Surreality…

I was laid off in 1974. That was one crazy year in my life ANYWAY but the night the layoffs took effect was the pinnacle of craziness.

I was fresh out of university with the highly desirable BA in English. After months of searching I found a job on the line at Head Ski. I didn’t realize it was seasonal work (nothing about that in the newspaper ad). I worked swing shift (which I ended up liking) cleaning the edges of finished skis. After a while, because I was talented, I got promoted to measuring flex and camber, pairing skis, burning serial numbers on the sides and bagging them in the cotton fish net (oh baby) in which they were shipped. It was a raise in pay, too, which was good, because I was supporting the First X who was still in school.

This went on a couple of months then the pink slips were passed out during break at 6 pm. “We’ll hire you back as openings become available.”

That last day started early. My mom came to get me in Boulder, all the way from Denver, to take me and my grandmother to Loveland for my great-uncle’s funeral. I was dressed up in a skirt my mom had made me and a nice sweater. After the funeral there was lunch and then hanging around. My mom dropped me off at the factory at 3, and I was still wearing my fancy clothes. I had jeans to change into, but no other top.

Factory work is physical work and there were some pretty extreme chemicals in there. My polyester sweater was soaking it all in, believe me. At “lunch” the plan was we would all — all of us being laid off and those in solidarity with us — were going in the parking lot to get high. Afterwards? Well, we stood for the next four hours filing the throats of the tennis rackets to baby-bottomed smoothness. At 11 we were set free. We were all going to a bar on Pearl Street.

I didn’t have a car, but that’s when I learned that Jeff — the CUTEST guy on the line — was interested in me. He took me to the bar in his red VW, treated me like a date, bought me tequila sunrise after tequila sunrise and ignored everyone else. At 2, the bar closed.

Pearl Street was then just a street in a small city. We got to the car and Jeff opened the door. As he was closing it, four guys who were engaged in a fight, came roiling by. Jeff — who was a little stringy dude — chased two of them away but the other two were still fighting by the car. I sat there in a semi-drunken, exhausted, chemical fazed stupor as one guy smashed the face of the other guy into the window behind which I sat.

“Assholes,” said Jeff, after chasing the guy away and getting in the car.

I thought I should have been horrified by what I’d seen, but I couldn’t summon up horror. I was too tired, too high and too drunk to really care that there was blood all over the window.

We got to the parking lot of my apartment and that’s when Jeff made his move. “I don’t know how things are between you and your husband, but, you know, anyway here’s my phone number.”

And he kissed me.

Fact is, life with the First X was pretty awful, and I didn’t know how to contend with that. Still, I didn’t imagine cheating on him with Jeff or anyone. I went upstairs, took off my clothes and crawled into bed. 3 am. Without meaning to, I woke up my husband.

“Good God!” said the soon to be X, “You stink. Go take a shower!”

The next day I started looking for a job. A couple of days later, I called Jeff.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/07/03/rdp-friday-layoff/

Three More Months, a Petrarchan sonnet

Freezing temps, the sky silver with snow,
Airborne crystalline promises shimmer.
In the morning light, minute spectra glimmer.
I leash my big white dog and off we go.
Hoar frost on the bare trees’ smallest branches
breaks free and falls on my dog and me.
As we walk beneath the cottonwood trees
Across the snowy field, the fresh snow crunches.
The parallel tracks of Nordic skis shadow
Our path through the brown and golden tones,
Blue shadows, the angled light of winter noon.
Ahead, Mt. Blanca, covered with snow.
I stop, rest my hand on my dog’s warm back, she
leans against my leg, savoring our gelid paradise.

***

I haven’t tried this since high school. My sophomore English teacher said that if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to learn to write sonnets so I would learn the discipline involved in the effective use of language. I wrote a bunch back then. They really are not easy and I don’t know if he was right nor not, but this was fun. 🙂

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/07/01/rdp-wednesday-gelid/

Intensity

The protests against the police brutality that killed George Floyd have gone on for 9 days? 10 days? Yesterday I found myself wondering what the goal is. When will protestors know they are finished or is it a thing now that will go on and on and on and on?

Last night is the first night I’ve slept since the protests started. If their goal was to make white people think about things they haven’t thought about before, it worked here. I wrote one blog post about (now set to private) and a letter to Obama (never sent).

There are things related to it that I haven’t thought of for decades, one of which is Louis Farrakhan. It’s a fact that not all white people are racist and not all black people are NOT racist. Farrakhan, who is an extremely angry man — has claimed that it’s impossible for black people to be racists. Any anger they feel toward the white oppressor is justified and any action taken against whites is legitimate. The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies Farrakhan — and his organization — as black nationalist and black supremacist.

He spoke once at the university where I was teaching. It was a hate fueled speech. It made the work of ordinary people — I’ll say ordinary white people — seem hopeless. The next day, when I got to school, I found the ground littered with 4 x 5 inch black and white flyers, printed with swastikas and the words, “White men built this country.”

One extreme brought out the other.

I picked up a couple of those flyers and took them home and stuck them in a drawer imagining a future collage that never happened. “It’s never going to work,” I remember thinking, “as long as entire groups of people categorically hate each other.”

~~~

In other news, the hike I’d planned with my friends yesterday didn’t happen. I texted everyone at 5 am yesterday and said, “I haven’t been sleeping. I’m going to keep trying.” or something. I finally went to sleep and woke up at 8:30 to see their texts. They answered immediately planning between them an alternative way that we could get together. It turned out to be a “Bring your own cuppa'” tea party in Elizabeth’s beautiful back yard.

The other thing on my phone when I woke up was a voicemail from the Good-X. I listened and then I screamed. He’d had a major heart attack and was in the hospital but he said, “They fixed me up.” I called him back after I’d had some coffee and got the whole story and answered some questions he had for me. As we were saying goodbye, I had to hold myself back from saying, “I love you.” How would he understand those words? Two people can have a terrible marriage and yet form a functional and mostly happy life together. We did for 12 years. His younger son is “my” son and between his family and me all the “I love you’s” are said often. In the “I love you” that I did not say are all the experiences we shared — China being one of them. Part of it, also, is “I get who you are now.” Instead of “I love you,” I said, “Come back and visit me. That was fun last time.” He and his step-grandson came through Monte Vista a few years ago on their way to Durango to meet his wife who was at a dahlia conference.

“I will. That was fun,” he said.

I told my friends about it at the tea party later. When I told them about wanting to tell my ex “I love you,” they understood. We talked about C-19, our encounters with people during this time, the weirdness, the beauty.. We laughed and did all the things that make friendships and, I think, for all of us, it was an incredible relief. None of us has been sleeping and as we talked about it, it seemed that our sleep was taking the same trajectory. Going to sleep, waking up thinking and then either getting up ungodly early or going to sleep a few hours later. I asked if they’d like to go on a evening hike to the Refuge with me when the skies and light are beautiful and the breeze is calm and fresh. Now we sort of have a plan.

Elizabeth’s husband, Bob, came out of the garage where he’s building a 1957 T-bird. I like talking to Bob and he likes telling me stories, so as my friends went off to cut rhubarb (some for me) Bob told me stories about airplanes. I don’t know that he always has a willing listener and the words just poured out of him. Later he came over and installed a new pneumatic spring on my storm door.

The day went on with curious intensity, culminating in a 1 1/2 hour phone call with my formerly lost cousin, Linda. We’re catching up on each others entire adult lives. She wanted to know about how my brother’s death affected me. That’s a long story. We talked about the deaths of the people we loved, a strange coda to my morning.

I was struck again that all we really have in this life are dreams, memories and the love we bear for others. That’s it.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/05/rdp-friday-protest/

Ich liebe die Schweiz

I love Switzerland. I’ve been there ten times, give or take, and if I could, I’d live there. If my heart has a home (outside of Heaven) it’s Switzerland, or maybe it’s the other way. Heaven might be my compensation for not being able to live in Switzerland.

In front of me here are my talismans. There is a photo of the restaurant in Zürich with Goethe painted on the front I took in Zürich in 1998. There is a Wanderweg sign I took from a fallen tree in the Canton of St. Gallen. There is a photo of the Jungfraujoch I took the summer of 1997.

My Swiss story is complicated and mostly private, but I can say this. The strange and dangerous choices we make in our lives are sometimes the very ones we need to take us to our destiny. I found not only my writer’s voice but my story in Switzerland in 1997 in the little church below, the Lazariterkirche im Gfenn.

2005 at the Lazariterkirche im Gfenn

I found other things, too.

