I’ve been re-reading Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby, and it is as mysterious to me now as it was 40 years ago. Morrison always makes you work. She prefers metaphor to clarity — why did Son hide in the closet for three days? She is a little disdainful of me — why is she so obviously withholding clues about why Michael won’t visit his parents? Morrison wants you to consider some hard questions, but she isn’t going to answer them for you or to make it easy for you to answer them yourself. For your effort, however, she offers wisdom — not necessarily hers, which is abundant, but your own. I mention all of this because I think I got a little bit of wisdom from Tar Baby.Continue reading
I left Santa Barbara on Thursday, heading for the places I’d lived as a child, not exactly intentionally but because those places were on my path anyway. My first stop was more of a drive-by. After buying gas in Pasadena, I made a 2-mile detour south to San Marino, where I lived as a teenager. Rich, conservative San Marino was an unlikely place for us, neither rich nor conservative, but we survived the John Birch Society, the cops who trolled the likes of us in Lacey Park, and being the only family without a gardener.
Yesterday, I had a beautiful but uneventful drive from Cambria to Santa Barbara. Sometimes I need to remind myself that travel is mostly not about events. It’s a lot of feeling the moment and the place, which can mean inspiration, wonder, disgust, reverence, fear or omg even boredom. And, like the rest life, travel is trying things that don’t always work out.
“What’s your favorite country?”
In the past six months, I have been operating at about 30% capacity. Yes, I have tried volunteering and writing and baking. I hike a lot and keep in touch with friends and family. I remind myself how good my life is, but my feelings ignore my thoughts. At this time of my life, I need new places and people and ideas. I need instability.
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.
By now, I think we have learned that there are two kinds of people when it comes to staying at home. The first category of people say, “I am doing great, enjoying this time to relax and slow down. I am calling my friends on zoom and doing online yoga!”
The second category of people say “Oh yeah, well, I was kind of down yesterday but I am better today. Lots of people have it much worse than me. We’ll get through this, no problem.” If you are in the first category, please know that the people in the second category are actually thinking “I am going out of my mind.”
First, I know what you are thinking. Something about illness. Maybe consider something else. Take precautions and remember worrying compromises your immune system. Laughter gives it a boost. Here is one of my personal favorites for laughter: