Sep 11 2020


Published by under Animals,Coronavirus Journal

In yesterday’s post I neglected to include something crucial: a tribute to Chesapeake Allison.

Chessie, along with her brother Percy, came into our household (Eleni’s cat had kittens) in 2003, when she was only days old and Molly but 14. My father (who died shortly after) and mother helped name Chessie, after the mascot of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad.

For seventeen years she’s been Molly’s loyal companion. I should say here that I really pretty much detest cats. But this one, I loved. A delicate thing, she was both independent and affectionate. One of her favorite activities, if she liked you, was to knead your thigh with her front paws (only occasionally snagging you with an overenthusiastic claw), and then drool on you lovingly. She was much adored throughout her life by all those who met her. Because of the pandemic, during her final days she was rarely alone, and spent much of that time tucked into Molly’s sweater, or on her lap, or on her shoulder.

Chessie’s health has been failing over the last months. She was diagnosed with late-stage kidney disease, requiring Molly to give her an infusion every other day. That was working. Chessie was happy and thriving. But two weeks ago today she suddenly had an apparent stroke or seizure, leaving her blind and confused. Two days later, Molly gave her the best present she could: a gentle exit from this life, remaining of course by her side.

I will miss Chessie, but nowhere near as much as my daughter will. Goodbye, sweet girl. And sympathies to you, my strong Lulu.

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Sep 10 2020

End Times

Published by under Coronavirus Journal

Man, yesterday was weird, when, because of the fires, which are a result of climate change, despite what the deniers say, the sky went red and the sun couldn’t break through until late in the afternoon when the atmosphere lightened from brick to yellow ochre before going dark two hours before sunset. (If Proust gets to write long sentences, shouldn’t the rest of us?) 

It was a literal Twilight Zone. I took this picture from my back deck, aiming west, at about 9:15 in the morning. 

I had no idea till now how much I cue my minute-by-minute life to the natural light outside my window. Finding darkness when it should have been day was distressing and disorienting. I couldn’t focus on much, paced even more than usual (as I told my friend AG, I’m a tiger in a small cage in a funky city zoo), and got really, really irritated by little things. Like, I tried to draw a squirrel and I just couldn’t do it, and, furious about my lack of talent, I hurled my pencil and sketchbook across the room. Then I went to pick them up. And threw them across the room again. (I never did find where the pencil went.)

This is not a fun phase of the pandemic. It’s gotten so very old, yet it’s no time to relax the restrictions. And then we had the heat wave, preventing socially distanced visits outdoors. Now there are the fires and the smoke, keeping us inside and away from each other even longer. Being locked up with only the TV news for company doesn’t exactly promote great mental or physical well-being. Even something as simple as a walk around the block is out of the question at the moment. If you could see the sky here, or look at the Air Quality Index numbers (228, in the purple “very unhealthy” range) you would stay inside too. (The scale goes from green (groovy) to yellow (okay) to orange (iffy) to red (bad news) to purple (shitty) to maroon (don’t breathe).

It doesn’t help my mood that the last books I’ve read have included:

  • An account of a woman in southern Oregon who abused her children and murdered her tenants
  • More non-fiction, this one about the life of Jews in Poland in WWII
  • The Mary Trump book on Uncle Donald
  • A couple of murder mysteries
  • A post-apocalyptic novel about two sisters who try to survive in the woods when society collapses

And I’ve just begun Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, about the Troubles in the late 1960s/early 1970s, and beyond.

Let me think what’s new since my last post. When was that? Wow: the end of July! Well, in that time I canceled a camping reservation at Lassen National Park, where I was going to take Ember for two nights. Instead, I did get to visit her and her fambly in Chico for two nights, after our respective two-week quarantines. My AirBnB had a pool, and Jesse and Eleni (seven months pregnant) visited Ember and me there.

Speaking of shattered plans, I also had to cancel my third consecutive trip East to see my bonny wee mither.

Last week, with my friend Genevieve I enrolled in a three-hour writing workshop offered by Grub Street called The Tough Stuff: Transforming Trauma into Art. I wrote a tiny bit about my challenges as a result of medical treatments I had some years back.

I’d always thought that I would have my memories pretty much forever: little gems I could take out and turn over and examine in the light of passed time. I took them for granted. I never dreamed that many of them would vanish, and that I would have to rely on external sources to help patch the holes: the blog I’ve kept for more than twenty years, one-sentence-a-day diaries, friends’ accounts. And my scrapbooks.

