Rethinking the F Word

Photo of an exhibit at the Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA.

Last month in Mexico, my friend, Pepe, who has four kids, lost his job when his gringo employers decided to abruptly leave Mexico. Closer to home, two of my nieces are working from home with toddlers who insist on acting as personal assistants. We all have stories like this, some tender, some tragic.

My own story changed on March 14 when I boarded one of the last flights out of Morocco a few days after my sisters told me, wisely and somewhat *emphatically*, to come home. If a global crisis hadn’t intervened, I would be in Portugal walking the Camino de Santiago after two months in Central Asia and the Middle East, before heading to who-knows-where.

A little collage I made about being in Berkeley

A lot of people have asked whether I am sad to have lost the freedom to travel. I say gosh no (sometimes not with the gosh). I am grateful to live in the beautiful Bay Area near family and friends who are healthy and coping well.

My unplanned circumstances remind me of my meat-eating friend, Emily, who enjoys cooking vegetarian meals because, she says, constraints make her more creative. As Emily might predict, the constraints in my life have led to a few unexpected treasures. New friends and a vegetable garden at Maison Marianne. A crow who visits me for hand-outs. Working as a crisis counselor. Being geographically closer to Gabe even if I can’t hug him. Other things…

Pretty sure Uzbekistan will be there when the dust settles.

That doesn’t mean all is well.  So much of what is happening at the hands of nature and humans is scary. We all know nothing will be the same. It’s just a matter of how different things are going to be, for each of us, for all of us together.

Sometimes there will be silver linings. Pepe found work doing what he loves doing most — painting murals. My nieces are adapting too. Sort of. Face with Tears of Joy on Apple iOS 13.3

A mural Pepe painted in Guanajuato, Mexico.


“What you’ll be is what you do now. ”

— Attributed to Buddha.






  1. Pepe is a marvelous artist and I’m so glad he’s getting work. I’ve enjoyed every photo of his murals you’ve posted in past blogs.

    Stories about how the pandemic-caused constraints imposed upon us have liberated some (many?) to explore the boundaries of their surroundings and new patterns of life are very affirming of the human experience. These stories have “legs” and merit further examination. Keep ’em coming!

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