In the middle of winter & now into spring–on snow-covered roads and icy ones and mud-ridden too–I find myself traveling to the bedsides of those who are aging in place in my part of the state; and I am astounded by their spirits and by the devotion of their caregivers, and also by the plight of adult children caring for parents, or one spouse caring for another or siblings doing the same.
I am struck when I hear that opting for Nursing Home care comes with fewer strings, financially & practically; and this reminds me of my early years at home with my babies, if only I’d chosen a daycare to raise my little ones, it could have been subsidized, but if I gave up my career to be with my children so that they too could “age in place,” I would lose my foothold in the work world and exponentially lag behind in my capacity to earn and thus become increasingly disheartened in that regard, not to mention less and less represented in the wider world.
Unlike some of our counterparts in the developed world, we do not prioritize those who need care and those who give care–to the sick, the disabled, the elderly, the refugee, the lonely, the downtrodden, the minority, the mother, the child–namely–women–who as a result of unpaid/underpaid caregiving are among the most impoverished around the world no matter their race, educational background and marital status; and increasingly so as they age, with a wider income gap between women and men in the United States than anywhere in the Western world.
When my children were young, I tended to them in much the same way as I would have wanted to be tended, and I imagine the same is true for adult children caring for parents.
“We’re next, Kelly,” said one such caregiver, at the end of our hour-long interview, and this is quite a sobering thought, particularly as I see parents become children, and then infants, in their offspring’s hearts.
I moved to Vermont in 1993, the year before I turned thirty, two years before my husband & I became parents.
It was in Vermont that something else was conceived inside–a growing awareness & engagement in politics; Because it was in Vermont that I first discovered politics beyond the pocketbook.
Bernie, it was in our early years in Vermont that my young family sat beside you at the Chicken Supper when you were our Congressman, and where we later watched with pride as our son joined you in the Strolling of the Heifers parade down Main Street during your campaign for Senate; and when time sped forward and that same son went off to school at the University of Vermont, my youngest son and I were with you on the waterfront as you announced your campaign for President; which is to say that Bernie Sanders & Vermont are inextricably linked in my understanding of both the rights & responsibilities of citizenship.
But it’s not that for which I’d like to thank you now, Bernie. It’s something larger than one family. It’s the way your presidential campaign gave young people, not just in Vermont, but around this nation, hope. It’s the way you tethered their hearts and minds to a purpose larger than themselves, and to the possibility of something more than the cultural shadow assigned them–ignorance, irrelevance, consumerism & self-absorption.
Bernie, your campaign, your voice, your tenacious heart woke the heart of a nation and seeded a sense of possibility that is taking root in the consciousness & action of our youngest citizens in this most troubling time for our democracy.
Bernie, you have shown them how to fight the good fight.
You have proven to them that they are not alone.
This has inspired them to lead with love.
This has inspired them to vote with passion & purpose.
This has made the privilege of citizenship–whole.
~Kelly Salasin, age 54
Mother of Lloyd, 22, and Aidan, 17, ready to vote in the next election.
I didn’t grow up politically-minded, not like my young sons who a decade ago acted like I was offering a trip to Disney when I said:
“Obama and Clinton will be in NH next week.”
On the morning of the rally in Unity, I only had to wake them once. You’d think it was Christmas, but with longs lines and heat and lots of speeches, and they were just as into it.
They’ve grown up just next door, in Vermont, and I give our small state credit for maturing me toward citizenship.
Chicken BBQs with Bernie.
Rallies with my neighbors.
And it’s not that I wasn’t exposed to politics growing up. The nightly news flooded our living room with scenes of Vietnam. My parents regularly argued about the Irish question. My grandfather was the President of the Union League–the oldest Republican organization in his southern NJ county. My grandmother wept in front of the black and white on the day Nixon resigned.
I never understood my lack of interest in all things political, and always felt lesser for it, but it wasn’t until last summer, at the pond, at the age of 52, that a lifelong activist from the city suggested a new frame:
“Maybe you couldn’t relate to the voices around you until you moved to Vermont.”
Maybe she was right.
