Friday, June 9, 2017

The Ability to Work for Change

I think often of being in this new place, of the happiness in small moments, in smiles and jokes and the presence of those among us. As the employees of the school I work at sat in the school chapel yesterday for an end of year celebration marking retirements and employment milestones, I looked around and knew the names of the 75 people sitting all around. I thought of knowing and meeting and being aware of each of these people and just how quickly time moves, just how quickly we become acquainted and adjusted and a part of our surroundings.

I began learning Spanish a few weeks ago. It was a friend who recommended the free app which teaches and tests your language skills. We made plans to get together and continue learning through conversation with one another. The truth is we both hear it almost daily here and know it's spoken by so many who work in jobs we seldom see. It's similar enough to English, and while challenging, I'm looking forward to improving!

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I met up in San Luis Obispo. She was coming north from Los Angeles and I was heading south from Monterey. We walked through the town, caught up, told stories and laughed, and toured the San Luis Obispo Mission after a tasty taco brunch. The Mission system here is quite beautiful, with 21 Catholic Missions established by the Spanish in the 1790s along the coast of what was then Mexico. They stretch from San Diego to San Francisco. I have no photos of the San Luis Obispo mission, but on my drive north through the hot desert, I drove past the tiny town of San Miguel and loved the bell tower ruins I spotted. I pulled over and found another mission I didn't know existed. It was evening and 92 degrees. A train passed by as I began to walk around. A monk was watering the roses and a group of women recited the rosary in Spanish in the chapel. The light and color of the sky was beautiful. 


While in SLO, I purchased a small book, The World as 100 People. It's very visual with graphs and drawings and the facts listed below continue to stay with me.

If the 7 billion people in the world are represented through 100 people,

61 are from Asia and the Middle East, 4 are from the United States.
5 people speak English. 63 speak more than 6,000 other languages other than the 9 most spoken.
1 person owns 48% of the world's wealth.
50 people do not trust their government.
48 people do not have freedom of speech.
20 people live in fear.
48 people live on less than $2.50 USD a day.
40 people cook using solid fuels in open fires.
17 people are unable to read and write.
7 people have a university degree.
11 people own a car.
15 people are undernourished. 1 person is starving.

It is so easy to forget those who live among us, down the street or across the world. I think of the ability we all have to lobby for free press, speech, and governments and how we can all work to stop war and discrimination. The continuing vast inequality in access to food saddens me until I remember how unequal food and wealth distribution can be born of the inequalities we can work to change -- fairness, care, and governments that work for their citizens.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Springtime

Hello!

The decision to write when I feel like writing has caused quite the quiet blog here. But just now, on a Sunday afternoon, I began to feel the itch to write. Graduation at the school I worked at occurred this afternoon and despite the light fog and chill, it was a beautiful ceremony, as happy as any graduation can be. It was a joy to see families from around the country and world dressed in beautiful traditional or non-traditional attire, cheering for  their loved ones. Nearly every graduate wore an orchid lei, surely a tradition originating from the Pacific islands that has spread to California.

The summer fog has begun to appear here. Just 3-5 miles inland though, traditional summer heat has arrived, and just 100 miles inland in the central valley of the state, temperatures are beginning to reach 100 degrees for the first time this year.

A couple of months ago, I explored Pinnacles National Park, the closest national park to me. It was stunning and a great time of year to explore as the wildflowers were in bloom and it was very green. The park includes tall cliffs and low caves left behind after a volcanic eruption 23 million years ago.


While on one of the tall cliffs with a group of University of Vermont spring breakers (my Boston red sox cap sparked the connection!) my hiking partner identified a California condor overhead! They're very endangered but Pinnacles is one of the few locations where they can occasionally be spotted due to a breeding program in the park. It was tough to say if the bird's wingspan truly looked to be nine feet across, but it was majestic to see if overhead. Since visiting, I've been thinking about how much I would love to return to Pinnacles soon.


