Politics as Usual? The Shocking Cameraderie of the Washington State Legislature

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Excatly two weeks and one day after THIS…

(Image by Tyler Merbler, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

…I was scheduled to testify at a hearing on a bill in the legislature of my state, The Other Washington.

THIS place: Olympia, WA. (Image by MathTeacherGuy, courtesy Creative Commons)

Of course, what with COVID, the hearing wasn’t in Olympia, but on Zoom, along with gazillion other meetings. (Just curious: what do we do when Zoom fills up? A good koan for medition.)

The bill in question was HB 1090, which aims to ban all for-profit, privately-run prisons in Washington State by 2025. Having been involved for a couple of years in the campaign to close the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma–packed to an inhuman degree with detained immigrants–I had signed up to give my two cents’ worth on why for-profit prisons are a terrible idea.

The NWDC. (photo by Eldan, courtesy Creative Commons)

When I Zoomed in at 1:30, House Public Safety Committee Chair Roger Goodman was announcing the lineup for the 2-hour session. It sounded ambitious. First up: amendments on two different bills: one restricting police car chases, one banning no-knock warrants. Then came public comment on two other bills: one refining the definition of hate crime, the other allowing survivors of sexual assault improved access to the progress of their cases and better overall care. Finally, at the end: “my” bill, 1090.

Oooookay, I thought. Maybe I’ll go make a cup of tea and check back in an hour.

But before I wandered away, something caught my attention. The same something that has probably caught all of America’s attention beginning this past Wednesday, Inauguration Day. That something was…civility.

A minority Republican on the committee–a beefy White guy in a Statue of Liberty necktie–was making an argument about an amendment on the car-chase bill. Talking about the Democratic sponsor of the bill, I heard him say, “…though I love and respect him as a person…” Then the Democratic Chair was allaying the Republican’s fears. And then they thanked each other.

Wait. Wait. No snark, no snarling? I barely recognize this tone…like a Golden Oldie playing softly in the background. Mesmerizing.

So I stayed right where I was. I watched that same burly Republican Representative have another of his amendments voted down–he wanted to allow the police broader scope to continue with no-knock warrants (like the one that killed Breonna Taylor in 2020). Still: no rancor, no posturing. Just–“just!”–courtesy.

I watched prosecutors and brave victims of hate crimes testify in favor of HB 1071, which refines the definition of a hate crime to reflect the reality of what people are facing. I watched legislators from both parties thank the participants with zero grandstanding or finger-pointing.

I watched the Republican and Democratic co-sponsors of the Sexual Assault Rights Bill (HB 1109–described as a model for the nation!) sing each other’s praises for the hard road they’ve traveled together since, apparently, 2015. I watched Rep. Burly Republican tear up as he articulated his concerns about sexual assault victims.

They’re all so respectful! So pleasant! I wanted to run into that Zoom room and hug the entire committee.

By the time they got to the private prisons bill, of course, they were out of time. Only a couple of the dozens of folks signed up to speak got to do so.

Did I mind? Not one bit. That two hours of civil civic discourse was as encouraging as a COVID shot. I felt unexpectedly innoculated against political cynicism.

“Well, sure,” my Mate said when I told him about it, “that’s Washington State for you.” I think he meant, y’know, we’re practically Canadians. But no: our governor’s mansion was also attacked on January 6. We’re every bit as vulnerable to the political virus as any other state.

So…feeling pessimistic about political polarization? Depressed at the divide? Take two of these and call me in the morning–“these” being a couple of the most rivetingly boring hours ever, listening to politicians act like grownups together.

Yes, It’s a Promo. That Does Happen Here Occasionally.

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This Friday, Jan. 22 @ 5:30 PCT (that’s 8:30 Eastern), please join me via Zoom for a reading from my YA novel Altitude. Authors Kip Greenthal and Laurie Parker will follow. Thanks to Nikyta Palmisani for organizing this event, “Hygge in the Heart”! See you there in your little Zoom square!

https://urldefense.com/v3/__https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https*3A*2F*2Fus02web.zoom.us*2Fj*2F85228057303*3Fpwd*3DQS9rVkQ4LzNiL1cwdEZBRzg4MkY0dz09*26fbclid*3DIwAR3FC2p9UsPlFAQBRvzdO3GSN6ay… See More

The Next Right Thing

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If you’re new to this blog, you might not know that I created it with little enthusiasm back, oh, nine years ago, when the People Who Know Such Things convinced me that I, as an Author, needed a Platform.

