Dragonfruit Flower

Bookends: September 2020

As I see posts about pumpkin spice and cozy sweaters, the highs for the next few days are at or near 100. Autumn is my favorite season everywhere but San Diego. Here it’s wildfire season, and that’s not as fun as leaves changing color and a nip in the air and apple picking and hay rides. But there are a lot of upsides to living in Southern California, too, like seeing dragonfruit flowers on neighborhood walks (see image above).

And no matter what the season, I look forward to books.

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Bookends: August 2020

Parsley hoping some swallowtail butterflies will visit.

As September begins, our county has just been downgraded from the “widespread” to the “substantial” tier of COVID-19 presence, which means some indoor things are opening back up again, some schools are starting in-person instruction, and I’m having flashbacks to June and the weeks preceding a huge jump in cases that put us on the state’s watch list this summer. September, it seems, is the new June, which means October will likely be the new July, and all of that means my family is trying to get our few errands done and then hunker down again before things get worse. But that’s actually okay by me because I’ve realized this month that I don’t miss people. There’s a handful of people I’d not mind seeing and even fewer with whom I actually go out of my way to interact via phone or video chat, but I have no desire to go back to any of the casual, in-the-course-of-business interactions that I spent so much time and energy on pre-pandemic. It turns out I really like spending all of my time with my favorite people, which is quite lucky.

As you might have guessed, during the time I spend not going places and not practicing small-talk, I’ve been reading. As a change of pace, and inspired by Nick Hornby’s Ten Years in the Tub (which I have not yet finished), I’m going to try saying a little more about the books I’ve finished this month rather than just listing the titles. We’ll see how that goes.

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Bookends: July 2020

Although July wasn’t really any better than June, and in some ways it was even worse, I find myself in a better frame of mind at the end of July than I was at the end of June.

For one thing, my cat died. This in itself is a very sad and super-sucky thing that kind of set the tone for the month and made everything much more difficult to handle for a while, but it also helped me put things in perspective a little. There’s this huge, chaotic, awfulness on a macro scale, but at the same time there are micro-moments with my little family that are both closer to my heart and closer to my sphere of influence. This month I’ve started to focus more on those little moments, which helps me avoid a lot of overwhelm.

It also helps that I remembered meditation existed this month and managed to silence the little voice that said meditation apps are stupid and I don’t need them because I already know how to meditate and just need to sit down and do it. I tried out Headspace and found that I quite like it. Their courses addressing specific concerns, issues, or techniques are well done and progress logically, and the ability to select the length of each meditation and listen from the desktop site as well as the app helps me work it into my schedule even when I’m busy. I’ve been meditating daily for most of the month, and it’s really helped me with that “appreciating micro-moments” thing I mentioned.

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Bookends: June 2020

With rising rates of COVID-19 combined with the annual question mark of the flu season (and did you know you can get both at the same time? Fun!), the second half of 2020 and beyond looks a little hairy.

At this point it appears inadvisable to rely on the implementation of common-sense measures, particularly widespread testing, comprehensive contact tracing, financial support for employees to take off work while ill and after proven exposure, guaranteed medical coverage for those who are out of work or who don’t have access to health insurance through their employers, and back-to-school plans that include routine testing and basic safeguards that offices are putting in place, so our family is preparing to batten down the hatches for fall and winter. This includes attempting to get my daughter’s braces removed, making a plan to maintain an inventory of non-perishable foods to avoid exposure in stores and to prepare for shortages, arranging for meaningful remote social interaction (virtual scout troops ftw!), making a book-procurement plan, keeping an eye out for outdoor flu vaccine clinics, and trying to find a working relationship with my near-debilitating existentialism.

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Bookends: May 2020

Late May involved a convergence of paradigm-challenging elements.

There’s COVID-19 and the ongoing stay-at-home order coupled with the gradual easing of restrictions, which brings both a sense of hope that we’re safe to move about more freely and anxiety that we’re no more ready than we were three months ago and the worst is yet to come.

There are the demonstrations in our city and throughout the country in support of addressing and moving towards ending endemic racism and the violence it perpetuates, which brings both hope that there’s the energy and will to bring lasting change and anxiety that the path there will reveal things about ourselves as individuals and as a society that are difficult to reconcile with the stories we’re used to telling ourselves.

And in the midst of all of this, our family has begun a new homeschool history and literature curriculum that brings a more balanced view of the founding and evolution of the United States than I received in school. So for us these real-world events are happening against the backdrop of increased awareness of our country’s history of settler colonialism, enslavement, and genocide alongside our stated ideals of democratic rule, civil liberties, and equal application of justice. On the one hand, it’s comforting to see our current situation in the context of an ongoing development of democratic ideals. On the other, I am more acutely aware of the precariousness of our institutions and the vulnerabilities of our species and I’m adjusting to a new foundation of understanding, which is welcome in the long-term but unsettling in the short-term. Hope and anxiety once again.

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