Mary Beth Writes

6/1/2022 

Last Friday evening on PBS Tonight David Brooks said something like this. “I am afraid for all of us. The news just pummels us.”

There are as many tough stories as there are fingers on a closed fist. The shooting in Uvalde. The shooting in Buffalo. The corrupt power of the NRA and other obscene wealth-mongers that are destroying our society from the inside of elected reps’ pockets outwards. Ukraine. Global climate mayhem. Oh, and covid is everywhere. Less traumatic for most; long covid for some. So that’s six fingers on that pugilistic fist.

No answers here other than it isn’t as if mayhem and injustice are new, it’s that we have global media coverage so it feels as if we are being pummeled. Would we rather NOT have had the video of George Floyd being murdered? Would we rather NOT have the audio of cops not responding to those children?

Offer a weird thanks that at least now we know.

That said, here are three things that moved and calmed my mind and heart in the past week.

This should be depressing but I didn’t find it so. Real information helps us figure out what’s going on.

The Washington Post ran a long article last week about white men and suicide. The writer is Jose A. Del Real and I am now following him on Twitter because journalists who tell a story clearly are my heroes.

Click here for the WaPo article. 

“Of the 45,979 people who died by suicide in the United States in 2020, about 70 percent were White men, who are just 30 percent of the country’s overall population. That makes White men the highest-risk group for suicide in the country, especially in middle age, even as they are overrepresented in positions of power and stature in the United States. The rate that has steadily climbed over the past 20 years.”

“Here in cowboy country, the backdrop and birthplace of countless American myths, Bill knows “real men” are meant to be stoic and tough. But in a time when there are so many competing visions of masculinity — across America and even across Wyoming — Bill is questioning what a real man is anyway. …..  Often, what he sees in American men is despair.”

MB here: The take away for me is this. What is the story by which we as individuals live our lives? Who did we admire and emulate as young people? Have our ideals changed and expanded? Are we claiming stories that ask us to be both kind and authentic? Or are we still living by stories that say “Sorry Buster, but you are not rich, nor handsome, and your closest people are losers? No wonder you can’t make it here anymore.”

Like this: This morning I saw a tweet that dissed Trump as a fat something or other and I cringed. I do not think calling someone fat should be used as a pejorative. Many of us have changed our idea about using fat as a slur or as a way to judge the intelligence and character of another person. Fat simply means large. That story that has changed.

Many of us watched the movie Nomadland which is a portrayal of a story that is changing now. Is it failure to end up one's life broke, living in a vehicle, driving from job to job?  Is that a failing of character? Or is that a failing of the tax codes and social systems of our society?  A story that is changing.

We don’t slander people because their brains don’t work the way our brains work. This is a changing story and many of us who grew up with minds that worked a peculiar way - and who got in trouble for it - we are here to say this story is changing, too.

This is what I mean by paying attention to the stories we live by. In huge and small ways, we constantly update and renew the stories by which we live. This is not about being politically correct. This is about finding a space in which to stand and breathe and feel something beyond despair.  

If you can’t get into the article, contact me by email or in the comments; give me your email address (I won’t publish it) and I can send the whole article to you.

Biking Borders

Speaking of slow stories that welcome your mind and heart. Len and I watched this compelling and non-dramatic documentary a few nights ago. By the end of the movie I felt calmer about the world. No little thing.

German Max and Portuguese Nono; two young men who are biking enthusiasts, traveling companions, and friends, ride their bikes from Berlin to Beijing. They do this to raise money to build an elementary school in Guatemala. The film pulls one into the adventure of meeting people with whom one cannot speak because of language barriers and yet those people extend beautiful hospitality. It is healing to watch humans being fully, humorously, and graciously human. Plus, the scenery is often gorgeous. I felt a little sad that I will never fly on a bike down mountain roads in Turkmenistan.

Biking Borders streams on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

This is their website.  

Their adventure was in 2018 so I’m not sure what, if anything, they are up to now.