Then a funny thing happened. I started to enjoy blogging. Especially since “Wing’s World” has remained fairly untethered to theme. What’s not to love when you can blog one week about kale salad, and the next about how many times you’ve run around Planet Earth? As a writer, I did try to steer clear of two topics: writing about writing—boooooring—and politics: divisive.

Then an unfunny thing happened: the last four years. And I’ve found myself increasingly drawn toward topics of justice that need addressing, and increasingly uncomfortable blogging with my usual whimsy. While I appreciate lightheartedness in the writing of others, for myself it feels too much like fiddling while Rome burns.

But who needs more blog posts about everything that’s dire? And so I respond with…silence. My posting has gone from a robust twice-weekly clip to weekly…to biweekly…to whenever the hell I feel like it. And I haven’t felt like it.

(photo by rbaez, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Can I get an “Amen”?

Then on a walk the other day, doing my Mary-Oliver-best to let the wild wind and whitecaps and dripping mosses capture all of me, I thought back to a podcast I’d just heard, which reminded me of a hackneyed but super useful concept I learned back in the 90’s. That concept: the Circle of Control from good ol’ Stephen Covey—remember the 7 Habits guy?

[Copyright Stephen Covey]

EVERYONE should be able to relate to this. Life feeling out of control? Too much, too fast, too hard? Well…what are you in charge of? Eating a healthy breakfast? Reading a book to a child? Do that. Start there.

Now that I think about it, it’s quite similar, in fact, to the Serenity Prayer. Probably smarter people than I have already noted this.

You know: this. (image courtesy Etsy.com)

Anyway, that podcast which started this train of thought? An episode of NPR’s Invisibilia featured an extraordinary woman in Scotland, Joy Milne, who discovered she has the superpower of being able to smell diseases in people. Terminal diseases. Which means she can meet someone and know how close to death they may be—even if they don’t know it themselves. Which means she can, in a way, see the future…without being able to control it. 

Talk about “too much”!

Along her journey of discovery—that is, science discovering this woman and putting her power to use—Joy befriended another woman, suffering from Parkinson’s, whose mantra for living with her disease seems to be actually defeating it. This woman says that, in the face of terminal out-of-controlness, she simply tries to “do the next right thing.”

I like that phrase even better than “Circle of Control.” It’s more humble, more tender, more…real.

Throughout most of 2020 (or COVIDCOVID if you prefer), my “next right things” included working on my book, and working to help save America from Donald Trump. [Pictured: my phonebank tallies. Including the calls for the Georgia runoff (which already feels like a year ago), I made approximately 3,000 calls.]

Since that time, conditions in our country and our world feel more out of control than ever–all the more so from having spun away just in the budding of hope. My back pain is not improving. And my writing project is stalled (yes, I WILL write about that when I am able).

In short, I need some new, modest enterprises to function as Serenity Prayer. So here are three:

–a local online tutoring project for kids in our community

–a phone-calling and letter-writing campaign to shut down private prisons in Washington State

–training our new big, overly-enthusiastic dog

Who, me?

Are these projects blogworthy? We’ll see. Of course they’re wildly divergent in scope and tenor. But they do have one thing in common: for me, in 2021’s crazy start, they all feel like the next right thing.

And what is yours? Please share.

COVID-19 Vaccine—It’s About Community

I am so lucky to have in my writers’ group Iris Graville, who is not only a skilled writer but a retired public health nurse! Her post on the vaccine is so informative and hopeful (in a realistic way), I’m excited to share it. Take it away, Iris!

Iris Graville - Author

Here’s what community looks like where I live in Washington state’s San Juan Islands. We make meals when a new baby arrives or when someone goes through a health crisis.When a family’s house burns down, we give shelter and help build a new one. Some of us mentor school kids, others drive shuttles for seniors, and many serve on the boards of local non-profits and government entities. I know the same actions happen lots of places.

Soon, there’ll be another important way to demonstrate community—receiving COVID-19 immunizations.

With FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval of two COVID vaccines, some emergency services personnel, health care providers, and long-term care staff and residents are already being immunized. In the coming weeks and months, the vaccine will be available to increasing numbers of people, and it’s possible more vaccines will be approved.

