Juniper Disco | The Mini No. 9

Sadness croutons and red kaftans, the jarring weirdness of now

I always envisioned myself in a swimsuit, lounging by a pool, sipping fruity frozen drinks somewhere warm — probably Jamaica — on my 50th birthday. I’d wear a dramatic flowy red kaftan and hold court while friends would rotate in for a visit at the resort. There would be tropical birds singing and the hum of reggae following me wherever I went. The sun, the booze, the cheer — all warming me into old age.

For obvious reasons, I had to release these years-in-the-making plans. And I reserve the right to be downright petty about missing it. For all eternity.

Instead, I wore a tiara that says “50” that my sister sent me and a sweatshirt that says “Probably Drunk.” I watched Star Wars most of the day. And I cried for several hours, the weight of the loss of the past year too much to suppress on a day that was most definitely not supposed to be like this. I missed my Dad. I missed my family. I missed my friends. All the loss of my 49th year amplified so much it drowned out the joy.

But now that we’re vaccinated — hey! ho! — I can see my 50-ish Do-over Celebration on the far horizon. (In fact, it’s booked. And so is my 51st birthday trip!)


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My plans for the new growing season are wild and fantastic and oversized. I ordered all the fantasy seeds early. Emerald Towers Basil. Scotch Bonnet Peppers. Shunkyo Semi-long Radishes. Summer Sangria Pincushion Flowers. Panache Sunflowers. I am ALL in this year.

The seedlings are incubating by the window under grow lights with a light fan blowing across them and Walter Wanderley playing softly on repeat all day. No one told me how needy they would be or that some of my first plantings would be leggy and need to be repotted or that my overzealousness would cause them to get sunburned or that my enthusiastic watering would stunt their growth. Now I just need to be patient for a few more weeks while I slowly introduce them to the world.

Outside there are crocuses and bees and daffodils and tulips. The wild lunaria seeds I sprinkled around the mailbox last fall have flourished into bright purply flowers. And the bane of my early spring life, effing garlic mustard, is staying one step ahead of my weeding. The bulbs I planted lasagna-style in the fall popped up in nothing even close to my vision, but the rainbow parrot tulips are spectacular.

The Super Mr. and I got up at midnight to get the moms their vaccination appointments. For The Bereaved, we live in constant terror that we’ll lose another family member. I cannot ever explain what that feels like or convey how deep the relief was when they got their first shot. Vaccination means way more than the possibility of a return to normalcy for us.

We drove an hour and a half off Cape to get our own vaccinations. I cried the whole way there. All the spackling I managed to do in the past few months cracked wide open and I have been as raw as I was when my dad died in November.

My emotions are jumbled into a mixed salad of bewilderment topped by giant sadness croutons. I’m getting my tenses wrong. “My dad does this, thinks that, and loves those.” Sudden jolts of grief crush even the happiest moments. And every now and then the rage-y anger from a deep tunnel from my heart bursts forth and I wonder, will there be justice for ALL THIS??

We had Fully Vaccinated Hug Day with the moms. We cried and cried and talked and talked and all sat on the same couch together. It was weird and wonderful. It was also the five-month anniversary of my father’s death. Joy with a jolt of pain.

I’m Nooming. Shedding the physical manifestation of a year of fear, grief, and anxiety, I now take up less space than I did when this pandemic started.

I bought a bright yellow notebook, intending to write my way out of all of it. It remains blank.

I finally added some goals for my Portuguese language study (today will be the 381st consecutive day.) My favorite word lately is “Facebook” (hilariously pronounced: face-y book-y.) After a week of heated battle with a young whippersnapper from the UK, I came in first in the Diamond League and got my badge.

Our town has free classes in the winter (usually called Winter Wednesdays, but temporarily renamed Winter Whenevers, which is the most pandemic title of anything ever.) I learned about Ayurveda. The instructor’s voice was like ASMR and I felt like I had taken a 10-hour nap after each class. It was divine.

I also learned to draw free-hand maps, how to use SEO on my website, how to attract bees with native plants, and how birds create their unique songs. There were also just as many Zoom classes that I had eagerly signed up for that I missed.

We’re finally using up all the stuff I hoarded.

I added more feeders to the bird gymnasium for the spring migration. We’ve had flocks of goldfinches and house finches and even a few evening grosbeaks and yellow eyebrowed, white-throated sparrows. The boy cardinal has started feeding the girl cardinal. I squeal every time I catch them doing this. Red-winged blackbirds, red-bellied woodpeckers, and downy woodpeckers are regular visitors to the new station on the back deck. And I saw my first hummingbird and first catbird of the season on the same day. Two days later there were seven orioles at the deck feeder and my first rose-breasted grosbeak couple arrived.

My battle with the squirrels has begun in earnest. This year I am armed. The Super Mr. bought me a Super Soaker. And I was dowsing the birds’ sunflower hearts with cayenne until an unfortunate gust of karmic wind blew it back into my face.

After years of dormancy, my shingles scar and attached nerve path started to ache while my dad was sick. My doctor put in an order for the shingles vaccine (a 50th birthday present to myself) that I can get this summer.

The world is about to accelerate again. I am terrified. I haven’t had to wear my grief out into the world. It’s been hanging out here with me in my blanket fort where it’s safe to be all that it is — sudden, swift, crushing, ugly, beautiful, subtle, blinding. I’m hoping walking down Commercial Street at the break of dawn before the toomuchness sets in and spending lots of time out there in the outerness of the Cape will help me re-enter at my own pace and in my own way.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about:

  • “I've grown up in a culture where wives and mothers have traditionally held the keys to family logistics, the contents of diaper bags and the plans for meals — which has allowed many men to skate through life by storing things in the brains of others.” — Seth Putnam, Shelter newsletter, 12.4.20, on the lost art of planning ahead

    I’m guessing most of us women feel this deeply.