May and June are some of the busiest months of the year for my job but I'm looking forward to returning to New Hampshire for a short while in July. Approaching a year here, I continue to find this part of California to be breathtakingly beautiful, friendly, interesting, challenging, and not dull. I also find it to be incredibly "discovered." It's known and loved and there are an abundance of visitors, wonderful places to visit and dine and socialize, and a high cost of living. I feel so fortunate to be here now, to live among such beauty. I think often of New Hampshire, whether asked about it or when I let it naturally cross my mind. Beyond thinking of it as my home state and a place familiar and lovable and missed, I think of it as small and quaint, underrated and not discovered. I feel pride when I think of the state, the seasons and nature, and driving its roads. Recently, a woman I was speaking with described visiting the state once in winter and how unbearably cold it was. It's true, but after speaking with her, I found myself thinking back on winter nights. Of snow falling softly, headlights illuminating a quiet road dusted with snow, golden light streaming from homes and businesses, piercingly cold air that wakes you when you step outside and icicles hanging. I don't think it's homesickness when these memories arise, but I think they're memories, temporary longing, appearing to show me what I haven't seen or heard or felt in some time. I hope they continue.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Books of 2016

We may be many weeks into the new year, but I love looking back on what I read the year before and as these lists from friends tend to help me in choosing what to read next, I though I'd share some of my favorite books from last year!
I didn't include every book I read and I may have read more than one book by Jimmy Carter (they're quick reads!), but included just one here. 13 of these 24 were listened to as audiobooks (plenty of driving last year!). I finally learned too, that non-fiction audiobooks tend to work well, fiction audiobooks, not as much. 

Bossypants: Funny and thoughtful. Interesting to learn more about Fey's journey and professional and personal outlook.
God Help the Child: Deep and beautiful. I had only ever read The Bluest Eye by Morrison in high school. This felt like a mixture of novel and poetry on modern-day race relations in the U.S.
The Lovers: Afghanistan's Romeo and Juliet: Moving and fascinating. Examining an Afghan couple from different backgrounds who fall in love and spend years running away from their families and government. Tragic to understand the society and laws that remain so discriminatory towards women.
The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A tiny bit sleepy, but I found it pretty fascinating and would recommend. I'm happy to live in modern times.
How to Raise an Adult: A book read for work, but I really loved it! Explored how today's children and teenagers are over-parented, reaching the age of 18 with an inability to live their own life, make decisions and know what they desire, not what society and their parents desire.
A Man Called Ove: Funny and touching. A great novel with many important points.

Big Magic: Inspirational! About the creativity in each of us, how we must take time to explore it, not dismiss it, and how much good comes to our lives when we embrace our artistic interests.
Devil in the White City: A long-time bestseller I just picked up. Fascinating, historical, eerie, well-written.
Men We Reaped: I had wanted to read this book for a couple of years, I was particularly interested in Ward's childhood in rural Mississippi and her account of losing 5 young men close to her including her brother and cousin within a short period of time to accidents, drugs, and suicide. All were under the age of 25. Having lost a friend to suicide four years ago, I found so many parallels in Ward's story and was particularly touched by how she described her community failing its young men through poverty and few opportunities. 
Hillbilly Elegy: Another one with so much to say about. I loved it and have really enjoyed the conversations I've been able to have with my Mom after she read it recently. I've read the articles arguing that it does not provide a fair look, but if nothing else, it shows an American experience we rarely see.
Brown Girl Dreaming: Poetic and lyrical. For adolescents, explores several different layers and perspectives of the 20th century civil rights movement. 
My Life on the Road: Excellent. I loved learning more about Steinem's experience as a feminist leader, community organizer, and constant traveler. I felt such a connection to her in also loving travel and struggling to be in the same place for long. She's lived a remarkable life.

Night on Fire: Similar to Brown Girl Dreaming. For adolescents, lovely and thought-provoking.
Missoula: Very hard to listen to in many parts, but a necessary and very well researched book on how rape on college campuses can far too easily be swept under the rug. The backdrop is Montana's vast wilderness.
Life After Life: Quite mesmerizing. I listened to the audiobook of it and would have loved to have picked up on more details. It was excellent historical fiction as the main character is born again and again and again in 20th century England, living a different life intertwined with world history each time.
Alligator Lake: Possibly my favorite novel from last year. Very southern, exploring modern-day race relations and family relationships. A great story and I hope Lynne Bryant writes more books. 
The Book Thief: I had started it a few years ago and didn't finish it. There were moments it didn't completely hold my interest, but I can understand why it's viewed as such an extraordinary book. The ending and very last pages will stay with me for a long time.
The Glass Castle: Similar to Hillbilly Elegy but a little bit funnier and from a female perspective. A touching story of overcoming poverty.

