This article originally appeared on One Minnesota Writer on August 19, 2020.
I’m writing this on a Friday afternoon. A hot, humid August-in-Minnesota afternoon. The wind has picked up. We’re expecting storms later. I love August storms, how they whip up, dump rain on summer-parched land, drop the humidity with a thud of cool air.
The wind chime that hangs nearby clangs in the wind. It’s called a dharma cowbell. I love this particular chime for its sleek simplicity, for the one clear tone it offers. Below our deck, the wildflower garden wears the bright yellow of late summer. Behind the garage, a stand of giant hyssop is alive with dozens of bumblebees. Cicadas have been singing louder and more often this past week.
And there’s the light. How I love August light, the way it begins to shift from midsummer’s directness towards autumn’s softer hue. This light feels holy somehow, the way it kisses the waning garden and filters through the trees. In the mornings when I do yoga or meditate, it comes through the window of the room I use for both, through the sheer curtains that lift with breezes, and patterns the oak floor. It feels like hope.
In a few days, it’ll be my birthday. By the time you read this, I’ll have turned 61. So many people loathe growing older. Maybe I’m not so keen on all aspects of it either: wild gray hair, wrinkly skin, a sense that my entire body is slowly drying up. Nevertheless, I embrace this birthday and the privilege of another year on earth. There are still so many things to learn, to see, to discover. I believe that if people were a little less cagey about their age and little more focused on what they do, who they really are, maybe ageism would lessen. Every single age has something to offer and something to learn, so why not appreciate it all? I might be able to teach you something and you can surely teach me something, and then we can have a beer together. Or coffee. Or something else. Whatever works.
I’m thinking about what I want to learn in the coming year. Some of it is practical, like how to be a better gardener, how to crochet, new recipes that are tasty, and whatever new technology makes life better and safer. Some of it is purely for fun, like doing paint pours and turning my photos into some other art form. I want to keep practicing yoga and meditation, keep feeding people, keep documenting things I believe are important.
During this pandemic, I’ve become very clear that the world is not going to stay the same for anyone. It was never going to stay the same; being hunkered down for months has forced us to see what has always been true but easy to ignore when life is moving along without so much trouble.
The wind is not just picking up as I write. It’s tossing leaves around, buffeting birds in flight, curving sound, talking to me.
Once, I thought about becoming a storm chaser. I think about it again on days like this, ask myself what stopped me. Was it motherhood, having a kid whose fear of storms nudged me to take fewer chances? Was it my partner Mick’s worry? When I feel this kind of wind on my face, I imagine a witch standing on a cliff, conjuring storms to suit her mood.
What a power that would be.
The storm of election season in America is building. We’re just getting lightning strikes right now. Trump casts bolts hither and yon, indiscriminately. No, wait, I’m wrong. There’s a ton of discrimination in those bolts. What was I thinking? What I really mean in his use of lightning bolts is reckless, not surgically accurate. Collateral damage blows outward more like a tornado than a lightning bolt. Destroying the postal service is just the latest tactic to keep voters from actually voting as is their right. What he’s done to destroy the unions, the freedom of speech, education, healthcare, retirement plans, and environmental protection is mind-boggling. And then there’s Pence. He drizzles out silly comments that make us smirk, like when he spoke about America’s red meat consumption and said he had some red meat for us. I might be chuckling about that one for a while, and I can’t wait to see him debate Kamala Harris. In the meantime, this administration is trying very hard to blow away all our options, force us to endure Trumpism for the foreseeable future.
Oh, please, let’s have a doozy of a competing storm break over their heads, carry Trump and Pence and the rest of the nastiest Republicans away in a raging river of angry American voters that empties into a gulf from which they cannot return. Let them swirl in one endless eddy that takes them down, down, down.
Earlier today, I cut down some garden plants that were spent, past their prime and dying. I cut down bleeding hearts with yellowing leaves, lilies that failed to thrive, yarrow with browning flowers. I deadheaded some coreopsis, hoping to keep their sunshine faces going a little longer.
I’m not one to keep what doesn’t work in our garden. But I will tend to that which brings light, nourishes bees and butterflies and birds. I will encourage that which thrives and makes this small patch of the planet healthier.
Change is good. It’s necessary.
The older I get, the less likely I am to accept the American status quo as something to be protected. I’ve never accepted all of it. What woman could? What thinking person could? Certainly, there are some good things. There are worthy theoretical protections of freedoms around speech, religion, movement, press, education. But there are many forces at work that erode those ideals when they conflict with business plans, threaten the money to be made or power to be concentrated and held. The storm of revolution sometimes blows away the good with the bad. And yet revolutions must happen at certain points. Storms build, blow in, wipe clean, force a rebuilding.
Some people call that kind of thinking radical. The word radical gets tossed around every single time someone comes up with a solution to a problem that retires an old way of doing anything.
This fall, America will be forced to do things differently. I’m talking here about the entire slate of how this country functions and dysfunctions. Our mishandling of the pandemic. Our tenacious racism. Our education system that is struggling to manage in a crisis. Our healthcare system that works best for the wealthy and everyone else can just fend for themselves. A president who is laughably under-educated about the Constitution but bumbles on anyway. How so many people have enabled him. An election is looming. It’s the once-every-four-year storm that, this year, promises to rip our shutters off and shatter our shelters.
But, damn, we have to have something else. Something less sequestered among old white power brokers. No candidate is perfect and no system is perfect, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
I like the word radical. I also like the word crone. I’m a woman in my 60s, one who’s lived long enough to see through some of the bullshit that passes for progress, to understand that name-calling happens when someone else is scared or threatened in any way. People are defensive by nature. They prepare for elections in much the same way they prepare for storms: if this happens, we have to be ready. We have to have our necessities stockpiled, our escape routes determined. We have to be prepared to resist what’s coming.
As for me, I’m going to stand on a cliff edge somewhere, watch the clouds approach, open my arms to the wind. I’ll let my hair grow long and whip out behind me while I gather that stormy energy and roll it into my own little ball of lightning.