And Why We Better Wake Up to This One. . .
Mink are small, feisty, territorial animals that can live very close by to humanity. They are somewhat aquatic, living naturally along riverbanks and waterways and are hunted by us and many other forms of predators from great horned owls to wolves. Because of this, they are becoming endangered. But there’s another, more important endangerment going on and that’s the immense business of fur farms. Mink farms have thrived alongside trapping for many years and in more recent times have become the focus of animal welfare groups. I can see why. …
And What That Means Right Now. . .
In 1960s America, there was a connection between a Democratic president and remnants of World War II. Even yet. John F. Kennedy is really the first president I remember clearly — and there are many reasons why. But three stand out beyond any other president since — his youth, his religion, and his death. At 43, he was the youngest man elected to the presidency, the first Roman Catholic, and in my lifetime the first and only president assassinated while in office. …
But Then, Most Everything Is. . .
November 1, 2020, brings many concerns, most of them of the “feeling type.” My parents used to caution me about this. “Feelings can’t be blended with facts,” my mother used to say.
“Oh, yes, they can.”
Take, for example, Medium.
I learned Medium’s powerful basic platform in one afternoon. I also gave up in one afternoon.
In 24 hours I went back.
The defeat wasn’t about instant publishing, publishing too soon with too few facts. It was about feeling.
“I can’t do this. Too many steps, too much room for confusion, error, embarrassment.”
Yup, that’s how I think. …
When I think of Frankenstein, I think of a key element of gothic writing: The hypnotic, visceral mix of horror and pity. The hypnotic is often how grotesque human ambition can become, and the visceral contains emotional devastation — disbelief, revulsion, pity, and the crucial revelation that the reader, on some level, understands the blind ambition of the evil doer. Nothing about the novel Frankenstein is outdated. The story is here among us, even now. I think Mary Shelley designed it that way.
It’s taken me a long time to get around to discovering the “why” of Mary’s creation. In many ways, she became a shadow of Frankenstein herself. Not as graphic, but as sobering. Mary Shelley, educated by poets and philosophers, brought up in the liberal commentary of her time, found herself involved with a married man by the time she was seventeen. Fully capable of writing, eloquent and insightful writing, she devoted herself to following Percy Bysshe Shelley, poet and philosopher five years her senior from place to place in a European backdrop similar to our time. She was merely a child herself, and she was pregnant. …
One Woman’s Journey to Ruth Bader Ginsburg
My first Ruth arrived in childhood
In the small garden where I used to pray with my mother.
Mornings, far from the nearest church, she would tell me
The biblical story of Ruth — her kindness in the face of adversity.
“She loved her other mother, the one we forget,” my mother would say.
For so long I didn’t understand this Ruth of a foreign, desperate place.
Moving alone without a husband, she loved the one who was left — his mother.
And drew a faint new line between herself and a broken world. …
How a Pacific Northwest Writer Predicted the Future of Wildfires in the Ghostly Details of an Early One
“Although young men died like squirrels in Mann Gulch, the Mann Gulch fire (August 1949) should not end there. . . Probably most catastrophes end this way without an ending, the dead not even knowing how they died but ‘still alertly erect in fear and wonder,’ those who loved them forever questioning ‘this unnecessary death,’ and the rest of us tiring of this inconsolable catastrophe and turning to the next one.”
Now, in the autumn of 2020, in the midst of another wildfire rampage in Washington State, I re-read parts of Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire. Published in 1992, two years after Maclean’s death at the age of eighty-seven, I’m reminded he did most of his research and wrote his heart-wrenching story in his 70’s. I am now 70, a woman who has lived much of her life in the middle of late summer’s high fire danger. Young Men and Fire has been a kind of bible for me. As a result, I’m no longer omnipotent, unreachable by Maclean’s words of warning. …
There is an old English proverb, “Diseases come on horseback, but steal away on foot.”
The idea that illness of a global kind can overwhelm us isn’t new. The idea that some among us will continue to thrive also isn’t unusual. What is most unusual, however, is predicting the assortment of those who will survive, many of them quietly picking up their lives and living in a new normal as the disease “steals away,” this time probably with the aid of a vaccine. People we consider famous at this point in history, those who survive, will have tremendous influence over the human population that remains when the Covid-19 pandemic is over. …
I was once married to a logger. A bona fide, flannel-shirted, steel-toe booted, day-in, day-out logger. He had recently returned from Vietnam and the U.S. Army, still sweaty with nightmares and locked into the notion that the wild woods of Washington State could break him of his heartache. Instead, those woods created another kind of misery. One that would prevail far beyond his individual life.
In 1971 there were jobs for men who could buck a chainsaw and set a choker. A man’s profession deeply ingrained in tradition, loggers didn’t need a degree or even much of an education. What they required was a hearty regard for figuring distance, because what looks big standing upright is actually a God-awful giant as it comes crashing down. It also helped if they could run fast with a load of as much as 200 pounds of steel cable dragging behind them. Other than that, basic instructions were to stay alive, especially on a soggy hill, and pack a lunch consisting of two meals, in case you weren’t able to get home one night. Every moment in the woods was about survival — of Douglas firs and western red cedar standing ram-rod straight in the middle of a line of men handy with saws. Mostly it was men who won the skirmish. …
Do Women Know Something About This Newest Plague That Men Don’t?
A long and varied history of women leaders might once have existed, and while these matriarchies flourished, there was something akin to rule by protection. The Cycladic civilization of the Aegean in ancient Greece was characterized by marble images of women, their arms crossed over their abdomens, suggesting only their strong femininity could shield the young and vulnerable.
“Women owned their bodies, their children, and their living properties; women made vital decisions affecting the survival and well-being of their people,” according to The Great Cosmic Mother, by Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor. Among the Egyptians, the Ashanti people of West Africa, the Naya of India, and the Pueblo of Native Americans, dwellings, whether grass huts or multi-storied condos, weren’t just maintained by women. They were built by women. Economics were largely shared as a gift exchange, which strengthened communal bonding. In other words, women were invested at every level of their governed populace, especially those levels that required safeguarding. …
When I was eight, my favorite aunt died in a car/train collision. Oddly enough, I still remember what my mother told me.
“Your Auntie won’t be coming back,” she said. Her eyes were damp for days when she finally finished the statement. “She died violently, Sherrida. That’s the hard part.”
In time, I saw the car she died in. In fact, I’ve seen a picture in which my father and I were in the process of having it moved to a wrecking yard. There is only a remnant feeling left in me now — that of picking up on my father’s matter-of-factness, his very authentic stoicism to get the horrible job done. Unlike my mother, I don’t remember crying. But I do remember touching my aunt’s hair while she lay patched together in her casket. …