Many wonder, though, if enough…

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Working On Our Core: the Search for America’s Hidden Abdominals

As a woman who’s included “runner” as part of her identity since 1967 (true story), I’ve only recently joined the ranks of those smarter humans who treat their body as an entire vehicle, paying attention to all the parts–not just the ones that make me run faster.

Oh, 2013, I miss you so much. Those days are NOT coming back. (photo by Barb Mondloch)

I’m talking core. As in, that middle part of me that is apparently my secret weapon against the back pain that’s been messing with my routine. That part the rest of y’all have probably all been working on all this time, rolling your eyes at me for taking my body for granted. (Oh, sorry–that’s the Mate who does that, not you. Probably.)

Trying to remember the name of the muscles I’m engaging here.

Anyway, all this lying-on-the-floor-trying-to-get-in-touch-with-muscles-I’ve-never-heard-of stuff has me thinking about our country. Because, like “runner,” another identity I’ve taken for granted my entire life is “American.” And lately that identity, like the disc in my lower back, has started to fray, sending shocks of pain throughout my spirit.

Is this who we are? A nation of separate realities, separate truths? Is this 2020, or 1860?

You don’t need me to say more. You know what I mean. And you have probably been doing the same kind of wondering: where is that secret, hidden muscle we need to work, the one that binds us, keeps our body politic from falling apart?

Am I heading in the right direction? Reaching for the right solution?

I want to say that muscle is simply compassion–but how simple is compassion? In these days when each tribe thinks the other wants to destroy it? Can I make myself wish the best for, oh, I don’t know, a Michael Flynn, who urges a do-over of our entire election, or a Kelly Loeffler, who refuses even to acknowledge that’s what her leadership wants? Can I wish compassion for Trump or for people who scream his name without masks?

As I write this, I can hear John Lewis’s voice in my head:

“You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone — any person or any force — dampen, dim or diminish your light … Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won.” (from Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America)

I know, Congressman. I know. But it’s so HARD.

What “exercises” are you trying to strengthen your commitment to a “more perfect Union” in these fraught months? I would love to add them to my new routine.

Teaching an Old Human New Tricks: DogBlog

Hey. HEY.

Talkin’ to YOOOOO.

The name’s Maya. Got any treats? Oops, I mean…pleased to meetcha. My new human, Gretchen, has been spending way too much time on this tappity-tappity black thing, so I thought I’d take over for a while. My house, my rules.

I just got here, less than a week ago, and I’m satisfied that I am now Queen of the Household. I just need to vent a little about the humans who brought me to my new realm.

Our first meeting. I allowed them to rub my belly.

They SAY they are dog people. Malamute people, in fact–I’ve heard them bragging to other humans that I am actually their third Malamute. They speak often of a certain “Mickey,” “Molly,” and…whatshername…”Juniper.” Mickey apparently died young, whatever that means. Molly lived as long as she wanted to, apparently a long-ass time.

She was, it seems, also a Queen. Survey your realm, Queen Molly!

This “Juni” seems to have acted more like a cat, if you can believe that. Seems she was very, very, VERY fluffy. Didn’t like getting dirty or wet. (Ughh. Can’t believe I’m talking about cats.)

Like I said: fluffy.

She did like strong wind, they say–probably the only time the air could ever penetrate to her skin!

Hahaha, silly Juni. Should’ve shed harder.

Anyway, it’s just hard to believe these new humans of mine are so “experienced.” They seem awfully untrained to me.

First of all, they brought me here to my new realm not just in a car, but on a boat.

Something about a “fairy”? Didn’t get that part.

I was not a fan of this. I drooled a LOT.

That’ll teach ’em.

Once established in my new dwelling, they keep trying to take me places on a leash. Oh, humans. What’s the good of a leash when there are so many deer and bunnies to chase? I can just smell ’em!

You may drop the leash. Really. I’m good.

And when we do go places? We WALK. No running! I hear both of my humans bragging about how they used to be “distance runners,” but apparently now they’re too old and washed-up to do more than trot with me. No chase! No catch-me-if-you-can!

They even have to enlist their son, a grownup Human Puppy, to play Tug o’ War with me.

They also complain that I want too much attention. Well, what do they expect? Molly and Juni had each other to play with. I have only…sigh…them.

