First, some formal business: for some time now, I’ve had this image in my head of Captain J. Disco of Provincetown, Massachusetts and his trusty sea dragon pool floatie, the USS Miss Missy (inspired by a personal nickname I gained from a sweet child I nannied for way back.)
To bring them to life, I worked with a talented illustrator — a young college woman in India who was traveling back and forth to her home from school while managing COVID lockdowns.
I am retiring The Mini, which I created to provide a looser framework for writing at the beginning of the pandemic. The new more-or-less monthly version will follow the same format as The Mini with a few tweaks. You may have noticed we’re starting with No. 24 — just aligning the number of editions I’ve posted here.
Also, look for something special in your inbox in the coming weeks. Another surprise! A new adventure! There might be stickers!
January is a month of considering, not doing. We’ve been in a self-imposed lockdown throughout this latest surge. I have been bundled up on the couch with Stephen, staring into space, having existential panic attacks, and obsessing about Darth Vader’s over-the-knee shiny footwear. (Is he wearing heels??) Outside, the storms — literally, we’ve had hurricane force gusts out here and there’s a blizzard warning in effect for tomorrow — will not settle.
They say things happen in seven-year cycles. Recently, we marked our first seven-year block of living here on the Cape full-time — much of it dominated by health issues and loss. But it’s also been a period of blossoming and growing into a whole world that wasn’t possible in the city. A world filled with foxes and birds, beach hikes and shark-dodging, forest surprises, glittery costumes, and quite a bit of day drinking.
In Boston, life was pretty much the same no matter what season we were in. Except I actually combed my hair. I worked in HR for almost 20 years, my days filled with everyone else’s problems. My sleepless nights filled with everyone else’s problems. Now I am disturbed exclusively by my own issues.
This past year was a struggle — surreal, painful, life-shattering. I am proud of myself for just surviving it. I also opened myself to others (including all of you). I invested in my relationships and ended those that did not bring me peace. I developed rituals and pathways through difficulty and grief. I connected to the land. I reconnected to my body and lost weight that had been dragging me down. I followed my curiosity. I rewrote old and inaccurate narratives about myself. I kept my commitments.
It has been a difficult journey, but one that puts me on higher ground from which to start the next seven-year era. Whenever that wind dies down. (Seriously, can we NOT keep doing 80+ mph wind gusts?)
The day my uncle died the turkeys did not come home. Stephen and I snuggled on the couch by the window waiting for them. He’d been kissing the tears off my face most of the day. They stayed away for four nights, visited again a few times, and then relocated permanently for coyote mating season. Maybe the turkeys sensed I had enough beings in this world to worry about. I am still trying to comprehend the reality of both my father and my uncle — the two boys of five siblings — dying from COVID, over a year apart.
I paged through my seed catalogs during the first snow storm of the year, Dave Brubeck my regular wintry weather soundtrack playing in the background. I made a promise to myself to cut back on my plantings this year (I had NINE pepper plants last year). I’m thinking watercress and French marigolds and a table-top mini tomato plant.
Lately I have been treating our home as an Après Ski Lodge with a super gaudy grey faux fur blanket that we’ve named Chewbacca, a roaring fireplace, and boozy warm cocktails (hazelnut hot cocoa with rum AND Baileys.) We’ll be dipping pretzel bites in beer cheese and wearing fuzzy socks while we shelter inside during this potentially EPIC blizzard. Or we’ll be hiding in the closet in the basement while I alternately breathe into a paper bag and frantically pop CBD gummies.
I’ve been painting a single water color circle each day and giving them a paint chip name — “Sea Dragon,” “Berry Cold Day,” “Snow Blue.” And I took another landscape painting class — the process frustrating, the result a pepto pink and grey purple mess. I’ll try again next month.
On the coldest day of the year so far, I watched a fluffy fox curl up in our backyard for a two-hour nap. She usually sleeps at the neighbor’s house. I also watched as she and my turkeys — back for a visit — continued to pass through the same space only minutes apart. I kept vigil. A dead turkey in my yard would have me in bed under the covers for a year.
I heard the Provincetown ghost train twice now. Or maybe it was a truck on route 6.
As the year turned over, I cleaned out my queues, abandoned unwatched shows in streaming watchlists, and deleted unread articles in my online reader, podcasts I’ll never get to, and saved items in Etsy I’ll never purchase. It is a small delight to unburden the baggage of stuff I do not need to consume.
I’ve filled these blasty wintry days with online courses on crow roosts and winter medicine and getting my shit together. Next month: snowy owls, Greece, and vegetable gardening.
I’ve been running outside with cups of hot water to melt the bird bath for the winter robins and my precious cedar waxwings.
A few paddles on my cactus fell off with a devastating thud. I saved some of it — the newest and greenest paddles — to reanimate. And my other cactus, grown from a single paddle chewed off by a squirrel, is thriving and growing winter babies.
I’ve become obsessed with this flowy Hester Bly dress. In one of my alternate lives, I wear this (refashioned in a brilliant cyan blue) with a turban and throw fancy cocktail parties by my pool in Rancho Mirage. My best friend, Garrett, curates my cocktail ring collection and drives me around in my customized kelly green golf cart. He makes tiny canapés for me and my seven dogs to snack on. The Super Mr. plays golf and perfects his bar skills. We both are perpetually tan.
We just cancelled our third trip since the beginning of the pandemic. This one was tropical, with a butler, and a daily massage. And a Level 4 warning from the CDC. Wanting to go on a vacation from all this is both me at my pettiest and me at my most human.
As of this morning, my Duolingo Portuguese streak is at 644 consecutive days. A tatu is an armadillo and a tubarão is a shark.
Four days in a row, I pulled the same tarot card, the Page of Cups, which urges us to let our creative sides flourish. It was followed by the Devil card — two days in a row. It has all sorts of meanings, but is more or less an invitation to face what is holding you back. (The answer is COVID. COVID is holding me back.)
Rituals are my grounding magic and I recently explored my natal chart, which takes into account the time and location of your birth. My inclination towards catastrophizing, the siren-like allure of mysteries, and my emotion-sponge of an aura are all written in the stars.
Thanks to Boba Fett, my world has been shooketh by the bad Wookie. I’ve now gone down a rabbit hole to learn everything about him and have risked serious side eye from the local librarians when I pick up my holds on the 2015 Darth Vader comics.
I’ve been thinking a lot about: COVID. Shocker.
We used to say that Veritas, Harvard’s motto, really means “figure it out your own damn self.” We seem to have adapted that approach for our COVID response strategy here in the US. The extreme pivoting has broken my brain.
So if we’re going to have to veritas this thing, here are some resources I have found helpful:
COVID Tests in Stock Tracker. I check this regularly and was able to stockpile a good number of tests for our Ptown Five when they were impossible to find.
Project N95 website. This web site, filled with vetted masks and other PPE is a godsend. I finally procured the holy grail of N95s, the 3M Aura N95. I mostly wear Respokare NIOSH N95 Respirator Masks as they fit my smaller face (and they are the only commercially-available respirator mask that is both NIOSH-approved and FDA-cleared as an anti-viral mask) and this duckbill model for breathability when I need to wear a mask for a long duration.
Accurate information beyond the polished soundbites on the evening news. Follow Dr. Thrasher for validation of your moral outrage, Juliette Kayyem for practical and swift actions you can take, the Epidemic Science and Health Twitter list for information from epidemiologists, researchers, public health experts, & journalists tracking COVID-19 (I go to this list for information rather than what Twitter selects for me as trending about COVID), and FluTrackers.org for early warning alerts about infectious disease outbreaks around the world.
Staying vigilant about long COVID. A study recently came out that they have identified four factors that may increase your chances for developing long COVID. Two of them are Type II Diabetes and the reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus (which apparently most of us have dormant in our bodies!) // “What doctors wish patients knew about long COVID” from the American Medical Association. // Tons of information — the most comprehensive I’ve seen — from Survivor Corps, a grassroots organization of COVID survivors.
And remember this: “If you are having a difficult time, please know that you are having a human response to an astonishingly terrible epoch in the human calendar.” — Esmé Weijun Wang in her Encouragement Notes
Also, here’s some stuff:
Two recommendations at the opposite ends of the seasonal spectrum: Darn Tough socks. They are made in Vermont and guaranteed for LIFE. The Super Mr. and I both prefer these to every other sock we own. I recommend the full cushion version. // West Indies Wear. First, if you’ve ever been sweating to death in Trina Turk polyester, know that Kim Van Loo, the sole designer of this really wonderful resort wear line, goes to great lengths to use 100% cotton fabric. And the part that is SO special and unique, is she has a FB group where she goes live from Australia every week — inviting us into her design process, showing us sketches and prototypes, modeling the clothes herself, and often giving us generous discount codes.
The “Fake Oxford” episode of One Year: 1995. Oof! Imagine showing up in the UK and finding out you’ve been swindled about getting in to the real Oxford.
Encanto (Disney+). I was sobbing from the depths at the end. I saw myself in Mirabel — the empath, the invisible glue. But I really, really just want to be Antonio with his animals. Or, better yet, the capybara.
Top Chef Family Style (Peacock). The Super Mr. and I were unhealthily invested in our favorite team. If you need something to watch that feels really good, this is it! // Return to Hogwarts (HBOMax). A delightful walk down memory lane.
The Silent Sea (Netflix). Korean space series about the search for water on the moon after we fucked it up here on Earth. It is intense but also SO quiet. // The final season of The Expanse (Prime). If you like your space shows with a strong cerebral emphasis, make room for the whole series in your schedule. // Stay Close (Netflix). This is my favorite of the three Harlan Cobens I binged in recent months. // The Sounds (AcornTV). New Zealand makes some good twisty thrillers. // Season four of Cobra Kai (Netflix). A romping hot mess of a good time for all us 80s kids. // The third and final season of Dickinson (AppleTV). We loved the contemporary music set against the civil war era and Emily as a modern lesbian who writes poems I still don’t understand. AND R. Eric Thomas wrote several of the episodes (I saw him at Tea Dance once and I regret not being drunk enough to go talk to him.)
Fog Chaser. A monthly newsletter from a music composer who shares his original calming music that you can play while reading the rest of his sweet newsletter.
This song is ten years old but it is 100% my theme song for 2022. Moody, but expectant. Slightly dance-y, yet cautious. Not entirely all in, but ready.
“Feeling, I want this
We all made plans to go out
We all made plans to go out this summer, to go out this summer”
Like the capybara:
A few local things:
Local online courses: Winter Wednesdays. Last year I took a wonderful Ayurveda class. It’s not offered this year, but there are many other options, virtual and in-person. Classes start February 7. // Hyannis Country Garden. Virtual gardening workshops especially for our tricky sandy soil and highly specific climate out here. // Massachusetts Audubon. Not just bird nerd stuff — great online and in person classes. I take a few every season.
Beanstock Mystery Bags. Local coffee roaster off season special deal for local pick up only (Eastham) is back. Three discounted 12 oz. bags.
The last word, according to Mother Nature and Céline Dione, because life and my heart will go on: