I considered taking a break from writing this newsletter because, honestly, what could I possibly say right now in these charcoal-est of grey times. But then I figured maybe some of you are feeling like that, too — super confused about how to reconcile explosions and refugees and Russian money in seemingly everyone’s pockets with budding flowers and warmer weather and vacations. So here goes. Forgive my humanity. (Plus, I promised free stickers!)
I’ve been thinking a lot about:
How thunderous and terrifying the real sounds of war are — on TV, from the safety of my couch. ZELENSKY (or Zelenskyy or Zelenskiy, but definitely Зеленський.) The little boy escaping with his parents carrying his parakeet in a cage and an empty plastic cherry tomato bin. The woman who slung her German Shepherd over her shoulder and walked 10 miles to safety. How little I know about this country beyond Eurovision. The barbaric annihilation of people’s lives. The fight or flight for freedom.
Here are some pathways I’ve found for my attempt to understand the tiniest sliver of the conflict, the culture, the history, and the people.
These first-hand diaries from those in Ukraine, free from the framing and politicization of events through CNN-style lenses (I’ve always found it troubling that CNN chose Darth Vader as it’s spokesman.):
Dispatches from Kyiv. “I didn’t survive Covid in a Kyiv hospital just to be taken out by the likes of that homunculus in Moscow.” He tells stories of neighborhood grammas and a Kyiv 400 years older than Moscow and his neighbor who guards the door to their building every night. // The War Diary of Yevgenia Belorusets. “It was a sleepless night. The air-raid alarm, sounding its sirens over the city, kept me up all night. But I was too tired to go to the shelter.” // @valerisssh on TikTok. Her youthful snark is jarring against her videos of her escape from Ukraine. // “Sixteen Days in Ukraine.” “I called my colleagues to ask, ‘Do we cancel our meetings today?’ This was a little bit absurd because everything was canceled. All your life is canceled.”
This thread on Twitter about Ukrainian war literature. I ordered Grey Bees. // And this comprehensive reading list about the mindboggling history around this conflict. // Access to these FREE books on Ukraine from the Central European University Press.
“America’s Hesitation Is Heartbreaking” resonates with me.
This story from 1945 about a father and son fleeing Soviet Russia across the Bering Strait, the only place where the US and Russia share a border.
This primer on Ukrainian cultural treasures.
Downloads from Ukrainian sellers on Etsy. (I’m sure the money helps in some small way. It certainly can’t hurt.)
Duolingo has a Ukrainian language course — maybe just commit to learning the alphabet?
Music by the Ukrainian Coldwave duo, The Glass Beads
This deep house remix of this Ukrainian song.
We blizzarded, powerless for 15 hours, under four levels of blankets in our bed, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-style, but with champagne jello shots and word searches and fluffy storm biscuits of walnut and oozy goozy chocolate. Our only connection to the outside world, a weather radio droningly reporting the gusts in knots and nautical miles and seas at a gazillion feet every 10 seconds.
For six weeks, the only place I went was the library. I accidently reserved a large print version of my latest Agatha Christie read and will now be reading everything in that format.
We relocated to the bedroom for a week while they finally installed our replacement window — stuck in supply chain purgatory since September — where the tree fell on our house in the early fall.
On a sunny morning I roasted kale chips with powders of Worcestershire and garlic and malt vinegar. I call them Kenobi chips as both my parents have/had (I’ll never get these verb tenses right) macular degeneration and my eye doctor tells me sunglasses and dark leafy greens are my only hope.
Saturday Morning Drag Brunch — aka watching Drag Race from the previous night — has been saving me. That and watching The Great Pottery Throwdown with my bestie — who moved to Chicago last year — every Tuesday night. I LIVE for the voice recordings he texts me.
Stephen tossed up a giant hairball. And then another one a week later. After a full blood panel and a switch to an antacid + high protein diet, he is doing much better.
During one middle-of-the-night scroll, I learned of the murder of a much loved bartender we’ve known since our first trip to Jamaica. He was shot. A few days later I gasped when I read that Dr. Paul Farmer, a champion for the underserved and who I worked with at the Medical School, had died unexpectedly. Two bright lights extinguished.