I found Goethe in Switzerland, in profile, painted on the front of a restaurant across from St. Peter’s Church with the inscription, “In 1779, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe stayed here with the Duke of Weimar.” Seeing that there — without even (yet) having read anything by Goethe — I was awakened to the essence of time in Europe. It was one of those moments that explodes your brain and catapults you from the person you were toward the person you will be. Then, of course, a few years later, I read Goethe. Here’s his beautiful poem about the Zürichsee, “Auf dem See” (“On the Lake”).

Und frische Nahrung, neues Blut
Saug ich aus freier Welt;
Wie ist Natur so hold und gut,
Die mich am Busen hält!
Die Welle wieget unsern Kahn
Im Rudertakt hinauf,
Und Berge, wolkig himmelan,
Begegnen unserm Lauf. 
And fresh nourishment, new blood
Suck I from the free world;
Nature is so fair and good
She holds me at her bosom!
The wave rocks our boat
Upwards with the rhythm of the oars
And mountains, cloudy heavenwards,
Meet our course.
Aug, mein Aug, was sinkst du nieder?
Goldne Träume, kommt ihr wieder?
Weg, du Traum! so gold du bist;
Hier auch Lieb und Leben ist.
Eye, my eye, why do you sink down?
Golden dreams, do you come again?
Away, you dream! As gold as you are,
Here too are life and love.
Auf der Welle blinken
Tausend schwebende Sterne,
Weiche Nebel trinken
Rings die türmende Ferne;
Morgenwind umflügelt
Die beschattete Bucht,
Und im See bespiegelt
Sich die reifende Frucht.
On the wave blink
Thousands of hovering stars,
Soft mists drink
The towering distance all around;
Morning wind envelops 
The shadowed bay,
And in the lake is reflected
The ripening fruit.

Over the years I also learned that part of my family came from Switzerland and I learned their amazing stories (and wrote them into novels).

Switzerland is not just places and history. It is a family to which I once belonged. Long walks in the forest, the Wallisellerwald. Christmases and birthdays. Quiet explorations of unknown places. Following the Sylvester Kläuse through the snow in Appenzell on New Years, and sitting in a tavern on a hillside in Usnacht next to an old Appenzeller man with a tiny spoon hanging from his ear. When young boys dressed as trees came in to yodel, I watched a tear run down the old man’s face. Maybe he was remembering when he was a boy, dressed as a tree, tromping and dancing through the snow, bells ringing, singing.



https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/04/19/rdp-sunday-swiss/

Habitats in my Habitat

I’ve had some cool pets over the years. Not mine to start with but I often ended up with them for a while. I’ve been the co-human and temporary-human for snakes, spiders and a green iguana.

One of them is more than twenty years old now, a ball python was who only recently “sexed” and re-named Samira. Until last winter she was known to all and sundry as Mr. Slithers.

A ball Python — not Samira. She’s much larger

I had the pleasure of snake-sitting Samira for a while my friend returned to Europe for a long visit with his family. This meant I had to procure live meals for her. My little pit bull LOVED that show. When I came in the door with the rat, Persie could smell it. She would start jumping up with joy. (Terriers are terriers.) I would say, “You want to watch TV, Persie?” and she’d dance all around me. We’d go into the room where Samira (then Mr. Slithers) was living and I would drop the rat into the tank. Persie would sit, eyes rapt on Samira just like a kid from the 1950s watching Saturday morning cartoons. If Samira was hungry (and that was usually the case) she would employ her hunting stragedy. I know what Persie wanted was the rat, but, as long as she could watch the show, Persie honestly seemed happy to let Samira have it. Of course, if Samira didn’t want it (this happened maybe once) Persie got to hunt it in the backyard.

Besides Samira, in this menagerie were the green iguana (Wilma), the Nelson’s milk snake, Sydney, Ananda, the red-tail boa and the ill-fated rosy tarantula, Kinky Boots. There were more. There was a tarantula named, uh, Martha, and a nasty poisonous spider whose name I have forgotten but whose little tank I managed to clean.

Ananda — the snake around my neck in the featured photo — was a baby red-tail boa. These guys grow to be immense as you see below.

Alice Cooper and his Boa

But while Ananda lived with me he was a little guy and very “affectionate.”

If you’re going to have a snake, it’s important to handle them often so they are used to people otherwise, well, you might be using your imagination a lot reading this post anyway. Ananda hung out with/on me whenever I was home. He liked to make a hammock of my t-shirt, going in the left sleeve, across the back, and resting his head in the right sleeve. He was so tame that one day as I was grading papers, he decided to shed. To shed, a snake needs a certain texture that’s rough and resistant but not too rough (a nice rock, a log). He bumps his nose against the resistant surface then drags himself across the rough surface to take off the old skin, sort of like taking off panty-hose. I was sitting there, expressing dismay over comma splices and employing my red pen as needed. I felt Ananda on my head. It was a hot summer day and my hair was up in a twist, held by a barrette. Suddenly, there was a hard pull on my hair. OW!! I wondered what was going on up there. I got up, went to the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and saw Ananda was shedding. I know it sounds gross (and was in a way), but from a snake’s point of view it was kind of an honor to me. Snakes seek privacy and safety when they shed. It’s the time they are most vulnerable to predation. That Ananda felt safe shedding on his human was a huge compliment.