  • Bunny Wailer. We seem to be losing an entire generation in a very short period of time. This GQ interview with Bunny from 2011 is riveting — a glimpse into a humble giant’s reclusive tendencies and a side of Jamaican culture you don’t get to see as a tourist.

    “I don't know what it is about Jamaican music, but creatively it just seems to take place at a higher amperage. It may be an island effect. Isolation does seem to produce these intensities sometimes.”

  • Simone Leigh. Her sculpture is stunning, overwhelming, astonishing, and unwaveringly female and Black — strong, grounded, aspirational. She will be the first Black woman to represent the United at States at the Venice Biennale in 2022.

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Also, here’s some stuff:

  • Anjunadeep 12 is out. It’s a dreamy 56-track sonic escape odyssey. And — yeah, you know what I’m going to say — 02 is still my favorite poolside-while-drinking-a-blue-Pool-Boy-in-the-summer-sun soundtrack.

  • Unsolved Case Files. Each case contains a file of evidence — photos, interviews, reports, newspaper clippings, etc. — that you use to answer a series of questions and ultimately solve a crime. My sister and I both ordered a different case to work on. My niece solved hers in a few hours. We took over a week and needed almost every optional hint to solve ours. Challenging, frustrating, but ultimately an interesting experience!

  • I cannot get enough of this:

  • Tom Brown’s Body podcast from Texas Monthly. “In 2016, a popular teenager disappeared in the tiny Panhandle community of Canadian, Texas. Two years later, his remains were discovered beneath a tree outside of town. But to this day, no arrests have been made, and nearly everyone involved in the case has fallen under suspicion.” // The “Bucket List of Sounds” episode of Earshot. If you knew you were going to lose your hearing, what sounds would you want to hear and commit to memory before that happened? A few for me: the Carolina wren singing it’s heart out, tree frogs in Jamaica, the ocean, the chop-chop-whistle-whistle-clink-and-a-clank kitchen sounds of The Super Mr. preparing dinner, Stephen’s yips, my mom’s voice, my husband’s laugh, reggae music. // “My Friend Murdered Someone” episode of the Beautiful/Anonymous podcast. Imagine if you found out on the local news that someone you know killed another person! A riveting and very personal interview with a woman who experienced just that.

  • In addition to Godzilla movies, here is the rest of what we’ve been watching these past few months:

    Beastie Boys Story
    (AppleTV+). GenX-ers, this one is especially for us. We LOVED this live storytelling documentary told by the remaining members, ADROCK and Mike D. // Tina (HBOMax). She is a powerhouse, but I felt angry that her story is defined and continues to be dominated by what a man did to her rather than all that she has accomplished. // Class Action Park (HBOMax). My mouth is still hanging open at the shenanigans that went on there.

    The US vs. Billie Holiday (Hulu). God, we can be awful as a country, can’t we? I really had not known that certain men in our government went after her so hard just so she wouldn’t sing “Strange Fruit.” Ugly, brutal, and a necessary viewing. // Wolfwalkers (AppleTV+). Anthropomorphism usually freaks me out (that little wolf girl put me on edge), but this is a beautiful animated film based on an Irish folktale. // Emma (HBOMax). BIll Nighy is a genius. Steals every single scene. Also, I liked this better than Bridgerton.

    Ted Lasso (AppleTV+). Our absolute favorite show! Heart-warming and funny as anything. // It’s a Sin (HBOMax). Set in London in the early 80s during the AIDS epidemic — it broke my heart a million times. // The Long Song (PBS). A depiction of the atrocities of slavery in Jamaica as it came to an end. It is devastating, but you will want to know what happens to July, the main character. You may also want to adopt her. // Fate: The Winx Saga (Netflix). Mostly, I loved the empath character who has to wear headphones to keep everyone’s emotions out of her being. I see you, Musa. // Tell Me Your Secrets (Amazon). Crikey! Intense, twisty, and everyone is AWFUL. I watched all ten episodes in two days. // Allen vs. Farrow (HBO). So fucking gross. Woody Allen should be in jail. // The Great Pottery Throw Down. I have a standing virtual date with my bestie every week to watch this creative competition. Raku!!

  • This deep house version of Bob Marley’s Jammin’. The first of two mashups of things I like: house music and Bob Marley.

  • Lailonie by Marsh. The second mashup: nature sounds and Anjunadeep. I can’t wait to try it out on my earphones in my secluded corner of the pool this summer.

  • Up Late with Mooncake playlist. A fun, eclectic mix of music from around Asia and the Asian diaspora across the world.

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A few local things:

  • White Space. A short film about four women on Cape Cod, and “what it feels like when a space is not welcoming or even hostile to people of color.“ Gorgeously shot at one of my favorite places in town, just up the hill from where we live.

  • Wild Care Amazon Wish List. It’s baby bunny rescue season. Send some items to our local wildlife rescue center to help out!

  • A few years ago, we ordered a rain barrel from the Association to Preserve Cape Cod and it provides water for my plants all summer. Order yours here, they deliver to your house now!

  • Just launched: a new website from APCC with all the information on native plants for Cape Cod. Try to plant at least one this year, even if it is in a container.

  • These short films about life on the Outer Cape by Seeking Primal.

The last word, from Li Saumet of Bomba Estéreo:
“Some heavy things are happening to the world and we have to share them. We made this album so you can dance to it at a club, but at the same time, it has a profound meaning. It’s meant for you to dance perreo with a conscience."

Playlist: Rum & Ting. Because I should have been in Jamaica for my birthday. My favorite reggae-ish tunes for you to listen to while you read my notes from the last time we were there.

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