Sep 10 2020

End Times

Published by at 6:48 pm 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.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “End Times”

  1. marianna says:

    add a 2 day psps to the scenario you describe above and you have my life right now. i had plans to play board games and read books. but it was too dark for either.
    stephen had to buy a new computer. and we are hoping we gets what we paid for.
    we should trade houses for a month or so. i would love to be in a city once in a while. of course right now i want to be nowhere.
    btw, your writing blows me away!

  2. Molly says:

    A new Ginna blog!!!!!! Oh boy oh boy!!!!!!!

    I like your tiger metaphor.

    Someday might you consider reading a more cheerful book – perhaps one with only a little petite light murder in it?

    I look forward to listening to the rockabilly show!

    Let’s move to Iceland.

  3. small says:

    I agree with Marianna that your writing is A-One — and with Molly: READ

    A CHEERFUL BOOK!!! Why wallow in depressing literature, when there’s

    ample depression going on all around us?

    BTW — It’s “you “gits” what you paid for” —

    a quaint Delaware colloquialism of some sort.

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