The Second Coming, William Butler Yeats
Ample make this bed.
Make this bed with awe;
In it wait till judgment break
Excellent and fair.
Be its mattress straight,
Be its pillow round;
Let no sunrise’ yellow noise
Interrupt this ground.
This is the first time a new year approaches where I’m feeling more trepidation than hope, but I will work hard to lean into hope. Not a believer in fortunes, particularly the random kind that come in cookies, I kept this one. There are things I need to accomplish this year, and things I know we will all face as individuals and as a nation. We will all need strong and willing hearts.
We all need to gather the fragments we will shore against our ruin, so at the end of it all we may chant, “shanti, shanti, shanti.” (from T.S. Elliot’s, “The Wasteland”)
This year is closing on many somber notes, one note involving a trip to help with the aftermath of a death in the family. Old wounds open up. There are tears and some eyes that refuse tears. Healing laughter is shared while a cold rain is falling.
There’s a certain Slant of light, Winter Afternoons – That oppresses, like the Heft Of Cathedral Tunes – Heavenly Hurt, it gives us – We can find no scar, But internal difference, Where the Meanings, are – None may teach it – Any – ‘Tis the Seal Despair – An imperial affliction Sent us of the Air – When it comes, the Landscape listens – Shadows – hold their breath – When it goes, ‘tis like the Distance On the look of Death – Emily Dickinson
At a time when the voice of hate seems louder than other voices, I turn to the voices I trust. I turn to members of my family. I turn to my friends. And I turn to the poets and artists whose work has sustained me. Thank you, Emily.
Joe and I spent some time this weekend at The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, CA. It’s a beautiful place containing a deep stillness felt only in the presence of distant history. In the wake of contemporary political tumult, it was a balm to the soul to wander among the antiquities, a reminder that this, too, shall pass. I don’t know why, but I am particularly drawn to these female figures from the Cycladic civilization from 6500-1650 BC. According to what is known about some of these figures, they were, at one point, covered in bright paint. Time has stripped them to their essence. Distant history has stilled them, offering a place to pause and find respite from the brightly painted present.
Like many, I’ve been stunned by the outcome of the presidential election in my country. The pundits may speculate endlessly about how this happened, but it happened. There is no coming together, no healing a nation so divided by a presidential campaign based on racism and misogyny. The president the majority of us chose didn’t win, which points to an electoral system in dire need of reform. In the meantime, hate crimes are occurring increasingly all over the country. Citizens have taken to the streets from coast to coast to protest. And people like myself are trying to process deep grief and depression, let alone a sense of profound embarrassment on the international stage, in the wake of electing the most unqualified individual to the highest office of our nation.
I currently live in a very culturally diverse area of my country. On any given day, I can hear five or more differently languages spoken around me, smell the aromas of many, mouth-watering cuisines in the air, and see people of all hues, my neighbors, peacefully going about their daily lives. This is what I love about living where I do after having grown up in a very xenophobic, small, mainly white town in the northeast. And now, my neighbors live in fear that they will be targeted by the kind of racism and hate this recent presidential campaign seeks to normalize or even encourage. Indeed, some HAVE been targeted, which our news has reported. I will not stand for it. Not now. Not ever.
When hate crimes increased in the wake of Britain’s Brexit, an American woman living in London suggested wearing a simple symbol that would signify solidarity with those being targeted…..a safety pin. Now, I see people on social media suggesting we adopt this same symbol in the U.S. to show our solidarity, our willingness to stand up and support anyone we see targeted by hate. For myself, I dug out every safety pin I shoved into a drawer over the years and linked them into a bracelet, which I wear.
My country has come too far to surrender the better angels of our nature to racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. We can’t. We won’t.