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LETTERS FROM WAKE ROBIN FARM

Love & Angst in the Time of the Coronavirus

I closed my last blog post with the promise of a report on my reaction to American Dirt, but the plot points in the Story on Planet Earth have moved forward so quickly, it's not what's been on my mind.  I'll bet the same is true for others, too, although I hear they're going to beat up the author, Jeanine Cummins, on Oprah pretty soon.

 

Before I started reading, I set aside the various reviews. I already understood the basic controversy, but I thought I should make make up my own mind.  My husband read the reviews and articles and wrote what he predicted my opinion would be on the back of an old envelope, folded and taped it shut.

 

I started reading and found the writing gripping.  After two chapters, though, I put it down and went for a walk.  Then it hit me: I didn't want to read any more of it.  Which seems to me like a good reason to quit. I didn't want to be gripped in this way.  So I ripped open my husband's prediction and here's what he had scrawled: I predict you will quit American Dirt early on.  Too violent.  A bloody chase story won't appeal.

 

Ha!  I loved this, that I'm married to a guy who knows me this well. So I will spare you my thoughts on so-called "cultural appropriation" and the intensity of envy among writers.

 

So now, here on the farm, we're watching the story of the Coronavirus unfolding.  I'm always struck by what this means when you've been married to the same person for almost 46 years.  We've watched history together.  The winter before we were married in 1974 there were lines at the gas station.  We were trying to fill our tanks to get up to the Cascades and go cross country skiing with my parents, something which, in retrospect, I realize was way more important to them than it was to us. At the time, I remember only thinking that if the gas ran out completely and we couldn't go anywhere, I just wanted to be in the same place with Herb, preferably at Wake Robin Farm, the property he had just bought.

 

Well, here we still are.  We bought a TV to watch the Watergate hearings the summer after we were married.  The twins were in kindergarten and we were putting in a new lawn in the backyard during the Clarence Thomas hearings.  My rage over the treatment of Anita Hill was white hot, and I will never forget or forgive Joe Biden's role in all that.  We drove the twins to high school on the morning of 9/11, then came home and stood in that same backyard, marveling at the quiet of the skies with all planes grounded. And what about our older son in China?  What would all this mean for our family?

 

And that same son was in Hong Kong at the epicenter of the SARS epidemic in 2003.  Seventeen years later, here in Corvallis with his Chinese wife's family still in Yanghsuo, skyping their anxiety, maybe he understands a little better how terrifying this was for us. 

 

We can go further back in our history and retell the story of how my husband's great-grandfather died of the Spanish Flu of 1918.  Because of his death, Herb's grandfather, enlisted and ready to be shipped to WWI's European front, was, as an only child, kept home instead.  A true example of the good luck/bad luck Chinese story of the Lost Horse. Without that Spanish flu death, Herb's entire line might not have existed, around 23 descendants now living by my count.

 

I was completely calm about the Coronavirus at first.  Staying home is what we like to do and we had no travel plans to cancel.  But it started to seem more anxiety provoking when somebody tested positive in Lake Oswego, Oregon, the town where our pregnant daughter-in-law works as a veterinarian.  Other links started cropping up—the elderly aunt just a stone's throw from the nursing home in Kirkland, Washington.

 

So, just hanging on tight here, staying calm, and then my heart gets stomped by Elizabeth Warren having to drop out of the Presidential race.  I can't stand it!  I hate the language describing her "poor performance in recent elections." Her performances, to my mind, were always brilliant.  The poor performances were by the people who ran, lemming-like, in fear of Trump over the cliff of Joe Biden.  Yeah, like a lot of women, I take this personally.  It's such a slap in the face to all the girls who were the smartest in their class and always got told to shut up and sit down.  It's like they're saying IT DOES NOT MATTER HOW SMART YOU ARE OR HOW HARD YOU TRY, WE WILL NEVER VOTE FOR A WOMAN! YOU CAN NEVER WIN!

 

I so wanted to watch her kick Trump's butt on the debate stage.  Now we're stuck with these two old farts.  I will vote for either of them over the despicable Trump, of course. As folks have said, they'd vote for Mickey Mouse over Trump.  They'd vote for a paper bag.  I just hope both Sanders and Biden have the wit to beg Elizabeth to be their running mate, because I believe she could set this ship straight as VP to either one of them.

 

Sigh.  Well, nothing to do but hold on and take comfort in the fact that I have been married for 46 years to a darling man who has said all along that Elizabeth Warren is obviously the smartest and best candidate in the Presidential race. 

 

So hang in there.  I wish you healing if you're ill, continued good health if you're not.  If you're quarantined, I hope you're with somebody you love.  Most of all, I wish us all freedom from the depressing, soul-crushing tyranny of the liar, liar pants-on-fire Presidency of Donald J. Trump.

 

 

 

 

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Marianne Williamson

Like a lot of other people, when I watched the last Democratic Presidential Debates, I was intrigued with Marianne Williamson.  I am an early, all-in supporter of Elizabeth Warren, and I don't feel Williamson's background is what we need in a president, but damn, I loved the emotional, non-political way she called out the darkness of the current administration.  I was not at all surprised to read later that, during the debates, hers was the most often searched name, because I was one of those millions who sat there with my phone and did just that.

 

I had not previously read her books, but when somebody is this popular and so many swear by her, after a point I'm willing to see what the fuss is about.  I didn't download her latest, A Politics of Love, because, as I said, I don't think she's presidential material.  Instead I went back to her first big hit, Return to Love, and started reading it on my Kindle each morning while I pedaled my stationary bike.

 

Her life is inherently interesting to me since we are the same age, which means we were experiencing the same cultural and historical influences at the same time. (Turns out that's about all we have in common, though.)  I let her words wash over me each morning, and a lot of it makes sense in the way it does coming out of other self-help/spiritual/Buddhist writers…..We can't change others, only ourselves.  It's better to give out love than hate.  We can't control everything, so give up trying etc. 

 

I appreciate that she uses some of her own stories for illustration, but I'm finding I just can't relate.  She had a crush on a gay guy and had to go to a lot of trouble to "release him," she pats herself on the back for directing a new boyfriend to give his ex a call to make her feel better, she spends two weeks mentally forgiving a guy for standing her up for a date, then blows him off (but oh so wisely and nicely) when he finally calls.  Marianne!  It's not that complicated!  If a guy stiffs you, he's a flake, and unless you want to hook up with a flake, that relationship is over as soon as he doesn't call the next day with an amazingly good excuse, like he's in the hospital after a car accident.

 

Apparently  she wrote this book just after she had her one baby, a daughter.  According to Google, she has never named the baby's father and at one point mentioned in passing that she had once been married "for about a minute and a half."

 

So, I'm wondering: Where's the advice for the people not experiencing an on-going dating life? Worrying about whether guys are telling you often enough how desirable you are?   What if you're sticking with the same guy, one day at a time, for forty-five years?  Honestly, Marianne Williamson doesn't have a clue about the three-ring circus grown children and grandchildren can produce.

 

But then, when you check it out, isn't that the case with a lot of these self-help/spiritual advisors?  The people who write books telling others how to live don't necessarily have the personal lives you'd most want to emulate.

 

Oh, well!  Good for her for speaking up against Donald Trump!!! (Trumpian exclamation points!!!)    

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Daughters of the Patriarchy

Every once in awhile I read the book everybody else is apparently reading, and in finally checking out Educated, by Tara Westover, I am clearly late to the party with comments.  With nearly four thousand Amazon reviews and 45 weeks on their  best seller list, the world has already agreed that her story of finally escaping from family dysfunction to join the wider world is gripping.  Like everyone else, I read it in short order  and last night went down the rabbit hole of reading all the  one star reviews—apparently written  by her family and their supporters—and the dozens of comments on these reviews from people who refused to let these pseudo reviews stand.

 

This searing memoir is not so much about religion as it is about patriarchal family dynamics, and it made me think about something that's been bothering me ever since Donald Trump got elected, namely, who are these women who voted for him?  Who thought it was fine for their daughters and granddaughters to have for President a guy who brags about grabbing women's sexual organs?  Who are these women who somehow still support him, the ones who went on TV during the Kavanaugh hearings and said how scared they were for their sons, because, goodness, look how easy it would be for some trashy girl to take them down with a false claim of rape?

 

What?! I have two grown sons and I would never for one minute worry about that!  Number one, they would never do that.  Number two, when women gather the courage to speak up about abuse, I believe them.  My default reaction at such an accusation would be to grab my son and demand to know what was up.

 

But this is how the patriarchy works.  It's almost always men who commit these acts of abuse.  When women are involved, it's usually because some man is bossing them into it.  And then—this is the worst part—when some woman tries to report the abuse, there are always women ready to stick up for the man, turn against the woman, effectively telling  her to sit down and shut up. Don't make waves.  Don't embarrass people.  It's not enough to have the Boys' Club firmly in place, the women must help support it.

 

That's how it worked for Tara Westover.  In spilling the beans about her father's obvious mental illness and her brother's horrific abuse, she broke the big rule: Don't Make the Family Look Bad.  While her mother and her sister (also victims) had at least briefly seemed to side with her, in the end  they did not have the nerve to stand up to the Patriarchy.  It was easier to just say, "I'm with them," and put all emotional energy into justifying casting out a sister. The appearance of the FAMILY to the outside world and the support of its male members took precendence over the daughters.

 

But Tara Westover's bravery in speaking truth to power is exactly what we need  to heal  our nation and the earth itself.  We do not need women like Senator Susan Collins, who entertained abuse survivors in her office for days on end and pretended to listen to their stories, let them pray en masse out in her hall, then got her hair done, put on a spiffy suit, and stood on the Senate floor  for forty-five minutes explaining why she was delivering her vote to Kavanaugh  for the Supreme Court.  Ugh.  Ugh ugh ugh. I hate to think of the further trauma this horrific betrayal delivered to all those women who pleadingly told her their stories.

 

I am cheered by the new female members of the House of Representatives.  They make me hopeful for the future.  We need brave women not afraid to speak  up.

 

Count me as an early supporter of Elizabeth Warren.  I have been wearing my "Nevertheless, she persisted" T-shirt to the gym ever since she thrilled us by refusing to sit down and shut up.  I have no patience for this "But is she electable?" business.  All it takes for her to be electable is for us to vote for her.  I believe she will kick butt and clean house, so please join me in supporting her.  

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