Last night there was almost a full moon. A waning gibbous, on the way out. The last Cold Moon of a not too cold winter. 2020 is over at last, though of course nothing has changed. The ball dropped in Times Square (or so I’m told) without a crowd to witness the arrival of the new year. I was asleep. By morning, the updated tally of new cases and deaths from the virus reached new highs and the public health officials on the morning’s new shows predicted that January and February 2021 would be brutal.
Next year, they said. Next year, we will celebrate. But first… and they list all the things that need to change before life returns to normal.
And all anyone keeps saying is “Good Riddance to 2020.” Via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, of course, because no one was supposed to gather, and if they did, it was in secret, and will inevitably have consequences.
In Florida, seniors lined the streets overnight hoping to get vaccinated, and this is only because the state government refused to listen to CDC guidelines which would have them giving the available doses to front-line workers and healthcare professionals. Health professionals all over the country are in despair, unvaccinated as they hold the hand of patients, too many of whom will die on their watch.
Once again, the US has bungled its response to the virus. Despite the impressive speed with which scientists developed, tested, and shipped vaccines, the lack of federal coordination and support to states and localities left millions of doses expiring in refrigerators, not yet reaching an arm. There is no use in assigning blame. So far, we learned this accomplished nothing. We are still waiting for the transition, clinging to hope that then things will change.
Melania (you knew I would get there) spent December redecorating Mar-a-Lago, preparing for a life after the White House despite her husband’s refusal to accept his defeat. When the first couple arrived at their southern abode for the holidays, Trump threw a hissy fit. He HATED the renovations, disparaged the dark wood and subtle color palette Melania had chosen, and demanded they rip out the renovations at once. Instead of hosting the annual black-tie New Year’s Eve party at his resort, he returned to the White House on Air Force 1, his hand resting on Melania’s back as he guided her past the cluster of journalists on the White House lawn. No one knows what he is up to. Her hair was less than perfect, and her face (well, you know the drill) revealed nothing.
So far. the only difference between 2020 and 2021 is that all of this seems normal. Who expected to be hugged at midnight, anyway? Resolutions won’t change anything. And who ever sticks to them anyhow? We are still holding our breath.
Instead of celebrating the New Year, I made a list of more significant dates.
January 5. The Georgia election.
January 6. The validation of the electoral college vote by the joint houses of congress.
January 20. The inauguration.
February (or maybe March) Our turn to be vaccinated.
April. My husband’s 75th birthday and my grandson’s 10th. Will we celebrate with family? Will I hug my grandson before he shakes off my approach with a precocious adolescent snarl?
Spring. Summer. Longer Days. Open windows. I calculate how long before they will come.
It's News Years Day, I can’t exhale.
Favorite gifts missing from under your tree? No worries! Propertius Press has some great suggestions in their bookstore at www.visitourbookstore.com with free shipping to US addresses!
Despite the pandemic and lockdown, my co-authors of Microbursts been productive this year, with two newly released publications. Check them out!
Eileen P. Kennedy: Touch my Head Softly
“Touch My Head Softly, a collection of poems, by Eileen P. Kennedy
Finishing Line Press announces Eileen P. Kennedy’s new book of poems, Touch My Head Softly. The collection brings to life the sensitive relationship of a college professor living with Alzheimer’s and his partner.
“There is a blaze of meaning in every line of these poems,” writes Prageeta Sharma, author of Grief Sequence. In Touch My Head Softly, Kennedy’s poems “captivate us with their sheer will and force because they build and form lines of eloquent determinacies saying everything that is hard to say with such deep, affective tonal conviction and craft.
Order the book at:
Jane McPhetres Johnson: Maven Reaches Mars
MAVEN REACHES MARS: Home Poems and Space Probes in Four Fascicles looks around at a world in crisis and asks, “Where am I?” and “How did I get here?” and by the way, “Who am I?”
McPhetres Johnson’s first published book is a life’s work—more than 90 poems all in one place, painstakingly edited and carefully curated over a 50-year pursuit that has largely been a solo flight. Now, with intricate drawings by Portuguese artist Maria Greene, in the pandemic year of 2020, in the narrow window between Halloween and a momentous election day, Johnson’s compelling personal and political opus Maven Reaches Mars finally arrives.
Amherst Arts Night Virtual Reading: September 3, 2020 at 6:30PM – REMOTE PROGRAM
Facebook Live Link: Watch Now
During the pandemic, the Emily Dickinson Museum is celebrating monthly Amherst Arts Night Plus with remote poetry readings every first Thursday.
Join us for our September reading by three Pioneer Valley authors with new books this year. Crater & Tower (Duck Lake Books) by Cheryl J. Fish is a collection of poetry of inspired research and engaged imagination that centers on the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens and 9/11. Kathryn Holzman’s historical novel, Real Estate (Propertius Press) is a fascinating account of the rise of Silicon Valley. Eileen P. Kennedy’s poetry collection, Touch My Head Softly (Finishing Line Press) sensitively explores the anguish of dying of Alzheimer’s disease for both the victim and the partner.
This program is free to attend. Registration is required. To sign-up and receive the link, click here.
Our September featured writers are:
Kathryn Holzman: After attending Stanford University and NYU, Kathryn Holzman chose Health Care Administration as a career, working with public inebriates, dentists, urologists, and cardiologists. When the right side of her brain rebelled against endless databases and balance sheets, she returned to her first passion—fiction. Her short fiction has appeared in over twenty online literary magazines and print anthologies. She is the author of a collection of short fiction, Flatlanders (Shire Press, 2019) Her first novel Real Estate is being published by Propertius Press in Fall, 2020. She was awarded the Grand Prize in the 2020 Eyelands International Short Story Contest. Links to her work can be found at kathrynholzman.com.
Cheryl J. Fish: Cheryl J. Fish’s new poetry book Crater & Tower (Duck Lake Books), examines trauma, natural and man-made disaster at Mount St. Helens Volcano and The World Trade Center after the 9-11 attack. Fish is also the author of Make It Funny, Make it Last (#171, Belladonna Chaplets) and her poetry has appeared in the recent ecopoetics anthology: Poetics for the more-than-human-world. Her fiction was featured in Liars League NYC, Iron Horse Literary Review, and her first novel, Off the Yoga Mat, about three characters turning age 40 during Y2K, will be published by Livingston Press in 2022. She was a visiting professor at Mt. Holyoke College, and is a professor of English at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York.
Eileen P. Kennedy: Eileen P. Kennedy is a poet and academic who has focused on the writing process. Her former partner died of Alzheimer’s Disease in his 60’s and this new collection, Touch My Head Softly (Finishing Line Press), is based on those experiences. Her first book, Banshees (Flutter Press, 2015) was nominated for a Pushcart and awarded Second Prize from the Wordwrite Books Award in Poetry. She holds a doctorate in language and literacy and has published a textbook, fiction and nonfiction. She lives in Western Massachusetts where she canoes, hikes, and writes. She winters in Costa Rica. More at www.EileenPKennedy.com.
Posted in Events & News.
The Emily Dickinson Museum
280 Main Street, Amherst MA 01002
Many thanks to the Straw Dogs Pandemic Project for including work from our Friday
Morning Writers Group in their ongoing series. Check it out: http://www.strawdogwriters.org/pandemicproject
by Eileen P. Kennedy
When this is over
may we not scorn and forget
the feel of a hand
Published June 13, 2020 by Straw Dog Writers’ Guild, Pandemic Project
Jane's McPhetres Johnson's How Virulent:
Kathryn Holzman's Pandemic Pilgrimage
Epi's 2020 Hindsight
Eyelands international short story & flash fiction contest
Eyelands 10 ISSC – ”Numbers”: Results
We are glad to announce the results of Eyelands.gr & Strange Days Books 10th short story contest (international section). Theme: Numbers
The Long Lost Bottom, by Kathryn Holzman / USA
First prize is a 5 day holiday at Three Rock, Crete, in August/ September 2020. The grand prize winning writer will be a guest of honour and present his/her story and his/her work in the 6th Sand Festival. Air tickets not included. She will also get a handmade ceramic gift.
Still sheltering in Vermont. Winter has dissolved into spring and summer is on our doorstep.
Thanks to Zoom, we have discovered new ways to get together during the Cov19 Pandemic.
My Amherst writing group meets weekly, and continues to share exciting new work. Congratulations to Eileen Kennedy who has shared with us drafts of her upcoming Chapbook, Touch My Head Softly which is being published next year by Finish Line Press. Here is a link to her recent reading (via Zoom, of course): Amherst Arts Night Plus. We are all anxiously awaiting Jane's book, Maven Reaches Mars: Home Poems and Space Probes in Four Fascicles, an ambitious compilation of her life's work.
Here in Vermont, I have joined up with two other novelists I met at the Green Mountain Writers Conference. Each of us is at work on a novel and we "meet" weekly for feedback on our (very different) novels. Caren McVicker has written a delightful blog entry discussing our process. Read it here: Caren's blog.
I thoroughly enjoyed the on-line book club through Restless Readers and the Jones Library this week. We discussed Passing, by Netta Larson., a fascinating novel about two women during the Harlem Renaissance. I even saw a few familiar faces against the backdrop of their living rooms.
And when all else fails, Zoom cocktail hours are the perfect get-together at the end of the day, especially with wines hand picked by Joel Mitchel of Beekman Wine & Liquors . But first, I need to get today's walk in. The hummingbirds are back!!!
It’s St. Patrick’s Day and snow is falling outside my window. Day #4 of social distancing. The four states where I have lived are on the top of the virus outbreak charts.
My husband and I start our isolation as a negotiation.
