I loved the film Nomadland, which I see as a critique of late-stage capitalism and also as a powerful film about aging in America. I did not think it in any way glorified the lifestyle of these nomads, as they moved from one temporary, seasonal job to another and eked out a living in campground campers and vans. The dangers (from weather, breakdowns, and mostly from other people), difficulties, and discomforts of this lifestyle were on full display.
But I think it is wrong to read Fern (played by Frances McDormand) as a person seeking freedom, or this film as…
Something became clear to me that I am sure I knew even on January 6th, but that hit me more powerfully today. I was listening to coverage and accounts of the first congressional hearing on the insurrection, where the question was asked: Why weren’t the Capitol Police prepared for an armed insurrection? Why didn’t they think they should be out in full force, with back-ups at the ready, wearing at least helmets and possibly more protective gear.
The Capitol police chief’s answer was basically: “No one told us there would be a large, violent mob coming to the Capitol that…
Yesterday, I learned something that has shaken me to my core. I learned how much it is costing to keep me alive.
For most of my adult life I have taken on and shed jobs. I did this so I could concentrate on writing, usually taking a job for a few years and saving money to take a year off. I have always worked, but often just part time. Even on sabbatical in a subsidized living situation, I took on book editing projects. Working is an important part of my identity, something I learned when I couldn’t bring myself to…
As the days get to their shortest point, and the cold moves into Minnesota, this part of the pandemic feels surprisingly similar yet strikingly different from March and April. Although the state is not on lockdown, and college students are finishing up their semester, not studying from home, and businesses are open for Christmas shopping, I am in a sort of personal lockdown.
A week before Thanksgiving, the day we decided finally that it was not safe to travel to my parents’ house in Illinois, I fell on a stair, crashed down on the wood landing, and broke my ankle…
One thing is very obvious watching The Crown on Netflix. It is a very, very good piece of art. Every element is well done, it’s downright cinematographic, and the storytelling is first rate. To watch the now-40 hours of film is to take in a story of high drama with recurrent themes of interest to us all. The fact that there are clear themes, not always easily pulled out of the vagaries of the real lives of so many interconnected people, is one clue this is fiction. The fact that this fiction is based on actual events and real people…
When my mother made apple pie,
my sister and I sat at the table
and ate the long, tart peels.
She did the task with a skill
and privacy she often had.
We talked, no doubt,
saying things children say,
but I think of us as silent,
watching her wield the paring knife
and chunk the apple to its core,
listening to the shearing sound,
eating the red strips like candy.
When she peeled potatoes, too,
we would sit at the table, hungry
for a raw, pale chunk, salted,
for anything, everything, she gave.
I’m worn down and heartsick
from my neighbors responding “Fuck you”
when I’m text-banking for my candidate
so often it doesn’t faze me, I click the buttons
to “opt out” and protect the next volunteer
from being told the same.
It is worse, when I’m asked: How can you vote for that child molester? Don’t you see he’s a feeble dimwit? Are you a Christian? I’ll pray for you. I’d never vote for that piece of shit liar and neither should you. Worse, when I’m baited by fake questions as a pretense to heap abuse. And when I respond with…
“Oh, what in you can answer to this blueness?” — D. H. Lawrence
This gentian, too, a torch
to guide through fall’s encroaching dark,
its fork of blue flames closed
to bees and butterflies, protecting
its pollen even as it attracts
the slow, last buzzing summer crew.
Go south! Monarchs start your journey
through blue sky, over blue water,
and I will draw inward like these gentians
with their sweet lavender light
while the last fireworks of lobelia
spark in the ditches,
and the aster clusters poke their way
through glowing fields of goldenrod.
You, gentian, would be overlooked in…
I’m not one for waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. During the four years I’ve had stage 4 ovarian cancer, two of which I was in remission, I have spent very little time lying in bed thinking about my mortality. I have to explain to people that there are times I’m awake in the middle of the night, but I’m just awake, not fearful or worrying about dying.
If you ask my favorite season
I will always say fall.
Who can resist the copper
bright blue clarity of it?
Who can fail but delight
in harvest abundance,
sated, straw-colored animals
and pregnant moons?
Here in Minnesota,
spring is only a calculation
of freeze and thaw splitting
the distance from summer.
When is the last snow?
Don’t jump too early.
Parrying jabs and crosses,
potholes and mud.
But the earliest spring
we should not overlook:
more life (not always a given).
It comes with light
that sings to seeds
and stirs the chickens
to lay again.