Friday, October 16, 2020

Pandemic postcard #30: Repair > despair

The name I chose for this blog in 2014 has given me pause many times over the past few years. Henry David Thoreau insisted that "surely joy is the condition of life," and I still believe that to be true. Yet in 2020, another perspective on joy has been far more resonant for me: Brother David Steindl-Rast's affirmation that joy is "the happiness that doesn't depend on what happens." 

I will be digging deep into this latter idea over the next few weeks. Next week, I want to explore--with your help--what you plan to do to pursue joy (or at least equilibrium) in the days and weeks after the election, especially since it may take a while to see a definitive resolution. This week, I want to lift up the idea of repair. 

These are not easy times for people who believe in justice, fairness, and equity. Just this week, we've seen confirmation that the Supreme Court has become wholly politicized, both in the speedy nomination and anticipated party-line vote to seat a new justice and in the current court's ruling that allows a premature halt to the 2020 Census. These are decisions that will erase people, endanger health, and enrich corporate America.  

There is abundant cause for despair, which is exactly why we need to believe instead in repair as the greater good--the higher power--that will pull us through these next few months. Hope is a muscle. Here are a few examples of repair as hope in action: 

Voting is a mighty act of repair. While the agents of despair would like to keep poor people and folks of color from exercising this basic right, the angels of repair are doing whatever they can to encourage everyone to vote--and to safeguard those votes. The Solutions Journalism Network is tracking good-news stories about the election, such as how the nonpartisan Poll Hero Project has recruited tens of thousands of young Americans to be poll workers amid the pandemic that has kept many older poll-working veterans home. Tomorrow, volunteers with the Vote Forward project will mail 15 million hand-written letters to fellow Americans who vote infrequently, urging them to make the effort this year. We are seeing indications of a truly massive turnout.   

Last Monday, we marked Indigenous Peoples Day. Just as 2020 has been a year of heightened awareness of systemic racism dating back 400 years, it's also been a year of more fully recognizing how our founders displaced the people who were here first. We can't remake the past, but we can acknowledge the full history of where we live--and we can also consider paying rent to recognize and honor this connection. I made a donation to Real Rent Duwamish this week, and I will make it a goal to begin small, symbolic monthly rent payments by next October. 

Earlier this year, as the pandemic began to unfold, the federal government basically told the states and local governments that "you're on your own." It's one thing for progressive coastal states to step up and act in such times, but I was inspired by this program from The Harwood Institute highlighting how two red-state communities--Clark County, Kentucky, and Jackson, Mississippi--took that edict to heart and worked to be sure their citizens were safe, fed, and housed. "Now is not the time to go to the corner and hoard resources," said Von Gordon of the William Winter Institute in Jackson. "Hope has really emerged in people continuing to show up" and "be authentic about their fears and the challenges," added Beth Willett Jones of the Greater Clark Foundation. 

Finally, as a society, we must continue to recognize the reality that America was built and is still being sustained with the physical labor of people who were literally enslaved (in centuries past) or who are working essential jobs for insufficient pay to this day. We can do many things to help repair this, from supporting microbusinesses owned by marginalized people and ethical small businesses that do right by their employees to electing people who will fight for livable wages, robust benefits, student loan debt relief, and strong safety nets. 

Many of us have been working very hard this year to raise our own awareness and advocate for changes we want to see. I said earlier in this post that I want to hear what you plan to do on Nov. 4 and beyond to give voice to your values (and also, frankly, to take care of yourself and your loved ones as winter descends). Please share in the comments or send me an email; the best address for that is sidewalk206 at gmail dot com. I look forward to hearing from you, and I'll share some of your thoughts in next week's post.
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If you enjoy Surely Joy, please consider supporting my work via Patreon. Pledges start at just $3 a month. Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 9, 2020

Pandemic postcard #29: Turning into my dad

Today is my father's birthday, and if all goes well, my brother and his husband and I will be toasting Dad's memory on a San Francisco beach, not far from where we scattered his ashes. Dad has been gone almost a decade, but--as I wrote a few weeks ago--my parents' memories have been strong with me this fall. I miss them both as much as I ever have, and I think I may be turning into my dad.

