The truth is, I know no other way of writing. And yet, I fight it.
I can’t really start to write with a grand idea. I must just fiddle. Fiddle around a bit, describing my world, letting my fingers do the walking, the talking.
I’m listening to my local, commercial-free jazz station while the world around me shakes on its pedestal. I’m informed via alerts on my phone that Mike Pence refuses to invoke the 25th amendment to remove the maniac at the helm in the White House.
Covid-19 rages on. My daughter is in Los Angeles, one of the world’s most severe hot spots.
In the bath last night, I read the New Yorker article on the pandemic: The Plague Year. I read that even in cases that are asymptomatic, damage is done to the insides of arteries, making them ragged, rough, which is why one of the scary effects of Covid is blood clots. Little bits of blood that gather on these rough arterial walls and gather layers like a snowball, only to eventually be released back into the bloodstream as a clot that can kill when it enters the brain or the lungs as surely as a bullet.
I texted my kids: “Guys. Don’t get Covid. It’s not trivial. Even if you have no symptoms, you can still have arterial damage.”
I’m anxious this week, more so than usual. I find myself barking at my ersatz roommate, B. The U.S. Capitol was, incredibly, attacked last Wednesday by a bunch of bozo-lunatics. But, as ridiculous as they were, they are also scary because they represent a wide swath of the population in this country that has been stock-piling weapons for years.
At 3 p.m. today, I pulled on purple, lavender, black, and white argyle socks, tied on my hiking boots, and took off for the mountain with Daisy in tow. We drove up Redwood Road, over Skyline Boulevard, to the valley below. We turned left into the trailhead parking lot.
We turned left again at the first chance, to begin our ascent to where we could meet the Bay Area Ridge Trail. There, we turned right and continued on. Soon, we were in territory I didn’t know. The sky above was leaden, for which I was grateful. There were very few people on the trail, and pretty soon, none. I no longer had to pull my mask up and tear my sunglasses off every time I saw another human coming my way. I could take my mask off completely, pull it onto my wrist, and let it dangle there. I could take deep breaths, and I did so. I gulped air.
I followed Daisy, who snaked her way along the trail, tail wagging. We passed through groves of oak, eucalyptus, madrone, mesquite, and redwood. I stopped at a massive cedar and leaned into its trunk. I attempted to wrap my arms around the trunk, but it was so wide, my arms remained flat. I looked up at myriad black branches sticking out from the trunk like whiskers. I waited, hoped for, a sign.
I spoke to the redwoods, with their fuzzy, spongy bark. I told them to hang on. I said I was glad they had recent rain. I thought about fog, the fog to which these ancient and beautiful trees are adapted for sustenance. The fog that disappears a little more each year as the climate radically and rapidly changes.
I thought, I need to bring the kids here more, so they can tell their kids they hiked in the redwoods with their mom before the redwoods all died.
Now, “All of You” by the Joe Locke Quartet plays.
My Moroccan lamb tagine with apricots and saffron and ginger braises in the oven and fills the house with a sweet, gentle fragrance.
I made myself a beautiful cocktail — it will be a new favorite. “Aviation,” it’s called, the recipe for which first appeared in 1916. It’s made of gin, maraschino, and lemon. I read in the comments of the recipe in New York Time’s Cooking that the real deal also includes creme de violette.
I’m trying to comfort myself, in other words. And truth be told, there is much comfort here.
The world is as wack-a-doodle as ever, more so than usual at the moment, but for now I have my home. I have B. here, and it is sweet to have this modified version of B. here. B. taking his Lithium is a completely different person to me. He is sweet, gentle, tentative, kind, and helpful. A little child-like, it’s true, but that’s not the worst thing in a friend or roommate.
And it is sweet to not be alone. I can’t imagine if I was alone in this house right now. B. and I have a routine. We ambulate in our own orbits most of the day. He works on the photo project I gave him months ago, scanning boxes and boxes of photos from three generations — a job he could never have done in the past, before Lithium.
In the evenings, we watch “The Crown.” We are totally hooked. The escapism, the lunacy, the joy, the fascinating history, the beautiful interiors, and the Scottish moor, and the incredible, inflexible Margaret Thatcher, and the gentle, tremulous, yet, steel-spined Diana, enthrall us, night after night.
B. likes to spend lots of time de-constructing each episode. Out of the blue, he’ll say, “But, what about Margaret? What did Margaret think when Diana went to New York?” It’s as real as anything else to him. It’s sweet and funny, and more than a little bizarre. It doesn’t bother me for the most part, but when he perseverates and wants to talk basically most of the day about the British royals, I draw the line.
Yes, B. remains here, B., the father of my children, and, for now, it is just fine. For now, I refuse to overthink it. For now, B. is a relative, a VIP who needs to be here with family. It is totally appropriate.
So, here we shelter. We have faithful Daisy, my 12-year-old golden retriever, and 13-year-old Pebbles, our tortoiseshell kitty, who balances on the back of the couch behind our heads each night. We have soft jazz playing from my grandfather’s radio atop the refrigerator. We have food in the fridge and fires in the evenings. We have forests and golden hills and meadows full of nursing cows twenty minutes away. We have pile after pile of photos.
Every twenty minutes or so, B. calls me over, and we gaze together at a photo of us, 22 years ago, with our newborn son. Moving into our new house. One of B. with jet-black hair and my dad’s arm around his shoulders. B. so handsome.
We hunker down. We wait. We cultivate gratitude.
And for now, everything is just fine.