We’re moving again. It’s our 7th place in the 10 years we’ve been in San Diego. We’ve become experts at moving – especially because we keep moving around in the same neighborhood. Over the last week, we’ve been taking small trips with crates of dishes, books, pictures, & plants. This weekend we’re moving the beds and the other big stuff. Moving is pretty painless for us, except each time we leave a house, it is bittersweet.
Our current place is a chartreuse box that is under 700 sqft with 2 full walls of windows that bring afternoon & evening light into the house. There is a gorgeous bougainvillea that blooms non-stop, a lime tree that made so many limes our first year here that we had margaritas for 2 months, a purple sweet potato plant that attracts huge butterflies, and a full, gorgeous pear tree that provides the perfect amount of shade.
This house has been a birder’s dream, starting with our next door neighbor’s pet duck Charlie (who passed away a few months ago). We’re on the route for the crows where they gather for their roost, so every morning & night they fly by in droves. There are finches singing in the bougainvillea, in the Spring a mockingbird sings for over 30 minutes each morning starting at 5:50am, and we’ve spotted owls, parrots, & paired-up doves on our walks. And, of course, the hummingbird nest! The babies left a few weeks ago, and now a new momma hummingbird has laid eggs in the same nest and is guarding it ferociously.
Each night our house settles with a crack when we are in bed. This happens each night! We watched the blood moon rise at the end of our street, Jupiter, Venus, Orion as we sat on the back patio, many sunrises over the mountains at the end of the street, and the fireworks over downtown from our front porch. It’s been a good 2 years.
Things are always changing. We’re excited to move to an old craftsman with a gorgeous kitchen and a dining room that has a huge skylight. Our new neighbors say that there is a ton of great birds at our new place… We’ll make new memories at the new house – our time at the current one is up.
As we’ve been packing I read George Saunders Lincoln in the Bardo – perfect timing because this book is about how nothing lasts forever. Everything is fleeting and brief. And most importantly, how do we go on when we all know this is true?
Saunders is a master storyteller (Tenth of December!!). This odd, perfect book confirms it. It takes place one night in a graveyard where President Lincoln’s son Willie now resides. Willie is in a state of being “in-between” – a sort-of purgatory or bardo. The backdrop is the beginning of the Civil War and all the horrors that humans inflict on one another. The narrative structure is unique – Saunders assembles a group of people in the bardo who resemble a greek chorus of voices telling the story. It takes some getting used to, but the strange story-telling combines like a poem to provide an overall feeling that scrapes your insides raw.
Saunders heartbreakingly writes “All were in sorrow, or had been, or soon would be…we must try to see one another in that way” and “I was in error when I saw him as fixed and stable and thought I would have him forever. He was never fixed, nor stable, but always just a passing temporary energy-burst.” Over and over again, we are reminded by Saunders that the line between life and death is so thin. So, so fragile.
The novel is also a call to action in many ways (Lincoln, the citizens of the Bardo). A reminder that life is so, so short and we all need to look out for one another. Raise each other up. Putting up with evil and bullies and ignorance and manipulation is not okay.
This fucked up administration will not last forever either. These times won’t last forever.
I looked forward to all of the books below – but I ended up not liking most of them. Is it a reflection of where I am at emotionally or the books? The Tournament of Books was recently held (with “The Underground Railroad” taking home the prize – no surprise there!), and a common theme with the judges seemed to be a general feeling of having a hard time reading/concentrating. A general feeling of “what the f%&* is going on.” That is definitely happening to me. The only people not worried are those not paying attention or those just watching state-run news.
Anyways, these may be good books but they didn’t work for me at this point…
Brit Bennett’s The Mothers – A debut novel with tons of positive reviews about choices that can follow us our entire lives. It takes place in Oceanside & Ann Arbor. I read it fast, but got to the end and thought it was just okay.
Zadie Smith’s Swingtime – I listened to this on audio and don’t think I would have finished it if I wasn’t always stuck in traffic. Parts of it were really good, and parts not so good. If you are a fan of Smith it’s worth reading – if you’ve never read her, read her other books first.
Michael Chabon’s Moonglow – I literally could not get past page 25. Couldn’t do it.
Ayelet Waldman’s A Really Good Day – Waldman is married to Chabon (of the previously mentioned book), and I always enjoy her brutal, almost awkward, honesty (she’s the writer who famously said she loves her husband more than her kids and people freaked out about it). This book describes her experience micro-dosing on LSD to combat mood swings. It’s a really interesting look at mood disorders and our drug culture.
Some stuff I’m liking right now:
Wendell Berry’s Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
It’s been a few years since I read it, now I keep reading it over & over, especially the opening lines:
Love the quick profit, the annual raise, vacation with pay. Want more of everything ready-made. Be afraid to know your neighbors and to die. And you will have a window in your head. Not even your future will be a mystery any more. Your mind will be punched in a card and shut away in a little drawer. When they want you to buy something they will call you. When they want you to die for profit they will let you know.
I recently discovered Ada Limon and I love this one:
“What it looks like to us and the words we use”
SO MUCH GOOD WRITING IN THE GUARDIAN, NEW YORKER, NEW YORK TIMES, WASHINGTON POST, LA TIMES RIGHT NOW…
If you don’t think we’re living in a version of The Handmaiden’s Tale read this article about our weak Vice President. What a weak, weak, pathetic man.
Margaret Atwood on what “The Handmaiden’s Tale” means in the age of Trump.
Stephen King on Donald Trump: “How do such men rise? First as a joke”