Between the World and Me: I don't think I can write anything that would convey how excellent and necessary this book is. It deserves a re-read from me, is incredibly tender and thought-provoking on the ongoing racial division and what it means to be a black man in the U.S. today. 
Because We Are: A great story, set in modern-day Haiti, part mystery with complex and life-like characters.
A Full Life: Interesting and sweet. Carter tells his life story. I particularly loved his childhood in rural Georgia in the 1920s and 30s without technology or modern inventions and how he dissected many of his decisions as president.
Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter: Not as sensational as the title suggests. A thorough and tragic look at how intellectual disabilities were viewed in the mid-twentieth century. 
Etched in Granite: A very local book! It came on my radar when I visited my small town library's website early last year and saw that the author was coming for a visit. I began the book, attended her discussion, and finished it a week or two later. Local and historic, it's set on a "poor farm" in the nineteenth century in the White Mountains, less than an hour away from where I lived. The book was inspired by a small cemetery in the area with tombstones marked only by numbers representing residents of the workhouse. It was well written, haunting and recognizable, as forest cemeteries and country roads and farms all felt familiar. There were so many recognizable towns and scenes and just typing this now makes me long for those empty, winding dark roads in the middle of a New Hampshire winter with so much sky and hills and dense forests. I look forward to reading her second book.
At the Edge of the Orchard: I love Tracy Chevalier's books and while this didn't quite compare to Girl with a Pearl Earring or The Last Runaway, it was excellently written and the historical fiction I was looking for. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Nation of Immigrants

I don't cry often, but after waking up and beginning to read about the American ban on all refugees as well as immigrants from seven nations in effect this morning, my vision grew blurry. Even now as I write this, after reading more articles and sitting at my desk in the sun as one of the most beautiful days yet this year unfolds outdoors, I'm swallowing and trying not to cry. 

I skyped with two friends from Europe this morning as I do occasionally on weekend mornings. Lydia, in Germany, and Zieshan in London. When I last visited Germany four years ago, I remember Lydia pointing out the stars on the sidewalk to mark where Jewish families once lived before the second World War. I met Zieshan four years ago when we were both studying at St. Andrews. He is Muslim, born in the U.K. to immigrant parents and I've learned so much about the importance of family from him. More than anything though, we relate as two young people living and working in Britain and the United States. 

Later in the morning, between planting succulents and running errands, I thought of Cleophace, a refugee who arrived in Vermont from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1990s. He lost his mother to the conflict and was separated from his wife for seven years. We were classmates. I volunteered and fundraised alongside him for the non-profit organization he founded, Ibutwa, which directly supports women in the DRC who've been harmed in the genocide and civil war. He educated our entire college and surrounding community multiple times each year about the conflict and how we could be aware, involved, and supporting civilians. We even appeared on a local television news show together a few years ago. He's an attorney now, with four children and contributes far more to his community and society than I do to mine. In my final year of college, I met Halah in a peace and justice course. She was my age and graduated high school with the second highest academic scores in all of Iraq. We met up often after class to discuss boyfriends and assignments.

There are so many more refugee and immigrant stories we all hold, before even mentioning that we are a nation of and for immigrants. I first read the Diary of Anne Frank as a college senior, and immediately regretted that I hadn't read it sooner. Despite the seven decade age difference between us, Anne wrote and dreamed and thought and spoke just like I had as a young teenager. Her diary personified the holocaust, delving into the story of one of six million lives lost. Had the world looked differently upon refugees 70 years ago, she could still be alive today, contributing greatly to any nation or society. I had never seen the words below until yesterday, but it makes me so sad to imagine the Frank family being among the 300,000 Europeans who applied for a few thousand spots to emigrate to the United States in 1941 after the fall of Holland, Poland and France. I want to believe today is different from 1941, but there are few signs that barring refugees and immigrants has ever produced greater world peace or prevented conflict and death beyond our borders. And yes, I'm not focusing on within our borders because we do not choose where we are born. I have no greater right to safety and security than a Syrian or Iraqi. I do not believe in keeping "them" out to keep "us" safe when neither of use had a choice in our surroundings. We are not in a world war, but the same anti-semitism and desire to not admit civilians from countries embroiled in war from 1941 is unarguably repeating itself today with fear of Islam and nations in the Middle East.

April 30, 1941
"I am forced to look out for emigration and as far as I can see, U.S.A. is the only country we could go to, perhaps you remember that we have two girls. It is for the sake of the children mainly that we have to care for. Our own fate is of less importance."  
-- Otto Frank, father of Anne Frank

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Going Forward Together

Morgan Hill, California


Time, evening darkness and several rainy days have limited my ocean walking recently, but the last week has included a few trips to San Francisco and San Jose for work and personal reasons. I continue to be so amazed by the beauty of the drive from the Monterey peninsula inland and north to both cities. The agricultural fields, stretches of hills, roadside produce stands and blends of colors in the sky continue to fascinate and inspire.

It was a privilege to join the annual MLK Jr. March in Seaside on Monday. With a large selection of fantastic signs to choose from, I wished I had made and brought my own! It was the first major march I'd ever been a part of and it was wonderful to meet and converse with so many. My favorite sign (though not photographed) was "Grandmas for Integrity." Seen below, the sign "MLK is with us now" was another favorite.


I can't say I haven't thought this week and the past couple of months about the last eight years and how appreciative I've been to spend the formative years of ages 16 to 24 with a President who has set the tone for progressive social change and domestic policies that made me proud. I think particularly of the advancement of gay rights, of universal health care, gender pay equality and an increasing focus towards climate change. Inaction in Syria and drone strikes across the middle east along with mass shootings and escalating race relations highlighted the past several summers in our own country are remembered too, in far less positive light. As I think of transitioning into adulthood, completing high school and college, living abroad and shaping my own opinions and ideas, I'm thankful for President Obama's leadership, nationally and globally.



"It is our responsibility as global citizens to learn to communicate with those we are taught to see as enemies. For it is only when we understand each other, love each other, and think of every man and woman as our brother and sister that we will finally be on our way to ending war." 
--Medea Benjamin

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A New Year

It's been a while! Travel back east, a busy few weeks at work, time spent with friends and a move to a nearby town have kept me more occupied than I thought. I just opened a book for the first time this year yesterday. Being back in New Hampshire at the end of last month was lovely. Familiarity was everywhere in friends and family, fresh snow, long dark highways, dense woods and holiday foods, music and gatherings.

I was surprised too, at how happy I was to be back in California. To be surrounded by grass and daffodils, to see deer grazing on lawns, to be near the ocean again and hear seals barking in the evenings. I've realized how happy I am to be in this new place.

It's been rainy off and on this past week which seems to define the winter here in non-drought years. It was clear on New Years Eve though, and a friend and I ventured to the coast and caught the tail end of the sunset. The colors were beautiful, blending together and dipping into the ocean, a year past.

Final 2016 sunset!

coastal plants

Earlier this month, a friend and I ventured into San Francisco for a beautiful and clear day of exploring the city. 

Since returning to California, I've felt more invested in my job and activities here, more convinced that I love this region and space. I'm looking happily ahead to returning for a week to New England this summer. I often find at all times of the year I'm homesick for those summers, the ease of life, long days filled with light and complete comfort and relaxation among the trees, flowers, lakes and untouched woods. For right now though, and the year to come, this feels right.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Back in the East

The last month in California flew by. Winter arrived in late November and the nights dropped into the 40s. The use of space heaters on the central California coast -- where it often rises into the 50s and 60s on winter days, but drops at night -- reminds me of fans in the summer heat of New England. You keep one nearby during the day and it's turned on all night. There were beautiful sunsets in the last few weeks of December, clear, sunny days along the coast, many wonderful rainy days, and like most anywhere else in this hemisphere, many dark afternoons and evenings and mornings.

I'm back in New Hampshire now after arriving last night on a jumbo overbooked flight from San Francisco. I knew I was headed home when a man a few rows behind me proclaimed at one point that his coffee was "wicked hot!" Boston was beautiful and scenic to fly into, even in the darkness. And being with family in the city last night brought back so many memories of how much I love that city, it's history and character and neighborhoods and the memories that return when there. It's wonderful to be among the familiar now, with family and friends and the feeling of being somewhere I know so well. This is my home but California is where my life is right now. As the year comes to a close, I'm extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity of a job there, and so happy that I took a chance. The zero and subzero temperatures here are shocking, but I loved visiting so many old friends today and hearing the familiarity in my voice as we spoke of landmarks and places, people and ideas. I spoke faster and turned more than a few -ing's into -in's (ex. "Are you goin' too?!")

This morning as I drove to where I last lived and worked, I noticed the absence of cars on the road, the empty highways and shorter pine trees, the thick, dense forests of empty brown trees and branches. I had forgotten about icy driveways and walkways when I stepped out of the car in heeled boots, and snowbanks took me by surprise as I turned into traffic. In deserted spots, the snow masses are covered in ice and I was reminded of how until the age of ten or so, I was light enough to walk along them, one or two feet off the ground. Today was a reminder that familiarity and love is still here, and pieces of it, particularly in nature, will always be here. I'm looking forward to the time ahead at home, the rest and relaxation and time spent with others.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Weekend Exploration in Central & Northern California Part II

So many quotes that I can vaguely recall have been coming to me recently. In this time where many are seeking answers, I've found comfort in researching history, political action, social justice movements and great pieces of writing. I particularly love the quote below by Robert F. Kennedy speaking to young South Africans in 1966. It's a speech I quote often, the entirety of it touches upon so many topics I feel strongly about and believe are still relevant. I like to think too, that 50 years ago, men referred to all of humanity. 
      
