Election Countdown

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My election jitters are getting the best of me. I can’t seem to disengage from social media. But here’s the thing, my social media feed completely changed a few days ago when a writer friend, who I haven’t seen in years, added me to a secret Facebook group for Hillary supporters. Every since, my newsfeed has been deluged with beautiful stories, awash in positivity. The range is astonishing, from military men and women to Bernie supporters to lifelong Republicans–all voting for Hillary Clinton. The group was 200K strong when I joined just a few days ago. Today it’s over a million! It turns out Hillary’s camp is very quiet, afraid to speak out because their voices have been met with vitriol. Many people posting in the group have had their HRC lawn signs destroyed. But vandalism isn’t stopping these supporters. One family recreated their sign with sidewalks chalk. Another woman painted her garage door. An elderly man mailed in his ballot just days before dying of cancer. People are canvassing and calling. People are using the name “Hillary” at Starbucks, so that “Hillary” is being said aloud as much as possible. There are hundreds, thousands of “likes” on these stories. A space of kindness and sharing and hope. It has completely restored my faith in humanity and in the election.

(Post 290 of 365)

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Mindful Driving


Cars fly down our street. 50 mph in our 25 mph zone. Everyone in a rush. We’ve talked to the neighbors about petitioning the city for speed bumps. This morning maybe it was speed, maybe distraction, maybe just not-giving-a-shit that killed the opossum, bigger than my cat, as he scurried across the road during the early morning hours, probably tired from a night of foraging for his family. I passed his newly-dead body at 7:30am on my way to the gym. He was lying in the center of the oncoming lane, poor buddy.

It’s Spring and I’m constantly seeing casualties: opossums, raccoons, squirrels, sea gulls, even a small grackle. Why don’t people hit the brakes? Swerve? Try? Of course, accidents happen. And yes, I have hit animals; I am not without fault. I was also a distracted teenager and speeding (read: bad driving is what often causes accidents). I can count at least three times this season I’ve actually seen cars accelerate toward the squirrels scurrying across their paths. I cheer for the squirrel, c’mon buddy, you’ve got this, go go! Fortunately, all those squirrels made it.

What is the disconnect between drivers and their surroundings? Distraction is a given and that rush-rush-rush, but there’s also that strange thing about being behind the wheel that separates drivers from those on foot. Some drivers operate as if they’re playing a video game, as if that little creature going about his day isn’t really real, or maybe isn’t as entitled to life. Like when someone hits a deer and the first question is, oh wow, how’s your car? The first thought isn’t about the deer that was just maimed or killed, it’s: is your car going to cosmetically be okay?

I think about those casualties in the road and the families that mourn them. I always wish I had a shovel in my car so that I could at least give them the dignity of lying dead in the grass rather than being run over again and again and again until they’re finally a stain on the pavement. On my way home from the gym, the dead opossum was still there, but not yet run over again. I had time to do something about it. So I got gloves and the garden shovel and drove back. I parked in front of the poor opossum with my hazards on, waved a few cars around me, then lifted his stiff body from the road and laid him gently on the grass. It wasn’t much; it was nothing really. But I felt a little better seeing him there on the soft grass, the spot he would’ve reached if only he’d been given the chance to take a few more steps.

(Post 128 of 365) 

Empathy, Birds, and the Changing Internal Landscape: 3/365

My daughter was born during a cold and snowy winter. We lived by the water in a second-floor apartment, and I can still hear the scraping rhythm of her dad shoveling the long driveway while we looked down from our warm perch. Spring came like it always does, as an affront and a relief, crocuses and mud and stark sunshine. Every day I bundled her up and walked the two mile loop over cracked sidewalks that gave way to beautiful homes and smoother sidewalks and onto the boardwalk along Long Island Sound.

The geese and ducks return first. Then osprey swoop and dive, chased by groups of little birds trying to protect their nests. As the air warms, cormorants arrive and perform their hide-and-seek magic, diving deep and popping up again twenty feet away. Summer isn’t promised until the egrets appear in the estuary, long white elegance rising from the mud. Last come the regal great blue herons.

The birds’ arrival mean babies are coming. Not all of them make it. Sick or fallen or pursued by an osprey, casualties are inevitable. There would always be a few dead baby birds on the sidewalk or nearby in the grass next to beach roses waiting to bloom. One of those stark-sun days, pushing my little bundle in the stroller, we came upon a tiny, featherless creature on the sidewalk, so newly fallen its big eyes blinked and its beak mouthed a silent plea. I was tortured. I should have moved the doomed creature to the grass and offered up a hopeful prayer that its mother might rescue it. But I was a fragile new mother who couldn’t accept even the smallest death.

I felt panicky as I carefully scooped the bird into my left hand, transparent skin pulsing in my palm. I imagined my warmth was comforting as I pushed the heavy stroller with my right hand and balanced the bird in my left, still a mile to go, fearful of bird germs near my baby and not having any idea what I’d do when I finally got home. I jerked the stroller one-handed off the curb and back into the neighborhood, over sidewalks cracked from frost heaves and tree roots, my left arm outstretched with my palm up like an offering. The baby bird was still breathing and blindly searching the air the way every baby does.

At home I laid it gently under our holly bush. I needed to wash my hands and get my own baby upstairs before I could figure out what to do. I called my husband and a friend for advice, looked online, still pretending I could save it. When I made it back downstairs an hour later to check under the holly bush, it was being devoured by ants.

New motherhood felt raw and vulnerable. My entire being contracted with fierce protection, a myopic laser vision focused on my daughter. But inside, an expansive empathy spread and extended to every living thing, especially the small and helpless. Most days my world did not go beyond that two mile radius, but my internal landscape stretched out like a western vista, big sky country reaching up into my heart.