My daughter gave me the novel 'A Gentleman in Moscow' by Amor Towles.

This novel is about fictional Count Alexander Rostov. In 1922 he is judged by a Bolshevik tribunal to be an unapologetic aristocrat and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov must now live in an attic room while Russian history of the 20th century evolves and explodes. His woeful circumstances provide him a doorway into a big world, after all.

Reading the novel felt a bit like ‘Ferris Bueller in the Russian Revolution.’

One of the things I did while reading which I recommend is this. Towles sometimes mentions pieces of classical music. I made a “Gentleman in …” file in my streaming service into which I saved those pieces - and listened to all that gorgeous music yesterday while repainting the cement apron of our garage.

...

Concrete actions: 1. Both Len and I emailed our electred reps asking them to support gun registration and regulation.  2. When Beto O'Rourke interupted that new conference, I celebrated that powerful moment by immediately sending some money to his campaign. 

Comments

Loved “A Gentleman in Moscow”; way more than his first “Rules of Civility”. I could not get into “The Lincoln Highway”. I also sent money to Beto’s campaign after watching him confront power.
Mary Beth's picture

The phrases I keep thinking of: Speak truth to power. Good Trouble.

the photo of your garage apron made me smile :)

Beto is a good guy. Are there enough good ones around for us to get behind? I am an optimist, so I think there are.
Mary Beth's picture

Len is very active in the work of the Waukesha Dems. Len, you tell us who you are most impressed with right now.

Add new comment

CAPTCHA

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Three Things

4/20/2024

Three Things except it’s really more than that.

1. Earlier this year I read these two books by Palestinian writers and I recommend both. If you’ve read good books by Palestinian writers, maybe tell us about them in the comments?

The Confluence

4/17/2024 

(I’ve written about this trip before but it’s been a long time.)

In 2000 we did a wilderness canoe/kayak trip on Utah’s Green River. We did this with our three kids plus friends and their two sons. Our youngest was nine, the oldest was 16, and our combined three boys were slapdash goofballs.

Three Things / Story, Eclipse, Brando

1. I scheduled my Substack story to go out at 8AM this morning. I just looked to see why it didn’t show up and it says it is going to be sent at 8:49 tonight. I’m going to leave it like that. Maybe 9PM on a weekend night is a good time to send short fiction. Let me know if you have an opinion.

2. I read this quote by Marlon Brando who said this early in his career. “I’m not afraid of anything and I don’t love money.”

Even though this is probably not exactly true of me and you, I do love the bravado.

Peace Like a River / Book Report

4/3/2024 She Writes

I just finished reading Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and I am going to talk about it for a little bit before I forget how profoundly interesting and evocative this book was and is, at least to me.

I get emails from Boswell Bookstore (2559 N Downer Ave in Milwaukee). They host artist events pretty often and Monday evening, April 15th Len and I will be there for the Author Evening with Leif Enger. You can look up more of the details if you are interested. (Tickets are free but you need to reserve them.)

My Grandkids & 'Wandering Stars'

4/1/2024

The past month has been jam-packed. The week in Mineral Point. Len’s two-day seminar in Chicago. Last week we had various grandkids here for three overnighters and yesterday our family came to Easter dinner here in our house which was clean after a week with grandkid overnighters so you know that was a piece of cake. Len smoked two hams (yes, hard to keep them lit) and I made the largest amounts of from-scratch scalloped potatoes plus macaroni and cheese that I have ever made. As in, I grated four pounds of cheese Saturday afternoon. “On Wisconsin.”