"Hand in hand with freedom of speech goes the power to be heard, to share in the decisions of government which shape men's lives. Everything that makes man's life worthwhile-family, work, education, a place to rear one's children and a place to rest one's head -all this depends on decisions of government; all can be swept away by a government which does not heed the demands of its people. Therefore, the essential humanity of men can be protected and preserved only where government must answer-not just to the wealthy, not just to those of a particular religion, or a particular race, but to all its people." 

Back to California. My friend Allison and I had four fantastic days here recently when she visited and the first two, we touristed hard. The second two had a slower, more relaxed feel. 


In Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach, we noticed the waves were enormous! The largest either of us had ever seen.

In Santa Cruz, we saw (and smelled) this large gathering of sea lions. They were loud in their barking and restless in their movement to find a comfortable spot. They seemed to seek sun and rest.


To be among redwoods, we visited Henry Cowell state park and as it was a bit damp there, we were thrilled to see banana slugs. I'd heard so many describe them as "not really that yellow," but I suspect they were referring to a different species of yellow slug or ones that don't exist in California as the ones we saw roaming the forest were as bright and purely yellow as the UC Santa Cruz mascot! I was fascinated by how they slid along and used their tentacles. I restrained myself from bringing a family of banana slugs home.


The redwoods are wide, but mostly just tall. It's tricky to see the tops of the trees but being among a small forest of them feels so peaceful and quiet.


On our way to San Jose for Allison's flight, we stopped by Los Gatos, a town with a lovely and walkable downtown and a name that translates from Spanish as The Cats.


An art gallery and succulents. Two very welcome sights!


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Weekend Exploration in Central & Northern California Part I

Many days later, with time to process and understand, there's more peace. A weekend behind us to reflect, rest and energize to continue speaking up for what's right. Perhaps if we all worked together for our best neighborhood or community through listening to one another's concerns, ideas, fears and hopes, all of our actions could roll together into an extraordinary place to live and be free. We already are free, we already have access to some of the most basic and best human rights in the world, we already are so privileged to live in a democracy, let's make it even better. We could show each other that we care about others, that we accept and listen to one another in our own nation and around the world, that we're willing to work together no matter our differences. Before beginning the post below about a recent weekend, a quote I've long loved and have had on my mind this week:

"One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple by the relief office I saw my people. As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if this land was made for you and me." 
-- Woody Guthrie

Two weekends ago, one of my best friends, Allison, who I met while we were both studying in Scotland four years ago, visited me in California. She flew down from Portland, Oregon and we had a marvelous four days of exploration and fun. In visuals and substance, it was beautiful. There were a few too many words and images to include it all in just one post, I'll split the adventure into two posts.

We began at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a favorite of many visitors. With my membership and the ability to grab a guest pass through my work, I'm always eager to experience it again with friends! These jellyfish, appropriately called "egg yolk jellyfish" were incredibly tangled.


This Indian Ocean octopus was also on a definite exercise break when we stopped by. It was extraordinary to see all of his or her tentacles moving at different speeds and how it seemed to float through the water. The photobomb by a shrimp in this image makes me laugh.


Big Sur is a destination I could travel to everyday. The full experience of the gorgeous views and landscape includes driving only an hour and a half or so round trip along the coast and it typically feels like ten minutes.


Even the smallest amount of rain and sea mist made the region look a bit more like Ireland than drought-stricken California!

The next day, we explored San Francisco. I've only been to the city two or three times and it was great to accomplish a few more tourist-y things in that fun city. We began at the Flower Conservatory, a beautiful building dating to the 1890s that survived the devastating 1906 earthquake. It looks like an enormous Victorian greenhouse, a blend of glass panes and wood painted white. There were so many orchids and tropical plants and a giant lily pond, but unfortunately the lighting on the images I captured just weren't great. Here's one close-up of an orchid in the conservatory that isn't too dark.