Being a Pisces in this particular Pisces season is intense — I’m extra tear-drippy, inflamed in all the feels. The sight of bright, hopeful Venus in the sky from the kitchen window in the morning. 1,000,000 dead from COVID. The Ukrainians. Trans kids and their families in Texas. The deaths of Franklyn Wallace, Paul Farmer, and Tofu the Turkey AND Kitty from @wolfgang2242’s family. That Edward Jones commercial. The DON’T SAY GAY Florida hatefulness.
I’ve been turning down my bed at night. As soon as the sun lowers in the sky, I turn on the evening lights and set up the bed for sleeping, turning the covers down and fluffing the pillows for slumber.
The turkeys came back for a one! night! only! appearance. Their daybreak gobbling back and forth made me chuckle over my morning coffee. Now ladies!
For The 100 Day Project, I’ve been stitching every day and am just about done with my second embroidery project. My stitches are getting more accurate and I’m learning new techniques. I’ve also stabbed myself at least 267 times.
I celebrated my birthday with a family brunch of melty cinnamon rolls and a savory breakfast Bundt and Star Wars and a Joel Meyerowitz exhibit and pistachio pastries and pomegranate lychee cocktails.
Using the the cycle of the moon as my growing guide this year, I planted my first seeds — five types of peppers and two compact varieties of tomato and the first of many Vincent’s Choice sunflowers. Vincent was my father’s name. And I could feel my heart lifting as I pruned my perennials to make way for the new growth that is bursting to life.
My second shingles vaccine left me drowsy and sore and shivering and loopy.
As the Portuguese say, “Quem não arrisca não petisca.” The literal translation is: “those who do not risk, do not have a snack.” So we’re going to Palm Springs in a few weeks with a suitcase full of N95s (the good ones that I keep pilfering from the health center next door) and COVID home tests and my entire wardrobe of bright kaftans and Mrs. Roper bangles and gallons of moisturizer. I’m queuing up Nancy Sinatra and deciding which cocktail rings will make the trip and buying poofing spray for my hair that hates low humidity. We’re planning out architecture tours and happy hours, Flaming Mame-style.
Also, here’s some stuff:
Plant a Seed Day is coming March 20. So … plant some seeds!
Harsh Reality podcast. I never heard of this vile Bachelorette-like reality show that kept the fact that the leading star was a trans woman a secret until the very end. As a REVEAL. It went horribly, as you can imagine.
Celebrity Big Brother (CBS). Carson was the best houseguest ever — I could never live with him, but a few hours a week with him on my TV kept me laughing. // Downfall (Netflix). Rage-inducing doc about decisions Boeing made in the name of profit. For even more artery-popping info, read this article about why Boeing didn’t face criminal charges for the deaths of 346 people in two crashes. // Sort Of (HBOMax). A delightful show centered around a nonbinary character who is the most stable one in their orbit. // The After Party (AppleTV). Tiffany Haddish is hilarious as yuzh in this fun romp of a murder mystery. // Wolf Like Me (Peacock). The title might give some of the plot away, but it is really a sweet romance story. // The third and fourth (part one) seasons of Ozark (Netflix.) OMG, RUTH!! She’s the only one I like. They are all terrible people. // The Morning Show (AppleTV). No one told me this show was so INTENSE!
Yoko Miwa Trio. Straight up fantastic dinner music.
Tinlicker has a new album, In Another Lifetime, out. Don’t you just want to go dancing with your friends??
A few local things:
The Fate of That House. Some straight talk about erosion on the Outer Cape.
Bottle donations for Gardens Aglow at Heritage Gardens and Museum. They need hundreds of used clear plastic water and soda bottles to make their bottle flower garden.
Stay vigilant against COVID! Outer Cape Health Services has a basket on the front desk of free 3M Aura N-95 masks. And CVS has free N95s at checkout. You might have to ask for them — they have them behind the counter like beach plum jelly. // Keep an eye on Barnstable County data here.
Just when I was about to get the bird feeders ready for spring migration, bird flu has hit the Cape! Clean your feeders and birdbaths!
The last word, according to Verka Serduchka, performer of Ukraine’s 2007 Eurovision song, which incidentally beat out Russia for second place. It is my forever favorite.
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Currently Reading: Taking the Heat: How Climate Change Is Affecting Your Mind, Body, and Spirit and What You Can Do About It by Bonnie Schneider
Conversation Pit of the Month:
Kaftan of the Month: The Esmerelda by Monica Mahoney
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