Watching Things Burn and Defying the Dark: Thoughts on 2020

Once upon a time, in the 1980s, I lived in the Stone Age. I didn’t use a time machine to get there, but only technically. 

I was 11 or 12 or 13 then, on the cusp of adult awakening, and I vanished from the land where Madonna’s Like A Virgin and Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean and Olivia Newton John’s Let’s Get Physical with their deliciously lascivious lyrics played over the speakers at K-Mart, whisked away by my parents to a literal jungle in the Pacific where women tied strings around their waists for modesty, and men used dried squashes as clothes, and tools were fashioned from rocks and sticks, and everything smelled like barbecued sweat except when it smelled like monsoon rains as if the air had congealed into liquid, breathable earth. ...  read more

There’s a Dead Bird in My Bed: The COVID Diaries

Dear Diary,

Does it mean something nefarious if you end 2020 by waking up to a dead bird in your bed?

Like, if the morning gifts you a deceased flying creature, is that a portent of things to come? Is it a severed horse head, a la The Godfather? A harbinger of dread? 

Or is simply an acknowledgement, like the universe is saying, “Yep. 2020 WAS SOMETHING, amirite? HERE’S A DEAD BIRD TO COMMEMORATE IT. YOU’RE WELCOME.”  ...  read more

I’m Alive and Dead Simultaneously: The COVID Diaries

Dear Diary,

It is four days after Christmas and three days until the New Year, and I have done everything this month, and also I have done nothing at all. I did the Necessary Holiday Things; there was stuff in stockings, there were presents under the plastic tree, I was wildly grateful for my ridiculous gaggle of loud, obnoxious, sweary humans, and I also felt like a lump who accomplished Zero… a lump who maybe should have done more? Been more? Like there should have been more hot meals prepared with my hands and perhaps some mopping of the muddy floors? Like I should have made cheerful Christmas cookies for the neighbors and peppermint fudge. Or written a few letters by hand instead of shooting emails into the ether.  ...  read more

Hibernating — The COVID Diaries: Staying Sane in a Time That’s Not

Dear Diary,

The fog is thick this morning, a cold cocoon chrysalis shielding our house and holding it suspended in time. 

It has been 38 days since my last confession.

I’ve been quiet, I think, because I’m hibernating.

The isolation and confinement of trying to be wise, trying to protect our people, has forced a sort of inward focus. Like an owl tucking its face in its wing for slumber. Or a dog curled up by the fireplace, tail over its nose. ...  read more

The Most Impossible Task: Saying I’m Not OK

If you struggle with depression like I do, and if you haven’t yet read M. Molly Backes’ viral twitter string about the Impossible Task, I highly recommend it as something to help put words to a common symptom of this insidious disease. 

Depression commercials always talk about sadness but they never mention that sneaky symptom that everyone with depression knows all too well: the Impossible Task. (Other sneaky symptoms they don’t mention are numbness, anxiety, and inexplicable rage—just FYI for folks trying to figure this crap out. Depression comes in disguise, folks. It rarely announces itself via sadness.¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )  ...  read more

On Doing Way Too Much and Not Nearly Enough: What October 2020 Feels Like

I drive four mornings each week up the winding roads of Parrett Mountain, past alpaca farms and vineyards and into the Douglas Fir forests as I climb. It’s a slow drive by necessity; there are steep drop-offs and no guard rails or shoulders to offer forgiveness if you stray.

It always feels peaceful to me, that drive: the forced slowing of my typical pace, the tiered ruffles of the fir branches like a designer got carried away layering petticoats, the falcons that circle overhead, and the deer that dive down the canyons.  ...  read more

15 Realistic Recipes to Feed Your Family in an Apocalypse

The pandemic continues, Oregon is on fire along with the rest of the West, and even though the fire a couple miles from our house is now 75% contained (THANK YOU, FIREFIGHTERS!), my brain is broken. Just totally kaput. Zero percent battery, and I forgot where I put my brain charger. 

I was feeling badly about this, as though my inability to get anything done is proof that I’m a lazy sack who doesn’t deserve the air I breathe, even though that air is currently full of smoke and so dense we could chew it. But then several friends reminded me that our brains and our bodies are reacting exactly as they were built to do. There are fires in our forests. Visibility is shot due to opaque air. We’ve been at a heightened state of emergency for six months. OF COURSE WE’RE EXPERIENCING MENTAL SHUT DOWN. Our bodies are priming us to fight or flee. Our brains don’t need to form complete sentences right now. They don’t need to do anything other than basic survival.  ...  read more