takes a Village
  6. Word of the Year 2020: Build 6: Elevation
  7. Word of the Year 2020: Build 7: Trail Building
  8. Word of the Year 2020: Build 8: Money
  9. Word of the Year 2020: Build 9: Health 
  10. Word of the Year 2020: Build 10: Service and Activism
  11. Word of the Year 2020: Build 11: Relationships
  12. Word of the Year 2020: Build 12: Creative Life
  13. Word of the Year 2020 Lagniappe 13: My Rootless Goals

2021: Joy

The years since I inaugurated my words of the year haven't been easy ones. 

I know I'm not alone in feeling this.

In 2018, personal things were happening that demanded courage, on top of three years of Trumpian stressors (beginning with his presidential campaign) that enveloped us all in an invisible cloud of radioactivity. An aunt died. An uncle died.

In 2018 and 2019, I could see up close and personal the ravages of our draconian attacks on the human rights of fellow humans who are making the most rational decisions they can to rescue themselves and their families from violence and poverty in their countries of origin by leaving all that is familiar to them and migrating to the US.

In 2020:

  • COVID came.  
  • A friend died
  • An aunt died. 
  • My heretofore joyful embedment in my new communities - meeting new friends! joining new groups! live music in small venues! - also dead, due to COVID.  
  • The overt and covert racism that bloomed under the far right's New Infection, a pernicious systemic virus that continues to drag all of us down, which again, irresponsible representatives of the people discount, dismiss, and not only deny, but exacerbate. (Think of the almost-laughable panic about the possibility of critical race theory being taught in schools.)

In 2021 .... Oh what a fucking year it's been! 

  • My mother died.
  • An aunt died a week later. 
  • Another aunt died early this month. 
  • My daughter, Kit, caught COVID (and fortunately, avoided a hospital stay because of timely and effective outpatient treatments, e.g. monoclonal antibodies therapy and at-home oxygen, but how frightening!). 
  • COVID dug in deeper, thanks in large part to the viral collaborators who refuse vaccines and such simple actions as masking, in addition to disparities in our global access to vaccines (and, probably, masks).
  • An attempted insurrection against our national government that cravenly irresponsible "representatives of the people" discount, dismiss, and even deny. 
  • Reactionary movements to ban books in our libraries. 
  • A repressive, anti-woman, anti-abortion law went into effect in Texas, with some other regressive states flocking to follow suit. 
  • A mid-January 2022 trip to NYC, for which I booked flights and hotel in early November, and which I felt we could safely accomplish with careful precautions - I canceled it a week ago because of the omicron tsunami, projected to peak at exactly that time in New York.


Did the above laments make me feel better? I don't know. I don't even know why they came out in this post. But I'll just leave them there. Inshallah, maybe I'll revisit this in five years and see how things have changed. Or not. 

But moving forward:

We still need to make lives for ourselves. Notice I said make lives for ourselves. 


Monday, December 27, 2021

Dauphin Island, Alabama: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 8888: Boxing Day: Audubon Bird Sanctuary


Audubon Bird Sanctuary-Dauphin Island Alabama. December 2021.
Audubon Bird Sanctuary-Dauphin Island Alabama. December 2021.


Oh, it felt good to be out. 

I'd been lamenting to myself, of late, at the difference in my getting-outedness the past two COVID years in comparison with my Alamogordo year. That year in Alamogordo, I think I explored a new destination in New Mexico just about every weekend. I visited all but three state parks, I think. I went to the national parks and monuments. I went to museums, to festivals. 

Yesterday I drove out (over?) to Dauphin Island.

Destination: Audubon Bird Sanctuary

But first, I ate my picnic lunch at the Estuarium (also known as the Alabama Aquarium):

  • Carrots
  • Roasted, skinless, boneless chicken breast
  • Sweet potato
  • White potatoes

I lunched at a bench that overlooked the Gulf. 


Gulls on rocks. Dauphin Island, Alabama. December 2012.
Gulls on rocks. Dauphin Island, Alabama. December 2012.


I saw gulls, pelicans, a heron or two. 

And oil rigs. 

After lunch, I drove over to the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. 

I walked.   


Yellow gem leaves. Audubon Bird Sanctuary, Dauphin Island, Alabama. Decembe 2021.
Yellow gem leaves. Audubon Bird Sanctuary, Dauphin Island, Alabama. Decembe 2021.


Peace, serenity, beauty, breeze. Soft colors, muted for winter. 


A slide show of Audubon Bird Sanctuary below: 

Audubon Bird Sanctuary

If you'd like to go down a rabbit hole re: Audubon and sanctuary:

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Mobile, Alabama: Christmas 2021


British Park on Christmas Day in Mobile, Alabama. December 2021.
British Park on Christmas Day in Mobile, Alabama. December 2021.

My Mobile neighborhood is, arguably, the prettiest I've ever lived in. Any day that I take a walk here is a good day. 


Note: I make a distinction between pretty and striking. El Paso is the most striking place I've ever lived in.

On Christmas Day, I walked to nearby British Park. Twice. Once during the day and once at dusk, to better appreciate the holiday lights. 

A slide show of my Christmas visit below:

British Park


A buoyant big dog, also out for a Christmas walk, romped: 

Some Christmases past

2012: Santa Fe, New Mexico

2013: Lafayette, Louisiana

2016: El Paso, Texas

2013: Rootless: On Doing Holidays Solo


Thursday, December 2, 2021

10 Years Ago: On the Mississippi Blues Trail


Original post here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

On the Mississippi Blues Trail

Abe's BBQ, Clarksdale, Mississippi. December 2011.
Abe's BBQ, Clarksdale, Mississippi. December 2011.
Carol and I left for Jackson, Mississippi, this morning a little after 5:00 a.m. to take the secondary-road route.

Destination: Jackson, Mississippi

Purpose: Carol wants the free whiskey sour she's gonna get at the Cabot Lodge. This hotel brings fond memories of past free-happy-hours-with-room she's enjoyed when traveling to the Gulf Coast for vacations. Also, Jackson is closer to Missouri than Savannah and has more of interest than Hattiesburg, which were other destination contenders for this tiny holiday.

The bulk of our travel today was in the Mississippi Delta. The Delta is flat. Sometimes one can appreciate flat; sometimes not. We experienced both feelings on the way down to Jackson.

When we crossed the Mississippi River on the Arkansas-Mississippi border, it was swollen wide. We frequently saw high, lesser rivers that had breached their usual borders, flooding trees' lower trunks.

Til I did a little research for this trip, I didn't know about the Mississippi Blues Trail.  If I get an offer to join Teach for America and they place me in the Mississippi Delta region, I can see myself exploring the Blues Trail on many weekends. (Note to gods: New Mexico is still my first choice.) 

We stopped for lunch in Clarksdale with the plan to buy hot tamales (Delta style) for lunch on the road and to pick up dinner for later from Abe's BBQ.  We accomplished half our mission, Carol getting chili dogs and me a BBQ'd pork sandwich. Hicks Tamales, a famous tamale vendor, was closed. Sunday.

We agreed that Abe's makes tasty food.

That was the most eventful part of the drive down to Jackson. When we arrived at the hotel, I poured myself some delicious Georgian wine and Carol got her satisfying whiskey sour.



Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Word of the Year: Joy 12: Remembrances


A little rock reservoir, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. May 2016.
A little rock reservoir, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. May 2016.

A few years ago, I caught myself remembering a vivid experience. The experience - a particularly exuberant dance move with a partner - had been unexpected and joyful. Exultant! I remembered clearly how I'd felt during that dance move - delightfully surprised in the way of a child seeing snow for the first time. Think the final lift scene from Dirty Dancing.

Catching myself remembering those few moments, and observing the pleasure that the act of remembering gave to me - it was the first time I understood that remembrances are like water in a reservoir, a source I can drink from to replenish my spirit.

Death took three people in my circles this year. 

My mother.

A friend.

An aunt, unexpectedly, only a week after my mother's funeral.


Bulb in leaves. St. Louis, Missouri. December 2007.
Bulb in leaves. St. Louis, Missouri. December 2007.

It's odd to think that death can bring forth thoughts of joy. But I catch myself remembering pleasurable moments with lost ones, usually prompted by a sensory trigger. A snatch of music. The ticking of a clock. A pair of earrings. A color reminiscent of homemade butterscotch pudding. The creaking of a kitchen cabinet door. A small pair of scissors. An old television show. These memories make me smile, gladdened for the pleasure they give me today and gladdened for having had the original experiences with the family or friends who have died. 

Challenges overcome

As I walked home from downtown Mobile on a recent night, I remembered a time when I, a single parent of a very young child, was terribly poor. I hadn't thought of those years in decades, but as I walked home, the memories came to me of what I'd accomplished since then.

The trigger was a Head Start booth at Mobile's Lighting of the Christmas Tree event, which I'd just attended. Head Start was a marvelous resource for my young one (and me) during a time of great need for us. Remembering that era, I went to deep appreciation of my maternal grandmother, May, who - for several years, as I walked through that desert - sent me a $25 check each month, along with a brief note. In my financial poverty, that $25 check made a meaningful difference to me and my child. 

As I walked home, remembering that time, I felt so .... proud .... of what I'd achieved since then, and the richness of the experiences that followed, both the exuberant and the sad. 

I felt joyful. 


The compilation of this year's joy

Joy 1: Word of the Year: Joy

Joy 2: Music

Joy 3: Surprise Vista

Joy 4: Happy, Joyous, and Free

Joy 5: The Science of Joy, Interrupted

Joy 6: Color

Joy 7: Birdsong

Joy 8: Here and Now, Boys

Joy 9: A Tomato and Onion Sandwich

Joy 10: Let in Light

Joy 11: Scentsuality