Afterwards, we explored the Ferry building near the piers and the long Bay Bridge which stretches to the East Bay where Oakland and Berkeley lie (along with the rest of the state and country if you continue traveling east). The outdoor Saturday farmers market was extremely busy and the specialty food and home goods shops indoors were just as bustling. It was wonderful to see the mixture of every type of cuisine possible, local food and farms represented and tourists and locals shopping. Lines for every type of food were long, but in splitting up and weighing the differences in line length, we both found something tasty. I loved the steamed pork bun and Italian nutella doughnut I tried.


Free museums are always welcome. If engineering or transportation interests you, I'd recommend the free cable car museum! 


I can't say On the Road grabbed me like other literature has, and I can't say I know a ton about the Beatniks, but I do love Lawrence Ferlinghetti's poetry. I knew so little about him that I was quite surprised when I learned he was a beatnik a little while ago. Around that same time, I was thrilled to  learn that at 97, he still owns San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore, an independent book store that has an excellent selection of poetry, novels, and everything you'd find in a book store. It was so exciting to be there and I particularly liked this door in the basement. 


My favorite Ferlinghetti poem is below. This trip to be continued in the next post!

Wild Dreams of a New Beginning

There's a breathless hush on the freeway tonight

Beyond the ledges of concrete

restaurants fall into dreams
with candlelight couples
Lost Alexandria still burns
in a billion lightbulbs
Lives cross lives
idling at stoplights
Beyond the cloverleaf turnoffs
'Souls eat souls in the general emptiness'
A piano concerto comes out a kitchen window
A yogi speaks at Ojai
'It's all taking pace in one mind'
On the lawn among the trees
lovers are listening
for the master to tell them they are one
with the universe
Eyes smell flowers and become them
There's a deathless hush
on the freeway tonight
as a Pacific tidal wave a mile high
sweeps in
Los Angeles breathes its last gas
and sinks into the sea like the Titanic all lights lit
Nine minutes later Willa Cather's Nebraska
sinks with it
The sea comes over in Utah
Mormon tabernacles washed away like barnacles
Coyotes are confounded & swim nowhere
An orchestra onstage in Omaha
keeps on playing Handel's Water Music
Horns fill with water
ans bass players float away on their instruments
clutching them like lovers horizontal
Chicago's Loop becomes a rollercoaster
Skyscrapers filled like water glasses
Great Lakes mixed with Buddhist brine
Great Books watered down in Evanston
Milwaukee beer topped with sea foam
Beau Fleuve of Buffalo suddenly become salt
Manhatten Island swept clean in sixteen seconds
buried masts of Amsterdam arise
as the great wave sweeps on Eastward
to wash away over-age Camembert Europe
manhatta steaming in sea-vines
the washed land awakes again to wilderness
the only sound a vast thrumming of crickets
a cry of seabirds high over
in empty eternity
as the Hudson retakes its thickets
and Indians reclaim their canoes 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Disbelief

I just kept saying "No, no, no, no, no..." It had to be a bad dream or a terrible accident. It couldn't really be happening. Grief was present everywhere today. With my housemate this morning, on the faces of the commuters, including a young woman wearing a hijab. Among the high school students trying to process it and speaking to peers and adults. Among teachers and gardeners. With every diner and at every table in the crowded Mexican restaurant where a friend and I ate lunch. In choir tonight in the loft of a stone cathedral on the coast of California.

The sun rose this morning and the warmth returned. The temperature rose into the mid-70s. This afternoon, sounds of lawn mowers interrupted the conversations and the scent of cut grass blended with meat being grilled outdoors. But there was no celebration. There were official conversations on how to speak to students ranging from pre-school to 12th grade. There were emails and conversation times set aside. There were spaces for all employees to gather and be with one another.

Throughout this election I've been fearful to say much, thinking of the people in my life who feel differently or vote differently. I avoid conflict. But silence accomplishes nothing. I will respect the next president. I will not dismiss him nor his administration before it begins. I'll continue to believe in this country and respect the rule of law, the electoral college and our democracy. But I'm fearful. I'm saddened that we've chosen a leader who has not provided a detailed plan, who relies on slogans, repetition and boastful statements better suited to elementary school playgrounds to fill time in interviews and debates. He lacks critical experience, thought development, self-control, respect for anyone other than himself. He's bragged about committing sexual assault.

Beyond this new reality, beyond the disbelief and the acceptance that this is the path forward, I'm left trying to understand how words don't matter. That one man, our next president can say anything. That he can later deny his words, or be defended by others that they're meaningless, just words. That he tells it like it is, and we shouldn't be offended. That he didn't mean it. I've never been in a space, a family, a friendship, where my words didn't matter.