I know that many women worry they'll turn into their mother, but that was never going to happen for me. Like many mothers and daughters do, we clashed during my adolescence, and I was just starting to know and appreciate Mom as a fellow adult when she died at age 62. By then, I'd been away from home for eight years.   

Dad was also 62 when Mom died. That's the same age my husband, Tom, was when he died in 2018, and the same age my stepchildrens' maternal grandfather was when he passed on. I'm just a few years shy of that mark, and as 62 looms ever closer, it hurts to be "losing" a year the way we are in 2020. 

Yet it's likely I'll live far beyond 62, as my dad did; he was 87 when he passed away in 2012. He lived long enough to see my ill-advised first marriage end, and to see me meet a good man and marry again, and to see my brother find a loving partner, and to spend lots of time with his only grandchild when she was young. At the end of his life, he gave me the sacred experience of helping a loved one have a good death. Today, on his birthday, let me tell you a little more about my dad. 

Sparrow, #14
Byron Fanselow started out a little guy, and his nickname was "Sparrow," but he still played baseball and basketball. His high school yearbook reports that he was usually laughing. After graduation, he grew several inches, so his nickname went away--until the 1970s, when Dad (and my brother and sometimes I) became "Fonz." Thank you, Happy Days, for helping America finally learn how to say our last name.

Dad went to Illinois Tech for mechanical engineering, then he joined the Navy near the end of World War II. After that, he became a salesman--the natural job for someone with his personality. He started out selling windows and went on to rep several metal building companies in the Midwest. He was offered a transfer to San Francisco but wound up taking one to Pittsburgh instead so he and my mom would remain reasonably close to their families in Chicago, where most of my extended kin still live.

For a short time when I was in elementary school, Dad had an office in a downtown Pittsburgh high-rise, which was fun. But usually, he worked from home and on the road, calling on clients across the Mid-Atlantic states, eating lots of dinners at Howard Johnson's and racking up plenty of points at Holiday Inns. He loved to travel and he loved meeting people, and my brother and I both found careers that incorporated those things.  

Dad worked on commission, money was sometimes tight, and Mom loved to shop. She meant well; she loved to give people gifts, but she'd lose track of what she'd already bought, so we always had lots of stuff but never much extra money. Mom went to work at a fast-food place to help send me to college. That's where she had her first fall, on a slick floor at Wendy's. I took the call on the hallway phone in the dorm my freshman year at Ohio University. Mom had broken her hip, and soon after that, she got cancer, too. I doubled down at school, maxing out my course loads so I could graduate in three years.

Thankfully, Mom beat lymphoma and she and Dad were able to travel a bit. They went to Tokyo and Hawaii mostly for free with all those points from Holiday Inn. But her hip replacement hadn't healed especially well, and one day, her cane caught on the top step of the basement stairs. She fell and hit her head, and we had to let her go. Dad was heartbroken at the loss of his wife of 37 years, and I cannot imagine his grief, even after losing the love of my life. But he'd go on to live another two-and-a-half decades, most of them in a healthy, happy retirement.

You're probably wondering by now: How am I turning into my dad?

I find myself cracking really bad jokes. For example: On my camping trip to Olympic National Park this summer, I arrived at Rialto Beach first thing one morning and found three bored teenagers sitting at a picnic table, ignoring the Pacific Ocean. I tried to get them excited. "It's going to be a great sunrise!" I said. "Too bad we're on the wrong side!"

I find myself wanting to talk to everybody. I'm sure the pandemic and living alone are driving this, but when I see other humans, especially in person but even on Zoom, it's sometimes hard to contain myself. I genuinely miss people at this point. Dad was the same way. I think he was happy living alone--he never had a serious romantic relationship after Mom, that I know of, and he knew how to entertain himself. But the longer he was alone, the more he missed seeing people, and that manifested in wanting to talk a lot when he saw them.

