This is a happy and relaxed moment I want to freeze for my mother and father: her posing for his photo in front of the “Maja” sculpture on a bright, wintry Sunday afternoon in 1973 on the East Terrace of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, overlooking the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. “Maja” is by the German Bauhaus artist #GerhardMarcks and was first exhibited in Philadelphia in 1949. I recognized her in a recent newspaper story and was reminded of this long-ago visit. The statue was removed from the terrace in the 1990s and recently restored to the new “Maja Park” at 22nd Street. Until a year ago when her illness and Covid hit, my 94 year old mother was still regularly going to the Art museum with her dear friends.
In the “before-times” I made chili for family get-togethers, not only doubling the recipe, but often adding in extra cans of beans and diced tomatoes and making rice, stretching it to feed a crowd. With no occasions to make my chili during the “quarantine-times”, I had a craving for it. My go-to recipe from @wednesdaychef uses beer (and coffee and chocolate!). I made a not-doubled pot using a bottle of @yardsbrew Philadelphia Pale Ale and we enjoyed it so much I made it again the following week with an Irish Golden Ale by @sullivansbrewco_ that simmered for hours on a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon. I pickled thinly sliced onions and cabbage in the juice from a jar of @woswit bread-&-butter pickles and dropped them in the center of my bowl of chili — the perfect accompaniment.
There is a Celtic spiritual practice called “walking the rounds” — a way of meditating or praying by walking in a sun-wise circle around a sacred object. Knitting in the round seems to me like a manifestation of this practice — the fingers making stitches rather than the feet taking steps. I started this top-down, knitted in the round, yoked “Koivua” sweater two years ago using leftover yarn from other projects. I knitted in fits and starts. Around and around and around, sun-wise, star-wise, moon-wise. The repeating pattern grid as my guide. Walking fingers to calm the mind. This sweater at the end — my sacred wearable object — a warm bonus...
The #koivuasweater was designed by @boylandknitworks
So many thoughts have been coursing through my pandemic-addled brain and I’ve missed recording them in my quarantine “Captain’s Log” (the artist Roni Horn said “I like the word ‘log’ as opposed to ‘diary; or ‘journal,’ I’m not telling you what I’m doing every day. But when you add all of these bits together, you get my sensibility”). So much has happened this past month — impeachment trials, weather events, Covid anniversaries, approved vaccines, caretaking challenges. ▪️
When my cousin visits from Texas she delights me by bringing whole branches from her Bay Leaf tree — leaves still attached; I pluck and store them in a plastic bag. Our grandfather was a Ship’s Captain. At one time he worked for the Southern Steamship Co. and did a regular run from Philadelphia down to Galveston, TX and back. Last week my cousin and much of her state were without power for days when a rare snowstorm and deep freeze surged down into the center of the country — into a Texas whose power infrastructure was not winterized while their Senator famously escaped to Cancun leaving his dog Snowflake behind. Like so much lately, truth is stranger than fiction. I made a pot of chili and splurged — putting three bay leaves in. I say to my mother, Where you going mum? “Crazy,” she answers, “Truly.”
My Vice President wears pearls, so I wear pearls. Imagine that I can actually say that sentence — been waiting my whole life! ▪️ I’ve worn this pearl choker necklace (a gift from a dear friend years ago) every day since Inauguration Day because VP Harris wears pearls. It feels good to put on a lovely piece of jewelry even though I’m not going anywhere. A little sparkle and shine. And, when I need to — and I generally do — I can finger the pearls like worry beads or a rosary to help ease anxiety. This week we passed this mark: 100 million known cases of Covid-19 worldwide.
VP Auntie gold dust
Tears of joy today that @kamalaharris is our Vice President — 100 years after women in this country finally wrestled their right to vote from the men who tried to keep it from them.
“...We seek harm to none and harmony for all...” [a line from the Biden inauguration poem “The Hill We Climb” by the remarkable Amanda Gorman]
[sketch from a photo posted by @meena Harris]
"Armored Freedom, sword raised and cape flying, ... tramples Tyranny and Kingly Power; she is assisted by a fierce eagle carrying arrows and a thunderbolt." [sketch from a detail of the 'The Apotheosis of Washington' — a fresco painted in 1865 by Constantino Brumidi at the top of the Capitol's Rotunda; 180 feet above the Rotunda floor]
Our Ms. Armored Freedom was gazing down as the mob incited by our Kingly President stormed the Capitol...
My Presidential Inauguration-adjacent story: On January 20th, 1985 — the day of Ronald Reagan's 2nd inauguration — I was living just outside Washington DC in Maryland. The daytime temperatures were forecast at 7 degrees F with wind chills at -25. I was driving a little Dodge Omni with metal door handles that pulled up to open the car's doors. Something was already wrong with the front, passenger side front handle — it could only be opened from the inside. The morning of the inauguration I unlocked the driver's side with my key (no keyless entry then!) and the frozen-cold, metal door handle broke right off in my hand! What to do?! No way to open the locked back doors so I couldn't get in through them. How was I going to get to work?! Wait! An escape hatch! The car was a hatchback and the key opened that back trunk door. I unlocked and lifted it, ducked my head, climbed in, hauled myself over into the back seat as gracefully as possible, and was able to stretch to open the driver's side door from the inside so I didn't have to throw myself over into the front seat. Then I opened the side door, got out, calmly smoothed my skirt, got in the front seat, said a prayer of thanks for the hatchback, and was on my way. I always thought of it as "Reagan's revenge" as I didn't like the man's policies and never voted for him. Because of the extreme cold that day in 1985, the inauguration was moved inside — into the Capitol Rotunda — where high above Armored Freedom and her fierce eagle were busy smiting and trampling the Kingly...
Lady Gaga sang the National Anthem at the Inauguration and posed in the rotunda with Armored Freedom above:
We lost a dear friend last week: "...She liked to invite troublesome people into her heart because she had the natural gift of unconditional love and sympathy. She dedicated her life to understanding everyone because no one was unworthy of love to Marmee" (a quote from one of her grandchildren). And today I found this quote that my mother has written in one of her sketchbooks: "Patti Smith believes that when people close to you die, you absorb what you most admire in them. It's like they leave a little gift."
I baked a Lemon Olive Oil cake. Simple and plain to soothe the soul; it smelled so good when I took it out of the oven.
Mitza’s wooden figure mannequin trying to remember the steps to the dance and keep her balance, just like us...
I can’t get the images from yesterday’s violent attack on the Capital out of my head. The ransacked Parliamentarian’s office with papers strewn about. The broken sign from Speaker Pelosi’s office. Too many people not wearing masks! Lawmakers cowering on the floor. So many questions. Sadness that, yes, this IS who we are. Anger that a mob of white men with beards and flags and horns and arrogance are allowed to freely invade and roam a place where previously people in wheelchairs protesting the loss of their health insurance were dragged out and a small group of Black people praying and singing were handcuffed and removed (including the recently elected Senator from GA, Rev. Warnock). But, also the knowledge that our Democracy worked — the Congress came back and did their job. When I checked my phone at 5 AM this morning, there was the NYTimes headline: Congress Confirms Biden’s Win, Defying Mob Attack; Electoral Count Is Completed Despite Mayhem Incited by Trump.
Remembering “the near and the dear ones, the old and the young” on this quiet and isolated pandemic Christmas holiday ▪️ My cousin sent this note that captures the feeling of the “full-family” celebrations we had for many years at our grandparents’ house.
Negative-Positive, Positive-Negative ▪️
December 12th is the Feast Day for Our Lady of Guadalupe; I read about a woman who said that each year her mother would send embroidered handmade wool ponchos from Mexico for her grandchildren to wear in the traditional Feast Day procession. I still remember the fringed poncho my mother made for me when I was in grade school — the fabric was a hefty wide-wale corduroy in deep yellow-gold. I felt like the bee’s knees wearing that poncho. This one is from a clothing swap and is a wonderful lightweight but warm wool in one of my favorite patterns — houndstooth; I added the front kangaroo pocket using a colorful paisley 1960s fabric scrap from my mother’s stash. ▪️
Relieved to report that my Covid-19 spit test came back negative. I had an antibody test in October that came back positive — meaning it was likely that I already had Covid-19. The only time I’ve been sick this year was an odd, but mild case of the flu that started February 19th. ▪️
“By mid-February, the U.S. was testing about a hundred samples per day. Researchers concluded in late February that ‘the virus had probably been spreading for weeks’ person-to-person.”
The COVID rages and a near one tested positive, so I did the COVID-19 spit test today. Drive to the County site. Sign in the Vault app and give them you name and address and email and phone number. Scan the barcode on the tube packages. Spit, spit, spit into the plastic tube up to the wavy line. No bubble below the line! Spit, spit, spit. Spit some more. Finally, screw on the top with the blue liquid. Wait for results.
Many quarantine hours spent watching Netflix and Prime and HBO and Law & Order in this corner. Some good, much of it forgettable. Hopefully a distraction. This week we fed our brains, streaming talks from the Philadelphia Athenaeum.
A mask seems to be hanging everywhere. This is the new normal.
The most used tool in my Procreate toolbox is the Inking Studio Pen.
Visiting the grandparents in the age of the coronavirus.
The girls in the window remind me of a memory from many years ago. I went to school with a girl who grew up in Jersey City. At that time, in her neighborhood, women would sit in their open windows with the screen up and a pillow across the sill. They'd rest their arms on the pillow and lean their head out the window to observe and interact with what was going on in the street. I've never forgotten that image of the ladies in the windows...
As of this afternoon, more than 14,096,400 people in the U.S. are infected with COVID-19 and at least 274,700 have died; protect yourself and others -- act as if everyone you come in contact with could be infected.
It's been a crazy upside-down year in so many ways and everything was cooked so we had a Thanksgiving feast two days early. Why not?
"To love our neighbor like ourselves is a radical act." [President Elect Joe Biden in his Thanksgiving address to the country]
"My mother taught me to lead with the power of kindness and compassion to make the world a better place," Linda Thomas-Greenfield wrote following her nomination as Ambassador to the United Nations. "In my thirty-five years in the Foreign Service across the world, I put a Cajun spin on it. I call it Gumbo diplomacy. Wherever I was posted, I'd invite people of all walks and then make homemade gumbo. That's how you break down barriers, connect, and see each other as humans."
In the ninth month of quarantining, the coronavirus is surging exponentially. The resident of our White House has been holding us hostage by refusing to accept the results of the election and his party fails to act to try and right the ship. Vaccine results are reported to be promising. We are urged not to gather for Thanksgiving dinner. One bright spot these past months has been our New Jersey farm markets where you can safely shop outdoors for fruits, vegetables, eggs, bread and baked goods, and other culinary specialties. Most shut down after Thanksgiving so I'm feeling bereft. To help me through a winter that already feels way too dark, I have a 20 pound box of New Jersey white sweet potatoes -- grown just a few miles from here -- that can be stored for up to 12 months...
Election Week in America: In Philadelphia they started dancing in the street outside the Convention Center while ballots were still being counted inside (broadcast via webcam for all the world to see). Drums, line dances, Gritty, rainbow flags, masks. When Pennsylvania was declared for Biden/Harris on Saturday just before noon -- putting them over the top for the Electoral College -- the dance party kept going on the summer-like November day.
Election Day 2020: I want a competent government that demonstrates that Black lives matter, that cares about the health and well-being of us all, that counts every vote equally, and that pays attention to science and art and the health of planet Earth.
All Souls Day 2020 / for this year and all the years ...
"Walk carefully, well loved one,
walk mindfully, well loved one,
walk fearlessly, well loved one.
Return with us, return to us,
be always coming home."
-- Ursula K. Le Guin [from Please Bring Strange Things]
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead 2020): Ms. COVID-19 was dressed up in her brightest, blingiest dress but the President was too busy admiring himself in the mirror to pay attention ...
Today’s NYTimes news alert: “It’s just kind of everywhere.” The coronavirus is now so widely spread in some parts of the U.S. that it’s almost impossible to trace. ▪️ [from a photo taken at San Jose’s 2019 Día de los Muertos Festival]
As a kid in 1968, I was in awe of the way Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their gloved fists after winning medals at the Mexico City Olympic games to draw attention to racial injustice and inequality in America — to me they embodied the Olympic spirit. A year ago I got to see this mosaic statue that honors them on the campus of San Jose State University; the 3rd spot on the podium is left empty at the suggestion of the athlete who stood there (Australian Peter Norman) — to allow visitors to stand in solidarity.
Under early September’s blue skies and changing light, the Zlatan Papillon floats through Mitza’s backyard, distanced, masked, zoomed to parts north and west, FamJam birthday celebration...
My heart hurts… I’m going to sleep in my @cottonbureau Lady Justice League T-shirt (our beloved Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on September 18, 2020).
“I am often asked when there will be enough women on the Supreme Court and I say, when there are nine.” — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
2020 continues to frighten and alarm as the entire western portion of this country seems to be on fire and we had a rare earthquake in New Jersey early this morning and our president admits that early-on he knew that COVID-19 was a serious airborne virus but did not share that information with us. I have no words.
This design is from the front cover of the book “Portrait of a People, Croatia Today” published by the Funk & Wagnalls Company in 1936. The two-color design of black and red was screen printed on a green fabric.
My cousin drove up from Maryland and brought a bottle of Limited Edition Old Bay Hot Sauce (the hot peppers are from my garden, thankfully not super-hot). The visit prompted my dad to tell one of his stories while we sat distanced on the back porch.
When they were in High School in Baltimore in the 1940s, my dad and uncle would take the streetcar to school. My uncle frequently cut school for the day (one of his teachers called my grandmother and told her that my uncle had done better on a test than any other student she’d had who had missed so many days of class). He’d get off the streetcar and go downtown while my dad stayed on to get to school. Sometimes their friend Newtie went with my uncle. If they didn't have any money then they'd often sit in the gallery at the Court House and watch the court proceedings to pass the time. Many years later my dad talked to Newtie at a neighborhood reunion. Newtie told my dad that watching what went on in that court room was a real education — seeing over and over that a white man and Black man convicted of the same crime were treated differently. The white man was given parole and the Black man was sent to prison. It was clear to those teenagers sitting in that Baltimore Court House 75 years ago that there was no justice, rather there was blatant institutional racism.
So this happened during the quarantine: I was officially ordained a High Priestess and this wonderful sign was attached to my car with twine during a ceremonial drive-by.
"Help us to follow the important rules in associating with others. Help us all to protect others with reverence and genuine care, so that their health and welfare are especially safe." [Father Michael Doyle's prayer]
The masks that help protect me and those around me: the white one I made and keep folded in my back pocket so I always have one with me; the black one with the shaped nose and comfortable elastic straps that go around my head; the one my cousin made for me with the metal nose insert, adjustable ear ties, and fancy lining.
Waking up not knowing what day of the week it is or what day of the quarantine and Hurricane Isaias barreled up the coast and over us with ferocious wind and rain that knocked the power out yet again and a horrific explosion devastated the people and port of Beirut and kids in some parts of the country started back to school when it feels to me like summer never even started and another night of intermittent sleep and watching the clock under August's Apple Cider Full Moon ...
Looking out the back door at the Marigolds.
"Each day, we must learn / again how to love, between morning's quick coffee / and evening's slow return." [excerpt from Barbara Crooker's poem "In The Middle"]
Playing along with 1979 Blondie on YouTube under the last of July's Guitar Strummin' moon.
"When I met you in the restaurant, you could tell I was no debutante / You asked me what's my pleasure, 'A movie or a measure'? / I'll have a cup of tea, and tell you of my dreaming / Dreamin' is free / Dreamin' ... dreaming is free ..." [lyrics from Dreaming by Blondie]
By my count, today is day 123 of the quarantine. The heat index hit 93 degrees. The rabbits ate all the green bean plants in the garden and there are alarming pools of water that keep forming near the refrigerator. Cases of the coronavirus are increasing daily again and have reached crisis points in many states. Our president has done his best to successfully turn the U.S. into one of his "sh!thole countries". Civil rights and voting rights champion and warrior Congressman John Lewis has died and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has had a recurrence of her cancer. One bright spot is the aqua-blue-sky ceiling in my little screened-in side porch.
"If we do not get meaningful legislation out of this Congress, the time will come when we will not confine our marching to Washington. ... We must say, 'Wake up, America, wake up!' For we cannot stop, and we will not be patient." [from Mr. Lewis' 1963 March on Washington speech]