I’ve kept these oversized volumes ever since I was in high school, pasting in ticket stubs from rock concerts in Philadelphia and train trips up to Boston. There’s a thick hank of my own light brown hair from when I chopped off my hippie locks. Photos of the birth of my two daughters. Artifacts from various ex-boyfriends whom I’d rather forget. Images of my visits to Vietnam and New Zealand and Guatemala. My life in 25 leather-bound books. These personal records used to be a great adjunct to my memory. Now they are the very basis for it.

•     •     •

“There may be a short-term effect on your memory,” the doctors told me. “If so, it may last for up to six weeks.”

Eight years later, what I remember is still spotty. I may forget what I said yesterday, and many of the experiences I had years ago have vanished from my mental catalog. I haven’t just lost my mind’s curator, but its exhibits. Except, of course, for the bad memories. They’re as vivid as ever. 

Then I got bored with the topic, so there it stays, unfinished.

You may remember I bought a new stove. I got the cheapest one the store sold. It is a piece of crap, and when the oven is on, its external temperature is so high that it’s a fire hazard, as it nestles up against the particle board heart of the adjacent counter. My mother has always said, “You gets what you pays for.” (I can’t explain the reason for the grammatical quirks of that sentence.) I’ve been arguing for several weeks with the stove people, and they have finally agreed to replace the dangerous unit with a much more expensive one that I hope won’t get so hot on the outside. But because of the pandemic, I’ll have to wait a while before it gets here.

Here’s a good thing: One of my dear friends is an expert in rockabilly and the roots of American country music. She has an upcoming radio show on a local station in the Sierra foothills, and I get to help her pick out some songs. I’ve been having a blast listening to what she’s sent of Patsy Cline and Rose Maddox and Ralph Stanley and Dolly Parton and more.

Another dear friend proposed we read Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida together. I’ve made it through the prologue.

As my savings dwindle to a small puddle, I’ve been thinking a lot about how expensive it is to live here in the Bay Area, and about where I could possibly go that’s a little more affordable. It has to be close to my Chico family. The only place I’ve been able to come up with, aside from Molly’s idea of Ashland, Oregon, is the place I lived 25 years ago and couldn’t wait to escape: the Grass Valley/Nevada City area. I’ve been entertaining myself by looking at real estate. I do have a couple close friends there. Thing is, I love where I am: the house I adore, the neighborhood I’m grateful for. I don’t want to leave. We’ll see.

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Jul 24 2020


The days roll on, each as empty as the last. Virus numbers continue to climb throughout this county, state and country. Meanwhile, officials in many areas plan to open up schools. I’m terrified about the state of the U.S. on just about every level. Eleni and I talked about moving somewhere like Costa Rica if Trump’s corruption and lies get him re-elected in November. Such a relocation will never come to pass, but if Biden doesn’t prevail, our Constitution will be out the window, and chaos in its wake. Guess it’s our duty to stay and fight.

I have nothing to report, except that I have been doing a few drawings based on photos I took. Here’s one:

Squirrel Eating a Peach Stolen from My Tree

In the past week I’ve gone to the farmers’ market and taken my car for a tuneup. Other than that, I rarely leave the house because I’m even more weary than I used to be of zigzagging down the street to steer clear of the many maskless pedestrians on my route. I have the occasional masked and distanced backyard visit, but that’s rare. And I haven’t been into a grocery store—or any kind of store—since March.

To fill the long hours, I’ve been reading (just reread and was confused by Beloved, and have started The Dutch House by Ann Patchett), doing crossword puzzles (I’ve backslid, and now am working from a Tuesday New York Times book, rather than the harder Wednesday one), playing solitaire on my iPad (I just paid $4.99 for the ad-free version), wearing a groove in my floorboards from my mindless perambulations, and drawing more squirrels.

Fearless Beast that I Couldn’t Scare Away

Oh, and I also gelli-printed some cards a few days ago. The process, in case you don’t know, involves coating a flat piece of rubbery stuff with acrylic paint, mushing some plant matter onto the surface, laying paper on top and rolling the whole thing with a brayer. Most of them come out just colorful blurs, but this one (of twelve) was usable:

Oh, and I also made this cartonería creature, which is a little over four inches tall.

That’s all I know.

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