If you have animals like these in your life you have to adapt your own habitat to theirs, but you also have to make a good habitat for them.

We adopted Wilma, the green iguana, from a neighbor whose kids had HAD to have her and then didn’t care for her. She was pretty young, but not a baby. She had a giant tank with large branches to climb on. I found a towel made a good “substrate” because the texture was perfect for her, and it was easy for me to clean. True, it didn’t look like the forest or something and wasn’t all that scenic, but Wilma was happy. What she liked MOST was going outside with me. She loved — and needed — real sunshine and fresh air. I planted a hedge of red hibiscus for her because hibiscus flowers are one of the favorite foods of these animals. Feeding them can be the biggest challenge.

Wilma looked like this. ❤

They grow quite large, and anticipating that, my friend found her a home with someone who was able to give her a much better habitat than I/we ever would as she grew.

Sydney was a sweet young milk snake who really LOVED me. I won’t go into the details, but there was NOTHING he loved more than a nice warm bath/swim being dried by a towel. Milk snakes are a variety of king snakes. Sydney, and many other king snakes have the coloring of a coral snake, red, yellow and black, but the bands are in a different order and they are not venomous.

Nelson’s Milk snake like Sydney

One of the great benefits of having gotten to know Sydney was improved snake identification in the “wild.” Knowing all these creatures taught me a lot about the beings I was surrounded by on my hikes but seldom saw. I saw a lot of snakes on my rambles — most often rattlesnakes — but sometimes king snakes and rosy boas. One day I was hiking in the Laguna Mountains and had the privilege of seeing this beautiful, rare, very shy little guy:

San Diego Mountain Kingsnake (Laguna Mountain Kingsnake


I don’t know if we should make pets out of these wonderful animals, but since we do, the best we can do is make sure they have a good life. I do know that my life would have been less without having had the chance to live with them.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/03/28/rdp-saturday-habitat/

Floundering Around at 40 (with Music)

My theory of life and maturation is that we have to go through all the stages of life sooner or later. I missed out on my adolescence, so I had to make up for it. This happened in my early 40s. I was floundering around trying to figure out where to go next with life and this transition — the one I’d missed — was necessary if I was going to move forward. Since I don’t want to write a true confessions here (fascinating though the story is!) suffice it to say that when I think of the music I grew up with, I think of bands like Primus, Alice In Chains, Nine Inch Nails, and Ministry, not The Beatles. I was a huge fan of industrial punk music (still am). It was a natural transition from loving hardcore in the 80s.

I have a clear and happy memory of going to a movie with some friends and sitting in the back seat on the way to a bar, singing “Jesus Built my Hotrod” with Gavin. “Jesus built my hotrod. It’s a love affair, mainly Jesus and my hotrod.”

So, Gen X? Thank you for the music.

What was it like being 19 at age 41? For one thing, I wasn’t underage, but I might have had to buy a six-pack at a 7-11 for friends (from Europe, truth). The people I hung around with were mostly in their 20s. I was pretty well-preserved (at that point) and the only giveaway (according to one of my friends) was my “old lady hands.”

Music. The Boys on Bikes (with whom I hung out more than anyone else, the kids in my neighborhood) were at the age when people define themselves by the stuff they listen to. My truck had a tape deck (88 Ford Ranger) and out of that thing blared Metallica (often) Pearl Jam (not for long) and then the day came when Jimmy (age 16) said, “You’ll like this,” and plopped a Sex Pistols tape in. Of course I liked it. I’d always liked it. That was followed by Dead Kennedy’s (“Holiday in Cambodia” was their favorite but it’s profoundly truthful so why not?) Then there was Fart No More.

That whole moment of my life was filled with hiking, mountain bike riding, concerts, friends and music. Teaching? I was earning a living. I remembered thinking that the whole idea of a midlife crisis was stupid but I was having one.

As I write this blog, I listen to a radio station in Kansas City that plays this music every morning between 9 and 10 (their time). It’s great. Brings back my youth.

(featured photo: Hallowe’en costume. It made people scream because they didn’t see it until they got close enough)