Dad in 1993
What I most admired about my dad was his curiosity about everything. We always had plenty of books around, of course, plus stacks of newspapers and magazines. Dad had no serious lifelong hobbies other than photography, but he'd get interested in something--astronomy, astrology, CB radios, ice cream making, magic tricks, meditation, computers, physics--and he'd learn all he could (or all he cared to), then he'd move on to something else.      

Dad did get downright cranky for a while in the early 2000s, when he started watching too much Lou Dobbs on CNN and briefly, alarmingly, became rabidly anti-immigrant. Fortunately, this xenophobia didn't last long, since it clashed with his moderate politics and his liberal Christianity.

Dad ultimately developed dementia and had a rough last few years, though the course of his disease was fairly swift. The cognitive reserve theory suggests that people who spend a lifetime keeping their brain active may die faster once in the later stages of dementia, and that mercifully seemed to be true for Dad. Unfortunately, his sharp decline came at the very same time I had soul-taxing political work and a teen daughter and a marriage that was showing some strain. I'm adopted, so it's anyone's guess what my fate might be in the brain health department, but the heartache of Dad's final few years is gradually fading for me, and I am not afraid.

I am not afraid. I think that's something else I got from my parents, and something I've tried to pass on to my daughter. Love was our family's default position, and Mom and Dad showed it in their volunteer work, in their friendships and family ties, and at the ballot box. And they showed it to each other; they had a rule that they'd never go to bed holding a grudge. 

Although things are unsettled in our country right now, I believe that love and reason and liberty and justice will prevail, though perhaps not without a fight. I miss my parents, but I'm not sorry they're missing this--and I am grateful for their legacy of valuing love over fear. 

Thank you, Dad. You too, Mom. Keep sending those good vibes, for we surely need them.

My parents on their Havana honeymoon.
 

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This weekend's trip includes my first air, train, and public transit experiences since March. I'll write a patrons-only post about the risks and rewards of COVID-19 travel next week at Patreon, where I'm also sharing peeks inside my journals (and creativity coaching for my top-tier patrons). If you enjoy Surely Joy, please consider supporting my work via Patreon. Pledges start at just $3 a month. Thanks for reading! 

Friday, October 2, 2020

Pandemic postcard #28: Will write for tips

It's Friday morning, and word has arrived that our First Couple have confirmed cases of coronavirus. Could this year possibly get any weirder? 

It seems like a month ago already, before this latest news and before the raucous debate, but I actually turned down a job this week. After a summer coming up short in my search for work, I was glad to finally have a job offer, especially with the CARES Act federal unemployment assistance long gone and my state unemployment pay ending soon. But something didn't feel right. 

I would have had work for about five weeks this winter, monitoring tests in school classrooms--a job I did a few years ago, too, but that was before COVID. Would the work even happen, with most schools still closed? Then there were the logistical hoops I'd be jumping through to take and keep the job: fingerprinting at a time when it's nearly impossible, weekly COVID tests, heavy-duty PPE requirements. All for a short-term, minimum wage gig with no benefits. 

I finally realized that I'd applied for the job out of fear--of making my rent, of ever working for a wage again. I wound up turning it down out of hope for something better.

Of course, it's a marker of privilege that I can do this. Plenty of people are taking whatever work they can to make ends meet from week to week, despite the threat of a disease that's disproportionately affecting working-class Americans. Many people don't have savings to use in an emergency, never mind during a few lean months. I have savings I can dip into if I need to (and I’ll need to).

Most of all, though, I realized that I want to focus on doing what I do best (and what I'd done my entire adult life until most of my work vanished in March): make a living with words. For seven months, I've been writing these pandemic postcards--essentially a weekly column--to try and make sense of these times, but I have been writing them for free. Not so long ago, before Craigslist and social media decimated local journalism, someone with my background could land a job writing a column or human-interest stories. Those opportunities are rare these days, yet I know I ought to be paid for at least some of my writing. 

That's why--although Surely Joy will remain free (and ad-free)--I've decided to set up a page on Patreon where, for $3 a month, you can let me know my work has value to you. I know this may be a big ask at a time when we are all being asked to contribute to the usual member-supported media outlets plus maintain subscriptions to major journalism organizations that are doing critical work--but if you have $3 a month to spare to support my experiment in crowd-funded punditry, I'll be grateful.

The $3-a-month tier is my "You like me" level. Pledges of this amount can really add up in my small-footprint micro-economy, and I will write at least one patrons-only post each month at Patreon for folks who pledge that amount. (Here's a sample.)

People who pledge $9 a month ("You really like me") will also get access to some behind-the-scenes peeks at my notebooks and work in progress (like this). And because I sense that some of my readers would love to pursue a more joyful, intentional life, I offer the "You want to be like me" tier, which is $27 a month. For that level of support, I will be your personal creativity coach. We'll talk at least once a quarter about how you'd like to live more fearlessly and creatively. I'll encourage and question and inspire you (and you will do the same for me). 

Surely Joy will never be all I do, and that’s OK. I love to interview people and write feature stories; I just finished my first one since March, an article for 3rd Act magazine about how musicians are weathering the pandemic. I like to edit and I have some possibilities in that area. I fervently hope to be working back at the ballpark next year. It’s a seasonal, minimum wage job, too, but I enjoy the fans and the people I work with.

But the writing I do here feels important--to me and, I know, to some of you. We are in historic times, and I am trying my best to make some sense of them while also lifting up my original reason for this blog: the practice of living a simple, beautiful life and of pursuing joy, described by Brother David Steindl-Rast as "the happiness that doesn't depend on what happens." Joy is more essential than ever as we work hard to make real the world we imagine. And today, we might even permit ourselves a bit of schadenfreude while wishing the Trumps a speedy recovery. Or not.    

Thanks for reading this far, and for considering a pledge. It is an honor to write for you. Let's continue to navigate these strange times together.

Mural at Olympic View Elementary School, Seattle


Friday, September 25, 2020

Pandemic postcard #27: The book of Ruth

My mom loved the old saying that "you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." As a kid, this didn't make a lot of sense to me; I'd wonder why I would want to catch flies at all. I was more interested in lightning bugs and praying mantises and caterpillars--critters I could catch, watch a while, and release. (Unless I forgot the release part, which I did once in a while. Sorry, bugs.)

Eventually, I understood the saying as my mother intended it: You can influence more people by being pleasant and kind than by being bitter and sour. My parents lived that idea. Mom and Dad were both easy-going, low-drama people for the most part. They had a strong religious faith, but they also revered reason, and they weren't afraid to change their minds. They were Eisenhower Republicans from the Land of Lincoln until Vietnam and Watergate made them reconsider their loyalty to the GOP. 
 
I've been thinking about Mom and Dad a lot this week as we mourn a famous woman of their generation who shared my mom's first name. Ruth Bader Ginsburg also shared my parents' devotion to the common good and to finding common ground. The late justice was rightly hailed as a liberal lioness, yet she was no firebrand. When, as a young litigator for the American Civil Liberties Union, she brought cases before the then-all-male Supreme Court, Ginsburg didn't frame them in terms of "women's rights" but of equal rights. And although she supported a woman's right to end a pregnancy, she favored legislative reforms to safeguard access to reproductive healthcare. She correctly foretold how the sweeping Roe v. Wade decision would ensure pitched battles over the issue for decades to come.
 
One of the RBG quotes I've seen most often this week is this reminder: "Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you." As David Cole, current national legal director for the ACLU, wrote this week in The New York Review of Books, "Her dissents did not aim barbs at the majority, but instead coolly, painstakingly, and effectively dissected the ruling’s errors, and often placed her emphasis on areas of agreement and avenues the majority decision left open." She was able to dissent without being disagreeable, and she famously was close friends with her opposite on the high court, Antonin Scalia. 
 
Ruth Bader Ginsburg consistently chose honey over vinegar. When she died a week ago just as Jews prepared to observe the High Holy Days, Jewish theologians noted that the timing made her a Tzadik, a person of great righteousness. I'm not sure what this makes Mitch McConnell, who refused to take up President Barack Obama's nomination of a Supreme Court justice more than seven months before the 2016 election, yet who now seeks to swiftly confirm a third lifetime appointment for a man who lost the popular vote four years ago and seems likely to lose it again on November 3. Calling on another religious concept, I'd like to think that karma will eventually have an answer for the likes of Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, but I'm not sure where that leaves us this fall.
 
"The problem for America, as for many other democracies at this point in history, is this is not an even match," Robert Reich wrote in The Guardian this week. "Those who fight for power will bend or break rules to give themselves every advantage. Those who fight for principle are at an inherent disadvantage because bending or breaking rules undermines the very ideals they seek to uphold."
 
Ruth Bader Ginsburg became an icon, but it wasn't a role she chose. Like Thurgood Marshall, her life and work were grounded in principle as she fought to make sure everyone's equality was recognized under the law. Is there still time to make this election about that fundamental (if yet-unrealized) American value? And if nakedly unchecked authoritarian power prevails--even as it is being dismissed by a majority of voters, many of whom are already casting ballots--what happens next? 
 
Our news feeds suggest we're about to find out. I miss my thoughtful and moderate parents. Part of me wishes they were still here to see what they would make of this circus--and another part is grateful they didn't live long enough to experience it--but their legacy of valuing love over fear remains strong with me as I seek to chart a course of nuance, reflection, and hope in these darkening autumn days. 
 
I also take heart remembering that my parents were people who were never afraid nor ashamed to change their minds. Just as my folks eventually turned against Nixon, I am sure others like them have finally seen enough to put country over party.
 
Rest in Power, Justice Ginsburg, and thanks for all you did--and the way you did it.       
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If you like and appreciate Surely Joy, I have a request: Would you consider showing your support for me on Patreon? I'll write more about this next week, or you can go look at my new Patreon page and see what's in store for patrons starting at $3 a month: extra posts, peeks inside my journal, and writing/creativity coaching for my top patrons. I pledge to keep writing for you as we navigate the murky weeks and months ahead. Thank you for reading, and be well.    
 
 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Pandemic postcard #26: Practicing for winter

It's been nine days since I've been outside for more than about five minutes. Six months ago, I stayed home on March 13, the day the seriousness of the pandemic really hit home in the United States. But once I knew that it was safe and even smart to continue walking outside every day amid COVID-19, I did exactly that, every morning--until the middle of last week, when the air quality here in the Northwest became too dangerous to venture outside.

The first few days of the air-quality quarantine were the worst, but as I heard more about what was happening in Oregon, I could not feel anything but gratitude for what I have: for the roof over my head, for food to eat, for breathable air inside my apartment--and for plenty of time to read, think, and learn. I've had that all year, of course, but making the best of this homebound week-and-a-half, I've leaned into it a bit more.

"I am fortunate because I have been able to spend my life in the study of the world," says Alma Whittaker, the main character in Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Thingswhich I read with uncharacteristic speed over just a few days this past week. Indeed, that is why I became a journalist: because I am curious about just about everything. I, too, am an avid lifelong student of the world, and while I may not be getting paid for my curiosity very often these days, I can indulge it more than ever.

Online conferences, webinars, classes, lectures, and concerts have helped me get through these past six months, and I've taken especially great advantage of them during these recent smoky days. Since last weekend, I've attended three online church services, a real-time film screening and post-movie discussion, a lecture on the presidential race, a virtual walking tour of Seattle's Denny Regrade, and a "Moth"-like program of stories about the pandemic and the fight for racial justice.

I have relished personal connection, too. A college classmate has convened a Zoom happy hour every few weeks, and it's been fun catching up with a fascinating, opinionated group of folks, even if everyone but me is in the Eastern time zone, ready to raise their glasses when it's still mid-afternoon in Seattle. I've talked with a few friends on the phone, including one whose daughter-in-law is the acting ranger on one of the hardest-hit forests in Oregon. I haven't seen anybody in person since my last shift volunteering at the food bank two weeks ago, but I don't feel as isolated as I might.

It sounds like the rain will start tonight and we may have clean air again sometime tomorrow. I look forward to walking outside and to opening my windows again.

Autumn arrives in a few days, and lately, it's always been a season of introspection for me, ahead of our long, dark, wet winters in Seattle. I know this pandemic winter won't be easy, but after the past nine days, I feel better prepared for the many months of interior life ahead. 

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If you enjoy Surely Joy, please consider supporting my work via Patreon. Pledges start at just $3 a month. Thanks for reading!  

 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Pandemic postcard #25: The next right thing

It's funny how books and ideas show up at the right time. I've been doing a lot of camping this summer, mainly because it's the one kind of travel that feels low-risk during the pandemic--until this week of hellfire, that is--and also because it is cheap and it gives me lots of distraction-free time to read. For a recent trip out to the Olympic Peninsula, I brought along Plan B, one of Anne Lamott's collections of essays about faith that had been on my bookshelf a long time. I thought I remembered picking it out of a Little Free Library, but a receipt buried in its pages revealed that I actually bought it at National Airport in Washington, DC, on March 19, 2008, when I would've been on my way home from a national bloggers' conference. 

A dozen years doesn't seem so long in the course of a lifetime, but at this point, 2008 feels like many lifetimes ago. By 2008, I had been heavily involved in politics for much of that decade, thus the invitation for the all-expenses-paid weekend of training for progressive bloggers. I gladly took the trip, but I was actually trying to back away from politics at that time, turning my attention toward a three-quarter-time contract job with a favorite client that had hired me to extend the then-still-new tools of blogging and social media to communities doing important small-d democracy work. It felt like I was living a calling. I was as happy as I have ever been in my professional life.
 
Yet within a few months, I'd pivoted back into politics. An opportunity had arisen with my state Democratic Party for a job I'd sought a few years earlier. We were on the cusp of electing the first Black president and maybe Idaho's first Democratic member of Congress in many years, too. It felt like the right decision at the right time. Although the job turned out to be heartbreaking on many levels, I don't regret taking it. I did some good work and I was able to share the historic 2009 inaugural with my daughter and some dear friends. Still, I wonder what might have happened had I stayed on the contract gig with my all-time favorite client.

Fast-forward to 2020. Once it became clear that most of my pre-pandemic freelance work was gone, I began looking for a full-time job, focusing on things that could feel like career capstones, or at least really good fits for me. By late July, I was demoralized: I'd come close on a few opportunities, but rejection is hard, and I was ready to give it a rest. Then I saw one more possibility--from my long-ago favorite client, for a lightly advertised job that seemed as if it had been written with me in mind. I applied and immediately got an interview. I was sure it was meant to be.

But after a few weeks passed with no news, I learned that the job had gone to a Black man, a talented young writer. And honestly, that is how it should be. The organization's central focus is on helping communities face up to racism--something which, although I have a heart for the work, I have no lived experience. (Of course, I know that better in 2020 than I ever have before.) I was crushed, but I understand that things usually happen--or don't--for a reason. I was ready to move to New England for this job, for one thing, and maybe that simply wasn't supposed to happen because I love the Northwest and my family is on this side of the country. 

Now it's September, and I've given up trying to find full-time work, at least for the time being. Too many people are looking, and I am older than most of them. But I am too young to retire, so I have to find ways to make ends meet--likely some combination of freelance and seasonal work, which is what I've done much of my working life, anyway. 

This brings me back to Lamott's book. As best I can tell, I read part of it on my cross-country flight, then forgot about it for 12 years. Still, it had survived many moves and lots of serious book-winnowing missions, so I was keeping it for a reason. Plan B finally found its way into my tote bag last month and I read most of it in one afternoon while camped near the Strait of San Juan de Fuca.
 
Early in the book, Lamott explains how, two years after her mother had died, she still hadn't scattered her ashes because she was mad at her mom and keeping her remains stashed in the closet seemed like fitting punishment. She was also deep in grief about the turn our country had taken since September 11, 2001, especially the unfounded decision to make war on Iraq. Then one Sunday, Lamott's pastor preached about how, in a time of war,  

... now was not the time to figure everything out--for instance who was to blame. It was not the time to get a new plan together and try to push it through. It was the time to be still, to center ourselves, to trust what we'd always trusted in ... 

Lamott writes how, taking these words to heart, she was able to quiet herself and her harsh, scary, "thinky thoughts." She took long walks. She sat in prayer and meditation. Then she found a photo of her mom that she hadn't seen for a while, and she just knew: It was time, and "scattering her ashes was the next right thing."

Those four words. "The next right thing." It feels impossible in this moment to know what awaits us with the election and its aftermath, or when COVID-19 will be over, or the trajectory that climate havoc will take. Long-term plans feel impossible; there are too many x-factors. But as individuals, we can know the next right thing, whether it's something small, like working to get out the vote or checking in on a loved one, or embarking on some really big change we've truly thought through a while. Intuition is not impulse.

As I finished this post, I read a new piece in The Atlantic that blames America's poor pandemic response on failures of intuition, comparing our situation to that of ants following one another into a death spiral. I want to make clear that when I talk about the power of intuition, I'm talking about how we can use it on a personal level--not as a guide for public policy, where science and reason must prevail. But in our own lives, I know we can be guided by intuition--on following that invisible thread, those few feet of headlights you need to make your way home, even when you can't see where you're going. (Thank you, William E. Stafford and E.L. Doctorow.) 

In some ways, this has been the hardest week of the pandemic for me. The news of the world is unrelenting, and mostly grim. Smoke-choked air means I can't even enjoy a long daily walk, which has been the one constant in my life since March. Of course, that is a small inconvenience compared to the loss of life and homes up and down the West Coast. My heart goes out to the people working on the fire lines and in the fields. May they be safe. 

Let the rains come soon, and justice, too. Meanwhile, I will try to remember that rest is fuel--and sometimes it is definitely the next right thing.

P.S. To those of you who get Surely Joy via email (thank you!): Please check out the web version of this post--click on the headline--for Loosen Loosen Baby by Aly Halpert, a musical meditation that has been pure soul balm for me since I first heard it at church earlier this year. I like to sing along. I've also included a beautiful video from Leon Bridges that was featured at our congregation's vespers service just a few nights ago.
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If you enjoy Surely Joy, please consider supporting my work via Patreon. Pledges start at just $3 a month. Thanks for reading!  

Friday, September 4, 2020

Pandemic postcard #24: Hearts for the arts

I know I said I'd be taking this week off from posting, but I'm excited about a few time-limited projects I've heard about, so I want to pass them along to you. 

Today (September 4) only, you can spend $20.20 (or more) for "Good Music To Avert the Collapse of American Democracy." Yep, that is literally the title of a digital-only compilation album release that--again--is available today only, with 100 percent of net proceeds going to Fair Fight, an organization that promotes fair elections. The album features 40 tracks, and it's a great way to hear from some longtime favorites and sample new talent, too. Get it while you can!  There's also super-cool cover art and a limited-edition poster by Shepard Fairey; proceeds from the latter will benefit racial justice organization Color of Change.

I was absolutely charmed this morning by an account of how the Berkshire Theatre Group has pulled off the only Actors Equity-approved live theatrical production of the summer, a revival of Godspell. The show's run has been extended, and while tickets are spendy by regional theater standards ($100), that's a bargain in a year without Broadway. If you live in Massachusetts or can present a negative COVID-19 test to enter the state, you can get more info here. Listen to Michael Paulson's story on The Daily, and check out this video showing the protocols in place for the audience. 

Finally, closer to home--but open to folks from anywhere given the magic of Zoom--I plan to attend Jet City Improv's women's improv jam tomorrow afternoon (a first for me, though I've done some in-person improv). In a similar vein, Playback Theater Northwest has a show set for 5 p.m. Pacific tomorrow, "What Have You Learned Lately?" Given that "learn" was my word for the year--and how much we've all learned these past six months--it should be good. Maybe I'll see some of you there.