I Think We’re Apart Okay, Right?

Photo of a Christmas present sitting alone on top step of house porch.
Through the screen…and no, the Wizard’s not here anymore.

To Cindy.

My father died Christmas Eve night, almost 40 years ago. It doesn’t matter. It will never matter. It could be the same night he died for the grief I suffer nearly 40 years later. He wouldn’t never want this, his children stricken every Christmas, memories of that night. CODE RED, CODE RED. We got to the hospital just in time for him to die after my boyfriend and I drove home from Columbus to Cincinnati in my 1965 Volkswagen, with a completely inoperable heater. I will never forget that bitter Ohio winter night. The windchill was -50. Once we reached the hospital, I fell to the ground when I got out of the car, my feet so cold, I couldn’t stand up.

This year, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends will die Christmas Eve night, but their families won’t be by their sides. This will haunt them, because the COVID virus doesn’t care, yet we do and deeply, desperately.

So Christmas’s are hard for me, hard for so many. Tonight, I sat by the fire, writing, remembering (it’s SO important). Crying for the world (can someone cry for the entire world?), thinking about my brother and his wife. Her father has COVID and it’s not looking good. I think about what they must be going through. My doorbell rings. My doorbell never rings. The last time was, maybe ten years ago? I have a Wizard of Oz door, you know the kind that has a little ‘sub-door’ built in? It’s very cute even if the door needs replacing. Like in the Wizard of Oz, I open it up and hopefully not as cranky, say hello to my neighbor who stands pensively holding a present with a bow on it. We are not sure what to do. Neither of us are wearing a mask. Since she just had a COVID scare in her family, a positive test, we both understand I cannot invite her in and I so want to. I so WANT TO! I want to invite her in for a glass of the latest terrific cheap wine from Grocery Outlet, an egg nog, a hot toddy. ANYTHING! I pine for company, a reprieve from my reverie and sadness. Damn it! “I think we’re apart okay, right?” I ask. “Yeah,” she answers as she gently places the present on my top step. We visit through my Wizard of Oz door, kind of yelling at one another. It’s going pretty fast: how is your family? How are you? “Thank you so much! Be well! Stay Well!” I yell after her as she descends the stairs from my house. I look through my Wizard of Oz door at the the pretty little gift she has left for me. I have to wait, you see, to get it. As I wait, my dogs cry and whine. They love her. As I wait by the door, one of my dad’s favorite songs plays on my little boom box, Silent Night by the Henry Mancini orchestra. When the coast is clear (the coast is clear, from warmth and compassion, oh my God), I go outside and stand in the cold air. I look up at the moon. Oh Holy, Lonely, Night. Merry Christmas.

Fill It And They Will Come-Because They Have To. A Story of Climate Change Refugees.

A few years ago, I taught as needed in a nearby county juvenile detention center. One winter, the one with all the record blessed rain, (2018 was it?), one end of the detention hall gymnasium was hopping with Pacific tree frogs. They were everywhere. Despite that the wetland they once lived in had been filled, buildings constructed, they still came to what was now only a wet spot in the sod, suburbia’s carpet. Of course, it attracted the kids, some of which I worried might take their frustrations out on these little guys, so I stood watch whenever I was assigned to the gym. There was one young woman who was incarcerated because of her tendency toward violence. I will call her Erica. This is not her real name. She and I stood side by side. I stooped over to scoot a few of the tiny frogs through the bottom of the door, thankfully a crack just big enough they could escape through.
“What are you doing?” she sneered at me.
“Helping them escape,” I said.
“Can you help me escape? Fit me through there?”
“You are the queen of your own destiny. You can “escape” any time you decide you want to,” I answered.
She scoffed. I told her I would be right back and returned with my thermal lunch box with a zipper top. I asked her to help me gather a few of the frogs because I was going to take some of them home, get them out of there, give them a garden, a place to live. To my surprise, she bent down and we started putting frogs in my lunch box. She was very gentle with them. When she caught a particularly big one, she closed her fist around it. I winced. She was going to squeeze it to death, I just knew it. But she didn’t. She opened her fist and it stayed in the palm of her hand, sitting, looking at her. She stared back.
“Well, that one wants to go, obviously, and it’s name is now Erica. Hurry up,” I said, unzipping the top. “Get him in here.” As if saying goodbye, she took another second with “her frog”. There they were, looking at one another. Fighting back tears because it was just one of those moments that proves to be a kind of gift, I pivoted the lunch box toward her. She slipped it into the lunch box while I tried very hard to keep the others in. She actually let out a small laugh. Something I had not seen her do in my time there, laugh or smile.

When I got home with them, all fine, I counted ten, I let them go in the front of the house, by the geraniums. Years later, there is a population of frogs that have lived on my front stoop, front yard, ever since including one that is bigger than the others I am convinced is Erica (the frog; I hope the real Erica has worked things out and is thriving somewhere). I can’t say these are all “Detention Center” frogs but I can say, before this, no frogs ever took up residence like these frogs have but now things have gotten worrisome. They are showing up in anything wet, anything that holds water, such as the intentionally deep bowls under the geraniums (and the three tomatoes) and quite accidentally, an old plastic pitcher I use for watering. I fill it and leave it out overnight so the chlorine can evaporate from it. I never remember seeing a clump of frogs in it in the morning. But we are California in denial. We are in a drought. Fire is just one breeze away started in one clump of nonnative grasses. My frogs are not in denial, and they need me more than ever now. So I added a bucket, vegetation. I add water nearly every day to their little ecosystem of one old pitcher and one bucket. By 8 a.m. every morning, they are all gone, off feeding or whatever frogs do during the day. By 6 p.m., they are all back, now counting five, hanging out by their life-saving little pools, usually close together. This is the first summer this has happened. I am very dedicated to getting them through this next hellish summer and in turn, they will get me through it as well.

In The Geraniums…
One Morning, One Morning, One Morning in May ( with regards to James Taylor)…
Welcome to the EXCLUSIVE New Jasmine Frog Resort. Self-Check In.
I call the big one Erica. I have no idea if this is the same frog but I suspect it is. Of course, they do not like having their photos taken at all. Had to work fast. Photo was lightened because they now live in a nice cool shady spot under the jasmine.

Dispatch from the Emotional Flatlands.

No Exit

“You need to wear your f—–g mask. My mother is 87, asshole, and you could kill her,” Guy A says to Guy B as I enter the grocery store.
There was a time, not too long ago, when I would have stopped and watched this exchange, stunned, saddened, but like everyone else now, I barely raise my head.

I now live in the emotional flatlands. COVID, the CA fires (now the masks have dual functions), an insane president who will throw a tantrum if he loses the election like the baby he is, all the giant pickup trucks circulating in support of him with their Qanon freak flags flying, too many people in the backcountry, where I always went to get away, and now they’re out there too but it’s too hot to leave the house anyway, even if you head to 10,000 feet elevation, it’s still f-ing hot per the pending planetary death…

When you live in the emotional flatlands, nothing bothers you anymore.

I notice how stylish the masks have gotten. I am not even sure why, but this only further irritates me. I catch myself wondering if I should move on from the standard pleated sky blue surgical mask.
“Look at that one,” I think to myself. “She has a giant lotus over her mouth, and that guy has tiger teeth. She’s a what, a crocodile?” I am not Googling “stylish yet effective masks” when I get home. I am NOT.

Only one things is getting me through, giving me the tiniest of boosts everyday and no it’s not liter bottles of Pinot Grigo. It’s watermelon. It’s my heroin and I have to have it including driving around at 1:00 a.m. looking for a 24-hour grocery store (no luck), so I buy some awful watermelon candy (?) at the 7-11 on the way home.

In the midst of so much insanity, inanity…there is still watermelon. Cool, crisp watermelon that for a second transports me to the memory of what used to be a simple and pure summer day. Call it my meditation, my tiny little escape. I sit on the floor of my smoke filled house and crunch it, the sweetness, the WATER, the dogs on either side of me joining in, relishing the moment (and the watermelon) as much as I. For a few minutes there is no smoke, there are no fires, there is no pandemic, our post office isn’t getting gutted, our President isn’t Donald Trump. It’s me and the dogs hanging out on the living room floor on a hot summer day, listening to Loggins and Messina…Summer Breeze…Sometimes I cry.

I want one of the big seeded ones even if it takes a crane to get it up the stairs and into the refrigerator but oh, wait a minute! Of course, of f-ing course (!!!), the CA Gods of electricity just announced “rolling black-outs” so by the time I get home, like the witch at the end of the Wizard of Oz, everything in my refrigerator may be melting, melting…

Thinking about this, standing over the cardboard bin of beautiful watermelons, I blurt, “God dnmn it. The electricity could be out by the time I get this baby home.” Aside from one guy, all my fellow flatlanders ignore me. “Well, then just eat the whole damn thing,” the guy says, annoyed, lumbering off with his. I don’t even bother to look up to make eye contact (because this is all it is now and anyway, what’s the point?).

Once outside the store, I waddle back to my car carrying my 400 pound watermelon (at least this is how it feels because the air is filled with gritty smoke–of course! After all, it’s summer in California!). It hurts to inhale, even with a mask on. Gently lowering my big ass melon into the passenger seat, I quickly get in the driver’s side and slam the car door. Off comes the mask. Jesus! It’s so hot. I look up and see the woman parked in front of me also rushing to get into her car and like me, she tears her mask off once she’s in. She’s left something in her cart. What is that? A wallet? I hop out and rap on her window. Yeah, she left her wallet in the cart. She gets out, grabs it, and gets the hell back in her car. I head back to mine when I hear a voice behind me. I turn around.
“Oh yeah,” she says lowering the window. “Thanks.”
“Yeah, no worries,” is all I can muster as I hurl myself back into my car. This is all any of us can muster now that we’re living in the emotional flatlands.

Your President, Precedent, Is a Land Developer. Save YOUR Public Lands and Environmental Protections NOW.

Since I first posted this, of course things have only gotten worse. There is no incredulity for me as there seems to be for so many people because this is who this man is–a person so vile, so filled with hate, it eeks out from every pore of his body and now, of course, he’s going for our environmental protections, if you even want to call them this because they are filled with holes even as it is. Still, they are protections that have been in place for nearly 50 years. Our narcissistic-ally illustrious President, Precedent, has just gutted the Endangered Species Act. They are going for the National Environmental Policy Act, and of course, our little developer Precedent wants to sell off, “dispose” of as many acres of our Public Lands as he can. This is mayday folks. Mayday. Our hope was the Democrats would provide some kind of checks and balances, but are they?

Please contact your legislators. One email a week. One phone call. It’s not that big a deal to do! Takes ten minutes! Where is your nearest federal public land? Keep an eye on it and by doing so, you serve your country. Democracy, use or lose it. A lot at stake. Please pay attention and thank you.

THIS IS YOURS. FOR NOW.

REAUTHORIZE THE LWCF! Contact your legislators now!

Photo of John Muir Wilderness Area

This is still yours, for now.

From the League of Conservation Voters:

We only have a few short weeks left to save our best parks program! Sign today to tell Congress to save the Land and Water Conservation Fund »

Join the fight to save our best and most accessible parks program!

We need to speak out against outrageous funding cuts to our parks and help pass a permanent extension of LWCF through Congress.

TAKE ACTION: (copy and paste/open link) https://ourlandsourvoice.lcv.org/?sc=lcv&utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=180901%20LWCF%20Joint%20Action%20Message%201%20(1)&utm_content=

Republican leadership is putting our local parks on the chopping block.

Everyday, I’m struck by just how important the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is for our communities. From local baseball fields to iconic parks like the Grand Canyon, LWCF has given children safe spaces to play, families open areas to relax, and communities green spaces to thrive.

But anti-environment Republican leadership is moving to gut funding for this critical program and let LWCF expire at the end of this month.

These green spaces are worth fighting for. That’s why we’re joining our partners in Our Lands, Our Voice, a nationwide campaign to stop Congress from letting our nation’s best parks program expire. We’re rallying the nation to protect this program and we can’t do it without your help.

We need you to speak out for our public lands. Sign our petition and tell Congress to permanently reauthorize LWCF with full and dedicated funding »

LWCF has set aside and protected community spaces in nearly every county in the U.S., making it one of the most successful and accessible parks program in America. This program was created more than 50 years ago to safeguard our irreplaceable cultural heritage, protect natural resources, and provide recreational opportunities for all people.

What’s more — reauthorizing LWCF will continue to give access to communities that otherwise do not have contact with the outdoors as it protects existing parks and helps create new green places.

The program is simple: it invests a small portion of revenue from offshore oil and gas drilling to protect and conserve our lands and waters — without spending any taxpayer money. But despite bipartisan support from hundreds members of Congress to reauthorize this program, it’s about to expire.

We need to protect this critical parks program for our neighbors, communities, and future. Every child deserves a chance to enjoy the outdoors and have access to clean, healthy water and air. That’s why we’re working with our partners to build a movement to save LWCF. We CAN save America’s best parks program, but only if we all speak out together. Will you raise your voice today?

We can’t wait on this. Congress needs to hear from you to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund »

We can’t let this opportunity to protect our best parks program pass us by — please act now to protect LWCF today, Virginia.

Thank you for fighting for our parks.

Elizabeth Jacob
Associate Digital Campaigns Manager
League of Conservation Voters
http://origin.lcv.org/

740 15th St. NW, 7th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
202-785-8683

DONATE TO LCV

Virginia’s Newest E-Novel is Due to Sprout September 2018! Get It! Read It! Review It! Then Go Save a Tree! Thank you!

A consequence of getting older is experiences inevitably get threaded to memories as Maybelline Emmons learns when she embarks on what she thinks will be a simple road trip to find a tree. She finds something so confounding, painful, yet transformational, none of which she signed on for, her evenings drinking Pinot, watching her hummingbirds…this was as always enough.

This passionate yet comic story revolves around efforts to save an old-growth tree but things go off the rails in a compelling, edge-of-your-seat way. Per Virginia Arthur’s two previous novels, Treed will curl the tendrils of your heart and blow your leaves off.

Saving a tree’s life is saving OUR LIVES!

Get Me Out of the American Bounce House. Please.

My anecdote to the insanity of the adult world is to hang out with kids because they’re not crazy, not yet anyway. Crazy is the mark of becoming an adult human primate. Sanity is the mark of being honest and down-to-earth which is what normal kids are. For example, when nine year old Travis tells me I have wrinkles, an accurate observation, my response, wanting to throttle him, is in fact, crazy. See how it works?

So when my girlfriend asked me if I wanted to help with her ten year old daughter’s birthday party, I said sure. Some honest fun. I can take it.

I got stuck in the bounce house. I wanted out. Inside were 20 or so kids I bounced around with and then being somewhat claustrophobic, I wanted the f out. I couldn’t figure out where the flap/door was because every time I went for it, I got bounced back, the kids ganging up on me, not letting me reach it, laughing their little sadistic asses off–look at the adult. Can’t get out of the bounce house.

And this is what it feels like to be in America now with the Trump presidency: you can’t get out of the gd bounce house. As soon as you think SOMETHING is going to happen with the Mueller investigation, it gets bounced back, away from the door, only to bounce closer again…and again and again. I can’t turn on the news anymore. Look at the paper. Is it that our system of justice is in total breakdown? I can’t roll through a stop sign but Trump can base American diplomacy upon whether he cuts a Trump hotel deal with Qater? And nothing happens to him?

I want out of the American bounce house. Please. Somebody. Let me out. Let us all out.

Stop Cutting Down Trees to “Celebrate” Anything! Go Live! A Christmas Paradigm We Need to Change.

Oh Christmas Tree,
Oh Christmas Tree,

How Lovely Are Thy Branches!

Oh Christmas Tree,
Oh Christmas Tree,

I Wish They’d Leave You On The Ranches!

It Makes No Sense, With Climate Change,
To Hack You Down, Contract Your Range,

You Hold The Carbon Oh So Well,
To Keep Our Planet From Turning Into HELL,

Oh Christmas Tree,
Oh Christmas Tree,

Without You None of Us Can Breathe!

Oh Christmas Tree,
Oh Christmas Tree,

How Lovely Are Thy Branches!

I know I am not the only one who finds it a bit incongruous that in order to celebrate a life coming into the world, say, I don’t know, JESUS, we hack a tree down in his honor. What would Jesus say? (Not to mention that uhm, later he is nailed to one for completely fabricated reasons).

I am also intrigued by the inability of the human species to let go of cultural practices that are, well, harmful, stupid, weird, dumb, especially when they are fairly easy to change.

December 26th.

December 26th. Millions of once photosynthesizing, carbon retaining young trees are now refuse. Disposing of them will contribute to climate change.

Here’s an idea–go live for Christmas! (Those of you who already get a live Christmas tree that you plant every year, you can stop reading at this point and thank you. There is also an added bonus in that you are not bringing a dead tree into your house you then expose to heat thereby knowingly creating a phenomenal fire hazard).

You Can Have a Living Tree for Christmas!

Here are a couple options:

Rescue: Rescue a young native tree destined for death or perhaps in a terrible place. It’s more work of course but the tree is free though you may still have to buy some supplies such as a tub and inexpensive potting soil. Rescuing should be done within your bioregion and may require permission. (This is left to your discretion but we’re definitely not talking about poaching trees! This is about rescuing a tree in a hopeless situation. Think about a Charlie Brown Christmas with the difference being he picks out a small living tree that needs some love; after Christmas all the Peanuts kids plant it together and of course, sing). I also strongly recommend buying an eco-friendly rooting hormone, the kind you mix with water (more on this later). In both cases described here, if you live in a mild climate and can plant anytime, it’s best to dig the hole before you bring the tree home so this is done. This will also provide you with native soil. Not sure how big the roots are? You may need to modify the size of the hole but modifying it is far less involved than digging it in a hurry. The hole needs to be as wide as the roots/rootball plus half this size. (If the rootball is 18 inches in diameter, the hole needs to be 27 inches in diameter). Cover the hole with plywood so nothing falls in, including soil.

Dig your tree up carefully to preserve as many of the roots as possible (the smaller the tree, the easier it is to do this). No need to ball it up. You just need to have a tub of some type, be it plastic or steel. Ideally the tub has drain holes but this isn’t totally necessary if you water carefully. Fill the bottom of the tub up with some soil to anchor the tree after you dig it up. Put it in the tub and cover the roots but do not fill the tub with soil yet. If the soil where it is growing looks healthy, fill-up another container with this soil to bring it home. This healthy soil may have needed mycorrhizae/soil symbionts in it that help the tree grow. If the soil it is growing in does not look healthy, you can use the native soil from the hole you dug beforehand and/or, use some inexpensive potting soil.

Don’t completely fill the tub with soil until you get it where you want it in the house because one it’s filled with soil, it gets heavy. Once your tree is where you want it in the house, go ahead and fill the tub with soil leaving about an inch or two from the top for watering. If your tub has holes in it, of course, you want to put a container under it; water until some comes out of the bottom. If your tub does not have drain holes in the bottom, do the stick test every other day–push a stick that is at least eight inches long into the soil and if it comes up damp to dry, water the tree. In either case, you will need to check the tree every other day. Assuming you put lights on the tree, it can dry out very quickly. Misting it every day to every other day helps too. Of course, make sure your lights are not ON when you do this (i.e. use common sense).

Buy a Live Tree (ideally native to your bioregion): if it doesn’t come in a tub or pot already, do not take it out of the rootball. If the tree was prepared properly by the nursery, it has soil around it that is protecting the roots. Put the entire intact rootball in a plastic/stainless steel tub as close to the house as possible then you have some options: you can use native soil ideally from where you intend to plant it, or use inexpensive potting soil. If you are going to plant it right after the holidays, you can use just enough soil to cover the rootball and anchor the tree. You can also use only water. Fill the tub so water covers only about half of the rootball. Don’t suffocate the tree by submerging the root ball completely in water. It’s not an aquatic plant! It needs oxygen too! If you will have to wait a few weeks or months to plant, fill the tub to the top with soil. In all cases, the tree will need watering on a regular basis; check every other day. As mentioned above, misting the tree every day will help keep it hydrated and again, make sure when you mist it, the lights are off (duh?).

And now the fun part…

Your live tree is now in the house. Decorate your live tree, smell its fragrance all throughout the house, a fragrance not of a tree KILLED, a tree that is DYING, but one of memories yet to be made; a fragrance that symbolizes LIFE, the tree’s life, that of your family, your loved ones, your  life.

Celebrate Christmas

Maybe this is the real Christmas-y part: after the holidays, instead of throwing it out in the yard (with regards to John Prine who may have to change his song, sorry), putting it with the trash, you get to PLANT IT– with or without ceremony. Of course, it depends on your climate. In milder climates, you can plant anytime. For your rescue tree, the sooner you plant it, the better but don’t plant it under severe weather conditions (it could stay below freezing for weeks to come). If you can’t plant it for awhile, make sure the tub is filled nearly to the top with soil, the roots are covered well, the tree is stable, then move it outside into a sheltered location and just wait for milder temperatures/spring. In this way too, you are ‘hardening’ it off, getting it used to its microclimate, even if it is a native tree from your bioregion; it’s still good to harden it off as close to where you are going to plant it as possible. When you plant your rescue tree, pour the proper mix of liquid rooting hormone over the roots before filling the hole with soil and/or you can also soak the tree roots in a bucket of rooting hormone before planting (20 minutes or so prior to planting) then pour the bucket of hormone mix over the roots before filling the hole.

When you plant your purchased live tree, unless the material holding the roots is truly 100% organic, biodegradable, you need to carefully, gently remove it, trying not to disturb the root system at all, then plant the tree immediately. Use of rooting hormone for a purchased live tree is optional.

When I lived in Wyoming, I bought a live white fir (Abies concolor) in a 10-gallon pot. Since it grows in this type of climate, it did fine (again, native trees from your bioregion do much better). After New Year’s Day, I added some more soil to the pot then moved it outside to a sheltered location by the house so it could harden-off. It lived out a fierce winter until April when I planted it. It grew to be a lush, full, beautiful tree.

Your Beautiful Memory Forest

Plant your Christmas trees year after year and your present is a forest of beautiful living trees that keep the memories of each Christmas alive. Regardless of religion or creed, can there be nothing more appropriate than to plant a tree in the memory of a life lived? To plant a tree to mark each season of our lives, and those of our friends and family?

Your Christmas trees will continue to give back in so many ways–by providing food, shelter, and habitat for numerous species of birds and other wildlife. Trees provide a wide array of ecosystem services for all living organisms, including us. (For example, are you breathing?). But perhaps most importantly, the future of our planet may be in the hands, er, trunk, leaves, needles of trees–they hold carbon.

This is an Christmaecological win win.

With all due respect to the season, and I LOVE Christmas-time (sans the commercial contamination), the cutting and killing of millions of trees to ‘celebrate’, well, anything, is a paradigm we need to change–now. You can easily be a part of it. Just imagine all the Christmas-inspired forests that would spring up around the world!

Oh Christmas Tree!
(Originally Published December 20, 2015 @ 19:20). Re-posted.