Maybe they’ll procure me my own puppy to play with.

The house is full of Molly & Juni’s puppy pictures. Well, how nice for them. Nobody wanted me when I was a puppy. That’s why I came to live here…and that’s why I’m for sure Queen of this place!

Never going anywhere again, furever and ever.

Oh please, don’t mind me. Walk around.

Anyhow, just wanted to say, to any of you other Kings and Queens out there: feel free to share your stories about how you whipped your humans into shape! Might be good for a howl.

The Annual Thanksgiving Post: Full of Respair

Here we go. This horrible year, 2020, I am thankful for…

…being able to feel thankful. (Will that become the new meaning of “2020 hindsight”?)

…a friend who sent me the link to the podcast, “A Way With Words,” where I learned, just in time, of the word “respair,” which means to have hope again. Seriously!!!! Yes.

…flowers.

…mushrooms taking the place of flowers when flowers are not available. (Could there be a lesson here?)

Beautiful local veggies also filling that flower-role, and way tastier.

…Zoom (can I get an Amen?).

Say “Happy Birthday, Dad!”

Beauty close to home.

Thanksgiving dinner made of leftovers, and no pie, because–the Mate’s birthday cake is the queen of all!

Happy Birthday, babe.

Togetherness in any form, even masked. Health. Democracy. Music. Things I will never, ever, ever take for granted again.

As always, I would love to hear some of the things floating to the top of your list! Still standing? Let’s give thanks.

What’s Your Position on Positions?

Note: this post is NOT intended to elicit sympathy toward the author. If you notice any indications to the contrary, please feel free to slap her, remotely (there must be an emoji for that)–or just close the page.

These past couple of weeks I’ve been forced to think quite a bit about positions. Not political ones; I mean physical: lying down, sitting, and standing. Injuries acquired in the service of democracy* have me no longer taking these simple options for granted.

*turns out when you spend hours and hours and hours writing letters and making phone calls to voters, sitting at a table which is just SLIGHTLY the wrong height, your back takes its revenge.

Still worth it. I think.

Before my back started hurting, I was all about sitting. Like many jobs, working as a baker is about 98% bipedal, but I took every 2% chance I got to set my butt down, between rounds of butterhorns. (That doesn’t sound quite right, but you know what I mean.)

OK, these are not actually butterhorns…but gooey enough to be close. (photo courtesy Holly B’s Bakery)

Now? Sitting is the enemy. Even perching makes me pay a price. So what the heck. Let’s celebrate some of the gifts of the other positions, shall we?

LYING DOWN. Good for:

Sleeping–duh. And sex. And reading–like my latest recommendation, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. If you’re looking for short, lyrical pieces that fill you with the desire to go sit (or lie) in your favorite woods, and bring those woods to you if you’re stuck somewhere un-woodsy–this is your book. Get two copies, one for yourself and one for someone you care about.

Bad for:

Zoom. I really, really dislike seeing my future, double-chinned self staring back at me when I Zoom horizontally.

Not my favorite look.

STANDING. Good for:

When someone hands you a puppy.

Though in fairness, I would also have accepted this gift sitting down.

Appreciating sunsets.

Ditto.

Locomoting–which brings you to places where people might hand you a puppy, or to places of extra beauty. (It’s not impossible to locomote from a horizontal or sitting position–just harder.)

Pictured: place of extra beauty.

Bad for:

Knees. Also dizziness induced by drugs taken for back pain.

Which brings us back to…

SITTING. Good for:

Knees. (At least mine.)

All social situations where lying down isn’t quite appropriate (even if you wish it were).

Just sayin’–burgers while reclining could end…badly.

Bad for:

Me, right now. Which is why I’ve written this all on my back (not literally; now THAT would take some dexterity).

But–that fact, above? It’s actually a “good for,” because…well, look. What better time than a global pandemic to start appreciating things as basic as Sitting, Standing, and Lying Down?

Which is YOUR favorite? Tell me why.

America’s Road Ahead: Notes From a Real Roadie

The day after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were declared President- and Vice President-elect, I sat down to express my thoughts in this blog…and quickly realized someone had already expressed them for me. “Raven and Chickadee” is the blog of my friends Laurel and Eric, who left their home in Ashland, OR several years ago for a life on the road as full-time RV-ers. Until COVID, which…well, I’ll let Chickadee (Laurel) tell it. The photos are by Raven (Eric).

