I Hope It’s Haunted

“I can’t wait to quarantine!” Said no one ever, except maybe me to a few San Diego friends this last month.

This quarantine has actually been delightful. I just spent a week in a wonderful woodsy setting that made me miss nothing about being able to go out in the world (see photo below). The path of wet leaves and rustling cedars on the property made for beautiful outings, and inside I had four seasons of The Crown to binge watch while I had access to Netflix.

Today, I switched places for the second half of my two-week isolation, necessitated by the fact that I came back a week early and couldn’t go immediately to the quarantine spot I originally booked—the spot that had me, honest to goodness, telling friends how I couldn’t wait for the chance to quarantine.

Why? Drum roll, please, and settle in for a little background. Earlier in the year, I got the urge to write a play. It’s done now, and I was looking around for an idea for a second one. There is a very active theatre culture here in Victoria, and what looks like a lot of support for playwrights. I thought perhaps it would be good to find a topic that might resonate well here, but more important, suit the kinds of female-centered stories I love to write.

“How about Emily Carr?” I asked myself. Emily Carr (1871-1945), for those outside Canada, is one of the most important 20th century Canadian artists, who along with Lawren Harris and the Group of Seven, defined a uniquely Canadian approach to painting. The fact that few outside Canada have heard of her is the fault of their schooling, not her achievement. Probably the closest equivalent among American artists would be Georgia O’Keeffe.

Her most acclaimed works focus on the vanishing world of the indigenous people of coastal British Columbia, including many powerful representations of totems in their context. It’s her paintings of forest interiors that to me are her true masterpieces, though, capturing the life force and spiritual energy of the forest. There isn’t room here for more than one example, but please look her up and gorge yourself on her work!

Emily received little recognition even in Canada until she was in her fifties and for a number of years ran a boarding house to make ends meet. I came up with an idea for a trilogy of one-act plays set in this boarding house, and focusing on the transition points women go though in life. As I began to think through how this play might work, I looked up what years she had been running the boarding house, to know exactly how old my character would have to be. To my surprise, I saw a link to a site offering rental lodging there. Excited, I wrote to the agent, asking if by any outside chance there was anything available the first half of December, and he wrote back saying he was sorry, but the only thing available was Emily’s studio. Sorry??? Emily’s studio???

And now here I am, for two weeks in the space she custom built for herself on the second floor over the rental units. There’s a wall that is almost all window, with an empty easel next to it (in background of this photo) where she struggled to paint in her vanishingly little free time When she was here, the whole place would have been crowded floor to ceiling with canvases, animal cages ( she kept quite a menagerie, including a cherished monkey, Woo) but now it is a tidy, shabby-chic little nest, with mostly period furniture of the sort that might have been buried under all her clutter.

I felt a change come over me as I settled in, almost a metabolic slowing, so that all I want to do right now is sit and stare out the window. I’ve set up my laptop in a small day room overlooking the street, but work can wait. I am living in the room where my play is set. I can act it out as I write, see the door the actors will come in through, sit in a chair where she will sit, see her at her easel, sleep in her bedroom. The words will come. Maybe she will too.


A Euro in My Pocket

Do I miss travel?  Yes, but not with the aching emptiness it appears some people do. Unless Facebook reminds me, I spend almost no time thinking about where I was on this day in past years, nor do I dwell on where I am supposed to be right now or in the months to come. What I thought would happen simply didn’t, and that’s that.

Yesterday I had an interesting experience when I wore a pair of pants I haven’t put on in a very long time.  I felt something in the pocket and when I fished it out, I saw it was a Euro coin.  I know I didn’t taken these pants last summer to the Baltic,  so the coin must go back several years.

”What am I going to do with this?” I wondered.  It’s useless clutter in a coin dish, and I have no idea where my leftover foreign money is at the moment so I can’t stash it there.  I did the only thing I could think of:  I put it back in my pocket, where it will stay, zipped in, through the washer and dryer, hikes, beach walks, and whatever other use I put these pants to until travel begins again.

I am going to treat it as an amulet, a good luck charm. One day I will take these pants to Europe and there it will be, awaiting its chance to be once more out in the world. What will it buy me?  A metro ride, a bottle of water on a hot day?  Wait— I know! I will give it to the first person I see who needs it more than I do.  I rub my fingers in circles over its outline as I write, invoking it as a blessing  for better days to come.


Our Long National Nightmare Is…..???

The most memorable quotation from Gerald Ford (well maybe second to his claim that Poland was not a Communist country) was his announcement that Richard Nixon had been excised from the presidency.  Ford’s statement that “our long national nightmare is over” was perfect.  The Watergate hearings felt like a slow motion train wreck with an unraveling conductor at the controls.

Many people are probably remembering Ford’s words this morning, as it appears the current president  is headed for an ignominious departure as well.  This time, however, it is hard to know exactly what has been resolved.  Yes, we won’t have to worry about his ability to abuse presidential powers.  Beyond that, little is clear.  I am a terrible prognosticator, but when I tell the story of the future, here is some of what I predict.

1) Biden will win decisively in the end, both in popular and electoral votes. That will not stop Trump from continuing his preordained strategy of suing right and left over dubious claims of fraud.

2) This will result in an effort to get a stacked Supreme Court to rule in his favor.   Roberts and the three Trump justices recognize how badly the reputation of the court would suffer if a decision appeared to be partisan. To avoid putting the three justices on the spot, the court would like nothing more than to deny hearing the appeal by claiming there is no constitutional issue at stake.  If there is one that requires them to get involved,  I think it would hinge not on the balloting itself but on whether a competing slate of electors contradicting the results of the vote was a violation of the voters’  constitutional rights. If they cannot avoid a hearing, the Trump justices will not all vote in his favor, to keep the appearance of being above partisanship, and Trump will not be successful in the end

3) Meanwhile Trump will use the interregnum to damage the country as much as he can.  He will lose the popular vote by such a margin that the entire country must be punished, with the possible exception of those states who voted for him, if he can figure out a way to selectively reward and punish.  This means no stimulus. To hell with us

4) He will also fire and/or begin prosecution of anyone he perceives as an enemy.  Fauci and Wray are as good as gone, and I suspect Barr will be out fairly quickly  as well, because he will not go far enough to satisfy Trump.

4) Trump will move quickly to use his pardon power for his children and son-in-law, but will not go much further than that, because he doesn’t really care about even his most loyal toadies.  Hey, if he is hurting, nobody else’s predicament matters.

5) He will stop doing the job altogether.  Other than doing hurtful things, he will thumb his nose openly, and just play golf and tweet.  Meanwhile, Melania and Barron will decamp for New York because she has no interest in helping with Jill Biden’s transition.  Unless her prenup (which she renegotiated before agreeing to move from New York to the White House) makes it worth her while to stay married, she will file for divorce soon.

6) Once either his malice and/or energy for vengeance has run out of targets or he has run out of time ( more likely the latter), he will arrange with Pence for a pardon, then resign.  This will get around the issue of whether he can pardon himself and will get him out of all the trappings of the transition—welcoming the Bidens to the White House and standing on the stage while Biden takes the oath of office.

7) On Inauguration Day, instead of letting Biden have his day, he will hold a rally announcing the launch of his 2024 campaign. This will enable him to use other people’s money to keep going around the country doing what he loves best: sowing division, undermining his “enemies,”  and basking in adoration.

No, we will not wake up from this  nightmare nearly so easily.