Tag Cloud

9/11 17 minutes 500 Words A-Z AARPtaxes AAUW abortion Acadia accident Accountable Advent afterlife aging Alaska animals anniversary antibiotics antlers apples appointments Arrows art Ashland August Augustine aunts baby Badlands balance Baldwin Barbara Barkskins Beauty Becky Becoming Esther Berry birthday bistro BLM Blue BookReport books Boxing Day boy scout Bread breakfast BreakfastClub BrokenDays BuyAngry Cabeza de Vaca Cahokia calendars Canada canoe cat romance cats cello Chicago China Choosing Christmas cilantro Cinnabuns circus climate change clouds Clowns clutter Colonialism comet ComfortZone CommonSense community confluence consumerism Cops Corvid-19 Courage Covid-19 Crazy creditreport creosote crime CrimeShows danger DarkRiver death Debate December DecisionFatigue decluttering deer democracy dentist depression Destination Today Detroit Didion disasterprep distraction dogs dollhouse Dreams Duty Easter eBay Echoes Eclipse election EmilyDickinson eschatology Esquipulas exit polls eyes Fable FairTrade family farmer Fata Morgana ferns firealarm Fitness Five Flatbread Flexible flu Food Pantry Fort de Chartres frame Franc FrancGarcia friends frugal FrugalHacks Frugality frustration Ft.Ticonderoga fungi fusion Galena Gannets Garden GarfieldParkConservatory Gaspe genius geode GeorgeFloyd gerrymandering ghosts gifts girls GNTL gorgons goulash GovernorThompsonStatePark Graduation grandkids granola Grief groceries Guadalupe Guatemala gum guns Hair happiness HaveYouEver? hawks healthcare Healthinsurance hearings heart heaven HelleKBerry heroes hike History home HomeRepair Honduras Hope HowCrowGotOutofJail humor hurricane Ice Cream idiosyncrasy igloos impeachment Innkeeper Instincts integrity InternetPrivacy Interview InviteMe2Speak James Baldwin Jan 6 Janus jewelry JoyceAndrews Judy JulianofNorwich Jump justice Karen kites ladder Lady Lamb LangstonHuges LaphamPeak laundry LeeLeeMcKnight lemming Len lies Light Lincoln Little Women LockedOut Loki loneliness LouisArmstrong Love Ludington Macaw macho Manitoulin MargaretFuller Maria Hamilton Marquette marriage Marsden Hartley masks Mayan MayaWorks meme Memories men Middlemarch MilesWallyDiego MindfulChickens MineralPoint Mistakes MLK moon Mother MothersDay mounds mouser movies museums must-haves Mustapha NAMI Nancy Drew Newfoundland New Mexico New York City Nomadland nope observation OBUUC Ocotillo OnaJudge ordinary OscarRomero osprey Outside oximeter Parade mayhem PastorBettyRendon Paul Hessert PDQ Penny persimmon photos Pi Pies pineapples pizza poetry Preaching privacy procrastination Protest QE2 Quern quest Questions Rabbit holes racism reading recipe recipes recommendations religion Remember RepresentationMatters Reruns responsetoKapenga Retirement rhubarb Ricky rime RitesofPassage romance Rosemary Ruether Roses Roti Ruth SamaritanWoman Sanctuary Sandhillcranes Santuario de Chimayo SaraKurtz SaraRodriguez satellites sci-fi ScottSimon sculpture Seasons Sermon ServantsoftheQuest sewing Shepherd Shontay ShortStory shoulder sick sickness Slower snow Social Security SofritoBandito solstice South Dakota SpaceShuttle spirituality spring square feet St. Louis staining stars stele Stereotypes stories StoryStarts stream monitoring stress SUBSTACK Survival swim Talent taxes teenager thankgsgiving Thanksgiving TheBridge TheMaid ThePerpetualYou therapy ThreeBillBoards Three Thing Three Things ThreeThings TidalBore TimeBeing toddler Tom tortillas Trains travel Traveler Tubing turtle Twilight Bark Tyrone Ukraine Ulysses Grant Umbrella UnrelatedObservations Up North urgency vacation vaccine Valentines vanilla Vietnam vision VivianWokeUpDrowning Vocabulary vole volunteer WalkingAndSeeing Wampanaog war WarsanShire weather weaving Webs wedding whines WhyAttendChurch Wiley Willa WillaCather Wisteria Won! Wonder words Xeriscape Yellowstone Zebra
Ad Promotion