Sunday, February 14, 2021

NY missive no 178 - There is Time

The pandemic has warped and layered time like an earthquake disrupting rock formations developed over millions of years. It has played around with time and with distance in ways that we only partially grasp, or are conscious of, while busily distracting ourselves with our technology.

“Is that a donkey?”, Fi asked on Instagram, when I posted a photo of JNH sitting reading in a rocking chair, next to a wooden piece of furniture M and D had given me way back for a birthday – a magazine and small-book holder made from plywood – yes a Donkey it’s called. The rocking chair in the photo was the one from an Astoria thrift store that I’d got when I had the idea, when pregnant, that a rocking chair was a good thing to have for feeding a baby and rocking them to sleep. I happened to be sitting in that chair breastfeeding JNH at 3ish one morning when I heard the news on the radio that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.

The book that JNH (now 10) was reading in the photo was called “Continental Drift”, following the movement of tectonic plates through geological epochs. When I sit on the rocking chair – rare moments at weekends – I rest that big Continental Drift book over the top of the Donkey to turn it into a table for a drink and bowl of salt and vinegar crisps. These are just some rather specific moments that are mind-blowingly tiny compared to the epochs in the book.

I have moments of feeling I should be firing on all cylinders like I ended up doing last year yet finding, in 2021, it much harder to do so. Moments of saying for heavens sake now of all times is a time to go slower, to reflect, when possible, and precisely not to fire on all cylinders. And moments when I just let both those opposing thoughts cancel each other out, and respect the arbitrariness of time. We can bounce fast along the surface of it, we can pause and dive deep into it, maybe we can sometimes stop it entirely. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

NY missive no 177 - Birthday and tomorrow's inauguration

So this is my first pandemic birthday, let’s see if it’s my last. The sun’s pouring through the front window. JNH is watching the pre-class videos for his online class which will start soon. (He’s using the big desk that was Mum’s, and her Dad’s before that, which has “skipped a generation” as he puts it). CMH is on the sofa having his 30 minutes of allocated FIFA-game-on-i-pad time. C is on his morning walk. And I’m writing this with a coffee and a chocolate croissant from Leli’s bakery, which we picked up on our morning “walk to school” round the block. The small details like that have taken on so much more weight this past year when everything is in flux and fragile. Like stepping stones over a river. Down the coast from here the mall and Capitol are pretty much barricaded as DC prepares for the inauguration of Biden as President and Kamala Harris as Vice President tomorrow, with 25,000 national guard troops protecting the area from potential insurrectionary attacks. 

The storming of the Capitol on January 6th was not surprising. Disturbing, yes, but not surprising, and for everyone who’s commenting “this is not America”, it totally is – a through-thread that’s been embedded in the country from the days of the colonists alongside the narrative of a trajectory towards a shared ideal. I remember when Biden’s winning was confirmed a few days after the election. Spontaneous celebrations burst out on the streets, including down the road here in Astoria, and it did feel like an elephant that had been sitting on our heads the past few years had just got up, but that was accompanied by a sense that any over-emphasis on restoring “normality” and going “back” to a better time was flawed and dangerous, just as when Trump talks about making America great again. I’m hoping that the next few years sees politics connecting deeply and practically with people - with everyone - where they are at in their lives, drawing lessons from the long-term door to door organizing in Georgia that brought black voters to the polls and flipped the Senate. 

Connecting with people where they are at is easier said than done, especially when there’s instant-community-at-the-fingertips on the web. The role of the social media giants in recent election cycles, as they have profited from misinformation – including fanning the myth of a stolen election which will have enormous repercussions over the coming years – is an example of corporate capture of politics to an extreme (another age-old force, though not unique to the US by any means). Time will tell which forms the street landscape and the online landscape take over these coming years, how they relate, and which holds the most sway.


Right, so JNH is now out of his online class, and their (awesome) teacher, who had wanted to stream tomorrow's inauguration for them, said the Department of Education isn't allowing it because there's no knowing what bad things might happen in the middle of it. 

Update: Both kids watched anyway on TV and were glued to it.