Bridging The Divide

Wow. Is it really over? I hope so. I am deeply relieved to step off of this insane election roller coaster.

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone who knows us that we did not vote for the incumbent. But this election has made me think long and hard about the state of our country.

Strangers In A Strange Land

Our hometown—Ashland, Oregon—is about as liberal a town as you’ll find anywhere. That’s one of the things that drew both Eric and me to live there many years ago. For decades, we lived in a town of like-minded folks, where the biggest controversy was how to humanely manage the deer mowing down people’s gardens.

We now find ourselves in Eastpoint, Florida—a stronghold of conservatives, where we are liberal outliers in a community rife with Trump flags and signs.

When we took to the road for our fulltime travels seven-and-a-half years ago, one of my fears was that we wouldn’t find people with whom we had anything in common. That has not turned out to be true. Our network of friends has expanded to a rich and satisfying tribe that extends from coast to coast.

In our travels, we’ve also discovered that people, by a vast majority, are decent. Even if we aren’t destined to become close friends, we’ve been touched time and again by the kindness of strangers, no matter what their political or religious beliefs. That includes our neighbors here in Eastpoint, who have been unfailingly kind and generous as we’ve navigated these difficult months of dealing with my parents’ home, my father’s death, and the pandemic.

The piney woods in North Florida

The Long Road Ahead

This election was certainly not the Blue Wave that we anticipated. While we are thrilled to have Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our new president and vice-president, it is painfully clear that we have a long road of healing ahead. And it’s up to us, the people, to heal our nation.

I hope we will be kind to one another, that we will approach each other in a spirit of generosity, that we will listen to each other’s concerns, that we will try to understand, and that we won’t fall into the seductive trap of labeling and dismissing anyone who votes or thinks differently. (I am excluding anyone who voted for Trump for racist reasons. That includes anyone flying a Confederate flag or wearing a MAGA hat. The time of white supremacy is long over, so get over it. )

We do not have an easy task ahead. Personally, I’ve had a field day with the absurdities of Trump over the past four years (along with feeling terrified and outraged). But along with the vast majority of our neighbors here in Eastpoint who voted for Trump, Eric and I both have family members and friends who voted for him. These are not racist, unkind, ungenerous people. They had their reasons for voting for Trump, just as we had our reasons for voting for Biden. Somehow, we need to find compromises.

The chasm is wide. But we have to bridge it, for the sake of one another, our country, and our world.

A utility trailer in Appalachicola

The Saving Grace of Tiny Things

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been phone-banking for the election. And as I’ve mentioned before, I still hate phone-banking just as much as when I started back in June.

My tally sheet, keeping track of calls. Closing in on 1,200 now.

But with less than a week till the election, the need to feel like part of the team is stronger than ever, and I don’t have any excuses. I only work part-time. My kids are grown. I’m a people person. And I know that good ol’ poly-sci research shows that Get Out the Vote phonecalls make the most difference right NOW.

Still, I found myself the other day staring longingly out the window as I waited for the “ThruTalk” dialer to connect me with some not-yet-voter in North Carolina. What a beautiful day! What am I doing indoors? And what…what in all the gods’ names is that?

Not pictured: “that.”

The sun was shining through the scruffy fir forest outside our house, and between each tree, strung among the branches like filaments of fire, were strands of…spider silk? Some other magical bug-excretion? The shining lines were all horizontal, as if the trees had decided to briefly represent their invisible communication through the most tender and celestial of metaphors.

I checked my watch: twelve minutes to go on my shift. Maybe eight more calls. Then I’d hurry out there with my camera to capture the magic.

But to my sorrow, when I hurried out thirteen minutes later, the filaments had all disappeared from my sight. Were they still there, dull without sunlight? Were they ever there at all?

Crestfallen, I looked around…and found some cheery wee mushrooms just dying to have their picture taken.

Hi guys!

That little episode reminded me of another photo I’d taken a couple of weeks ago, out for a walk between rainstorms. Some kind of tiny, bracketed stems of a bygone flower were making chandeliers among the lichens at my feet.

I’m sure the poet Mary Oliver would make way more of this than I, but how about this for an attempt: those filaments, those mushrooms, those droplets, those maybe-voters in North Carolina–aren’t they all really the same thing?