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/03/23/rdp-monday-flounder/

The Tunnel

Long long ago in a faraway land a young woman wanted to find herself. “I have to find myself,” she told everyone. That was cool because back in those days everyone else was trying to find themselves.

It was amazing how many people were lost back then, but, whatev’…

So in the process of finding herself she set out into the world not knowing that she would get to know herself by what she did in the actual world. As she bumped around, OK, bumped and banged around, she didn’t feel like she was getting anywhere. She let the wrong ones in and kept the right ones out over and over.

Once in a while she managed to do something that was in harmony with her nature, but ultimately the tug-o-war reasserted itself, and she was back in the dark. Then, through a series of very crazy events covering the better (“better” is questionable) part of a five years, she had a complete nervous breakdown, a major depressive crisis. She was told not to come to work, put on disability and sent to a therapist who gave her the DSM-IV.

The therapist sent her to a shrink and told her not to drive as she was a danger to herself and others. Luckily (luck has two sides, right?) she wasn’t living alone. Life was just dark for her in those days. The hole in which she found herself was covered with a perpetually gray sky. Black fingers of dead grass and dry branches reached across the hole. Some days her roommate almost had to drag her out of bed. Sometimes the smallest life stress would cause her to pass out.

The big challenge was that she had no insurance, and it took weeks to find a shrink who would take her without it. Without a shrink, she couldn’t get the antidepressant the therapist told her she needed. Finally she found one.

Getting PROZAC was fairly challenging and involved many trips to Tijuana to pharmacies on the border. It was cheaper there. No insurance, remember?

She read Listening to Prozac and puzzled over the fact that some people would rather be a danger to themselves and other than to lose “themselves.” She knew she wasn’t THIS, but what was she? She got more useful information from Touched with Fire. Years later she wrote one of the two fan letters in her life to this book’s author, Kay Redfield Jamison.

As the PROZAC began to work, she started drawing and painting and thinking. The climb out was slow and interesting. The morning she got up on her own and washed the dishes felt like a triumph (was a triumph). “This is great,” she thought.

What she didn’t know is that she had found herself.

“Don’t be afraid of falling backward into a bottomless pit. There is nothing to fall into. You’re in it and of it and one day, if you persist, you will be it.” Henry Miller, Nexus

Normal life attempted to begin, again, and she returned to work that fall. As she walked down the hallway to her classroom, her co-workers stood back against the walls, and one of them said, barely under his breath, “Lazarus!” The stigma of mental illness? It was as if the thirteen years of sanity (was it really?) and all the contributions she had made to the school had never happened. Little by little her hours were cut. It became almost impossible to make the ends of the month meet. The credit union threatened foreclosure which she staved off somehow. But with her new clarity of mind, she was able to act with conviction in her own defense as she’d never been able to before.

Pulling her shit together from a breakdown had given her — or revealed to her — power she didn’t know she had. The next few years were rough financially but at least she wasn’t lost any more. In case you’re looking within, hoping to find yourself, don’t. Actions speak louder than words. We know our friends by what they do. Same with the self.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/03/21/rdp-saturday-loking-within/

Tom

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive,
but in finding something to live for.”
from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

In my thirties — when I went through my Dostoevsky period — that quotation would have taken my breath. I would have questioned what I was doing, spun into a life-examining journal writing frenzy about it. I think, in fact, I did that, over that very quotation.

But now, my children (ha ha) I’m not the same person. I KNOW what I lived for and it’s the same thing I’m living for now.

Long ago, back in Denver, during another presidential election, I worked hard for an independent candidate. I wrote speeches, TV ads, organized events. It was fun and I believed in him. He didn’t win, but his campaign garnered 10% of the vote in Colorado. One of the events I planned was an expensive fund-raising dinner at an elegant Indian restaurant called, appropriately, The Bombay. Entertainment for that evening was a popular Denver jazz band featuring a fantastic saxophone player named Tom. It was an elegant and successful evening.

Back then I was well on my way to being a ‘mover and a shaker’ in Denver, and I knew Tom pretty well.