If you cancel our date with A&B, I say, I’ll cancel with C&D. Both couples are more social than we were, and the possibility that they might have contracted the virus was worrisome. In retirement, our conversations too often center on doctor’s visits, elective surgery, and physical therapy, but our friends emphasize their healthy lifestyles, their resilience. None of them accept the tagline “most vulnerable,” but the guidelines continue to lump us all in, so we cancel our social engagements.
If you don’t go to Planet Fitness, I say, I won’t go to yoga. These are bigger sacrifices. Both of us need to keep moving, or we get ragged at the edges.
The Chinese student my husband tutors cancels their meet up. Be well, Mr. Lew. She e-mails him in English he has yet to polish.
In a flurry of emails, my book club tries to figure out how we will discuss Faulkner, but the retired academicians are not familiar with social networking sites that will facilitate a live discussion of Absalom, Absalom so the e-mail trail goes cold.
My husband throws down the trump card: maybe we should go to Vermont and wait this out.
With a wisp of collusion, my son texts: you shouldn’t be around my kids. Why don’t you go up to Vermont?
What choice do I have? Everybody who knows me knows Vermont is my happy place. Our modest cabin with its pine planked walls and windows facing the Green Mountains is cozy and comfortable. The wood stove heats the house to a cozy 70 degrees and the cats love to stretch out on the stove rug, baking themselves in the heat.
So here I am and now Phil Scott, the VT governor, laments the second homeowners who have flocked to Vermont to escape the pandemic, one half of the positive tests administered in the state. A drain on our resources, he says.
Blindsided, Trumps says. We knew this would happen; the scientists reply. You’ll wake up one morning, our president says, and it will be over.
We aren’t quibbling yet, but it’s inevitable. My husband and I agree on a schedule. One week at a time, we say. We’ll stay seven days, two weeks at most. Now the governors say it could be months. The schools have closed.
Social distancing comes easily to me, I told an acquaintance at the outset. A lie I begin to see through.
In front of the fire, we cling to our devices, quoting outbreak statistics. I share sites with my son that might entertain his children. Even Trump seems scared now, and the cities where I have lived are locking down one by one. Looking at the outbreak map, I see a map my life in gray circles.
Seattle, my birthplace, is the first to skid to a stop. Every summer of my childhood I visited my grandparents, first at the summer home on Bainbridge Island, and later in an over-55 apartment building in the shadow of the newly erected space needle. Now the elderly there are dying, locked into nursing homes and hospices, their families waving through outside windows.
San Francisco and Santa Clara county, where I was raised, the next to go. Locked down, everyone working from home. (WFH, my son texts.) The streets are empty, a former student of my husband e-mails. I image the nouveau riche tapping away, their children pulling at their sleeves. Daddy, I’m bored. Mommy, she hit me. All the restless energy threatening to go ballistic.
New York City follows, the magnet that drew me in my twenties, where standing elbow to elbow is a basic survival tool. The streets slowly empty, and the subways slow. The national news shows a high school orchestra playing its cancelled concert in Times Square, and I think, why aren’t these children five feet apart? The outbreak there starts in the suburbs, a lawyer in the bridge and tunnel crowd from Westchester infecting half a dozen people before he ends up in critical care.
New Jersey, the bedroom communities where we raised our son, follows, always in the shadow of New York. Teaneck residents are instructed not to leave their homes as the outbreak spreads exponentially. The pandemic cannot be stopped now; they are trying to smooth the curve.
Next on the list, Massachusetts, where my husband and I retired, lured by the open spaces and dynamic academic communities. Here, a scientific meeting at a Boston hotel seeds the spread, the attendees returning to their communities infected, communicable, and coughing. So far, no one has died, but we know that will be next.
So, what choice to I have but to watch the snowflakes fall? Phil Scott will have to understand. We’ve paid property taxes here for over 15 years, so in the, hopefully unlikely, event that I tap into the state’s resources, he’ll have toforgive me. In the meantime, I have a treadmill, a stack of books, and the Kripalu cookbook.
Unprecedented, the reporters chime. Wall Street panics and churches go online. I’m afraid when my husband kisses me after a trip to the post office. I ask him not to go to the dump.
Massachusetts Governor Baker warns: If everybody treats this like an extended spring break, we all will suffer.
We arrived when skiers were still sliding down Mt. Snow. Now the resorts have closed, giving visitors less than 24 hours to head home. We take our daily walk; the dirt roads are quiet. Only the chickadees sing. And even when we see a lone walker, we keep our distance.
I don’t want Vermont high on that list. But we’re all in this together. Already, I miss welcoming hugs from my neighbors, the warmth of a community that rallied after storm Irene and gathers at Town Hall for intimate concerts. The partnership between locals and flatlanders in Vermont is as much a staple as cheddar cheese or maple syrup.
Next weekend the sugar houses hold their annual open houses. I suppose these too will be cancelled.
Hopefully, we will inhale the sweet aroma, even from a distance.
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