Time passed — two and a half years. I went to China, and I came back. Four months after the return, I was emotionally evacuated. I was homesick for China. I had also realized that my husband didn’t like me. I’d come back to the states because he was sick and I shouldn’t have. My beautiful dream was over and I was left with a bad marriage.

I walked down to the King Soopers nearest our Capitol Hill Apartment to buy stuff for supper. It had begun to snow. Outside the store a man in a wheelchair was playing the saxophone for tips. I got closer and saw it was Tom. I sat down on a bench to talk to him.

“Where you been, lady?” he asked.

“China. I went to China to teach.”

“China?”

“Yeah.” How did I ask the question without hurting Tom? Finally, “What happened?”

“Oh, babe, you won’t believe it. I got the flu.”

“The flu??”

Tom chuckled at the amazement in my voice. “I know. It don’t make sense. It attacked my spine. I was flat on my back, for six months, paralyzed. They said I’d never walk or play the saxophone again, but, a man gotta’ eat and a man’s gotta’ play, right?”

My heart was in my throat.

“I could live without walking, but, honey, I wasn’t living without my sax.” He gently pressed the keys and levers on the shining instrument. I knew how he felt about it. It was both his livelihood and his life.

Just then a young woman I’d worked with some years before approached the door. “Martha? My god! It’s been forever!!! What are you doing these days?”

Tom looked at me and saw I was about to cry. I was but at this moment I don’t know exactly why. There were plenty of reasons in that cold early-winter Denver moment.

Tom answered. “She’s livin’. She’s jus’ livin’. That’s all any of us do and if you think otherwise, you’re wrong.”

After that, I knew the goal of my life was to live. To live for life itself. It’s not so easy, either.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/03/15/rdp-sunday-something/

Pocket Relics of Beauty and Human Life

Several years ago I was at the Getty Museum in LA looking at an exhibit of medieval books of hours. The raison d’être for the exhibit was the 14th century Tres Riches Heures of the Duc de Berry that had traveled from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Along with the exhibit of books was an exhibit of pigment, but I’ll refrain from another rhapsody in THAT direction. 😉

A book of hours, “…derives from the practice of reading certain prayers and devotions at the different ‘hours’ of the day.” Not a literal hour (as we think of it) as back in those days time was not measured as we measure it now, in sixty minute increments, but a space of time “…allotted either to business or religious duties.”

Books of hours that belonged to nobility — such as the Tres Riches Heures — are elaborately decorated. Others are worn, plain, well-thumbed and simple. These books are small enough for a person to put in his/her pocket; pouch hanging from a cord worn around the waist. General literacy in the Middle Ages was higher than we usually give them credit for.

In the Getty exhibit, some of the books were intact. Some were just loose pages. All of them were in glass cases. Many of the pictures depict life as it was at the time the books were painted — agricultural scenes frequently illuminate the passing seasons. The little books could give their owners a sense of order in the universe, calm and hope in the unpredictable storms of human life.

Most of the paintings are of moments in the life of Christ, important moments from scripture, the lives (and, more often, deaths) of the various saints.

One of the pictures in the exhibit — a loose page, part of the Getty’s own collection — was of a man sneezing. All the people around him looked at him in fear and were leaning away from him.

The first symptom of the plague was said to be sneezing. “Bless you!” probably accompanied by the sign of the cross, a kind of anticipatory last rites.

The 14th century was the first known epidemic of bubonic plague in Europe. Paleoarcheologists now know that there were earlier bubonic plague events, but the 14th century was unique in that Europe’s population exploded in the 13th century, and people were writing down their history.

*Books of Hours, Phaidon Press, 1996 — a beautiful small semi-replica of a book of hours that contains hundreds of pictures from various books of hours from the 13th — 16th centuries.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/03/14/rdp-saturday-calm/

On this Side

“Soon.”

“When?”

“A couple of months.”

“A couple of MONTHS???”

“We aren’t even in spring yet. That’s a couple weeks away.”

“A couple of WEEKS???”

“Yeah. Thank goodness.”

“I want SUMMER!!!!”

“I don’t think you’re in charge, EJ.”

EJ. Elizabeth Jane.

“I’m going outside. I’m sure there’s some green grass somewhere.”

“You can go to the back yard, but come in when I call you.”

Outside, EJ began a systematic study of the grass. Starting at the fence, she walked down to the alley, back up to the house, down to the alley, back to the house, each time a foot or two further inside the yard. When her mother called her for supper, she’d only finished half the yard and the sun was going down.

“EJ!!! Elizabeth Jane!!! Come in. Your dad is home, supper’s on the table.”

“I’m not finished!”

“Finished what?”

“Looking for spring!”

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/03/12/rdp-thursday-green/