Politics had always seemed too sport-like for me–lots of us and them and ugliness; and yet, Social Studies had always been my favorite subject. I actually bought my sixth-grade text book at the end of the school year because I couldn’t bear to part with it; while my Junior High field trip to the United Nations was my version of Christmas.
As a kid, I ran Muscular Dystrophy carnivals in my backyard and picked up trash around the neighborhood with the kids in my club.
We moved a lot because my dad was in school and then in the Army, and I frequently befriended those who others excluded, not out of pity, but out of kindness and something more–interest: my neighbor who went to the special school, my classmates whose parents didn’t speak English, the elderly at every occasion.
At home, I was regularly sent to my room from the dinner table for speaking out against injustice (aka. talking back.)
As I came into adolescence, however, I begin to lose my bearings. We moved back to Cape May County, and I remember cringing in my Catholic high school as my Social Studies classmates mocked the President. I don’t think it mattered much to me who he was, except that he seemed gentle and kind, as did the quirky English teacher who they regularly harassed.
Later, when I backpacked through Europe during college, I remember being challenged, particularly by the Irish, for my lack of awareness of how my country was engaging abroad.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, feeling both foolish and criminal, not to mention entitled and clueless.
“Bleeding Heart,” a lifelong friend said after we’d graduated. He’d said it with affection–about his two favorite people–“his kindred souls,” he called us–but I could tell that he hadn’t meant it as a compliment.
Later I would come to realize that he was a Republican while we would become Democrats.
“La La land,” my father said, as I began expressing my emerging political views.
But those were the good ole days. Because now what I’m called or referred to or accused of by GOP-voting friends is so hostile and reviled and “other,” that I’m struck and hurt and confused (while my liberal friends dish it right back out to the GOP.)
For instance, this week it’s history that I want to destroy. This, from friends who didn’t even like history in school, while I went on to teach it, as does my husband.
Before that, I’d been assigned the absence of patriotism. This while raising sons steeped in the understanding of democracy. No television. No game boys. Lots of reading. Lots of conversation. Lots of field trips.
Before that, I was accused of not living in reality.
Is television reality?
I guess so, because look who is President.
I must be in La La Land because I thought that if nothing else my fellow Americans held some truths to be self-evident, beyond partisanship.
Have you seen it?
In its entirety?
It was such a disgrace and such an alarm that for the first time, I’ve left my civil-tongue behind:
I can’t recall ever using this term before, but after watching 45’s speech, this is clearly what wanted expression.
He is playing us–ALL of us.
Because he can.
Because he’s smart.
Because he doesn’t care.
And most of all, because he’s threatened.
“Be kind, Kelly,” a GOP-voting friend says as I use the word “fuck” all over his steady stream about statues.
I reply with a quote from Marianne Williamson:
Love is always the answer, but sometimes love says NO.
Not NO to my friend for whom I allow differences and continued affection, but NO to this President and NO to my friend’s distraction from what is staring us in the face.
WE must wake the fuck up, and come shoulder to shoulder (with those we have demonized)–for democracy, for decency, for humanity, for the planet, for the future.
A rainy Wednesday in March brings to mind the memory of orange, chocolate-chip scones.
This would be just the day to sit a spell at the counter at Sweeties on Route 9 in Marlboro–sipping a latte, taking in the aroma of bacon, the morning conversations, the ebb and flow of townspeople and tourists beginning their day
Sweeties has been closed now for a handful of years and we’ve all grown accustomed to having to leave town for gas or a six-pack, but the absence lingers like a loved one, and sometimes rises like an ache, particularly in wintry months or on rainy days like today.
“After the General Store, comes the Post Office,” says a neighbor. “Then the school.”
Marlboro School was at the center of last week’s Pre-Town Meeting in response to Act 46 which seeks to consolidate school governance.
“Forced, short-sighted, rushed through legislation,” is how one woman described it.
A discussion of the unintended consequences of Act 46 ensues; and I’m surprised by a consideration that hadn’t occurred to me until then, and how deeply it shakes me–not the loss of our precious Junior High, or the loss of our vibrant voice; or how these losses will reshape our school, and our town; but something that strikes at the center of self-governance:
I know not everyone can make it on the first Tuesday in March, and I know that efforts in other towns to shift the meeting to an evening or a weekend haven’t produced the desired results; But our old Town House fills up with body heat and breath and voice and community, and that’s something.
And even in the years when you’re not in a chair or on a bench or at that front table or up at the podium, the gathering holds space for who we are and how we live and what happens here, not just in Marlboro, but all over the Green Mountain state, and even across our nation, as Bernie proved to be true.
Sure Town Meeting would continue for awhile; the old timers here are hearty like that; but the absence of the school budget–ie. the absence of children at the heart of decision making–would hollow out the gathering, until it became a dusty relic of itself.
Just before our Pre-Town Meeting closes, a follow up question about our “Geographically Isolated” and “Structurally Isolated” school comes from the floor:
“If we find that it doesn’t work for our town, can we go back to what we had?”
The response sends a chill through my body, particularly this year:
“Once you take it apart, you can’t build it again.”
without acting on it
enlarges our freedom
We came to Vermont for the clean air, the heightened perspective, the depth of thought and consciousness.
We gave up cable long before we arrived.
Once here, in a town without a traffic light, we learned to live with even less distraction. To embrace silence. Early nights. Slow reads. Pillow talk. Sleep.
Then came the internet.
The web expanded our horizons, enriched our conversations, increased our opportunity, and fractured our attention.
The single screen in the den was replaced by individual screens, of all sizes, in each pair of hands, in every room, at every hour, on workdays and weekends and holidays.
Family time, once incidental, now needed to be scheduled and rescheduled and relinquished in favor of independent pleasures. Moments passing and glancing at each others screens. Morning spaciousness obsolete. Bedtimes later. Pillow talk extinct. Books ornamental.
It’s come to this. To know. That my attention. Has rarely been singular.
In a weekend retreat with Tara Brach at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, I make a discovery. Once singularly focused on nothing but my breath, I am overcome. By anxiety.
Soon after, I realize. It’s time.
The first 24 hours are agonizing. The next 48 touch and go. An entire week disrupted by unrequited desire.
Gradually, Facebook fades to the background. Cravings pass like those for sugar following a post-holiday detox.
But in the absence of posting and notifications, something else arises:
Day after day.
Night after night.
Death. Decay. Disaster.
I stay. I notice. I breathe. I take my supplements.
(I drink a little.)
The weeks pass and I begin to notice something else arising, anew:
Like a seedling in May. Or an early morning in June. Or the cool grass under my feet. Or the hush of days end. Or the call of the hermit thrush from deep in the woods. Or the sound of rain on our metal roof.
Attention and intention aligned once again.
At the end of the month, I come upon this Rumi quote in Tara’s book, True Refuge:
Do you pay regular visits to yourself?
I feel the invitation; but I don’t know how to RSVP.
I’m already intoxicated by all there is to share and receive.
And yet, I also sense a subtle shift.
The world conspired to keep me awake. The warm air. The intoxicating sounds. The sky. Especially the sky! First Mars. Then all those constellations whose shapes & names I never bothered to learn. Then something else. A first for the season! So soon? Maybe it was a plane. A falling star. A UFO. I got up three times. After midnight. To be sure.
My guys strut around in the Rockin Rose towels I bought for spring, Makes my feminist heart sing.
Here’s to black fly bites & ant infestations.
Without which we’d drown in the intoxication of May.
I suppose I was 17 and she was not quite 2. We dove under the sea together and the salt water soaked her long lashes and made the gift of her in my arms under the warm sun almost unbearable.
“You have such pretty eyes, Bon Bon,” I said.
After which, she looked at me, just as earnestly, with the sand kissing the fine hairs of my face, and said,
“You have two eyes too, Kel Kel!”
One year ago today. Bernie announced his campaign. On the waterfront. In Burlington, Vermont.
both boys back in the house
At 52, I’ve become such a risk taker. In relationship. First with a friend. Then a sister.
Exposing where I’ve been hurt instead of tucking it inside. To fester.
After I share, I listen and respond to the ways I’ve presented a similar challenge. To them.
I am so brave. And vulnerable.
We all are.
after 10 days away, i love re-integrating back home
under the cover
Another day, another graduate!
May 21, 2016
Am I pretty?
52, and I still want
to know. Daddy,
do you think so?
Medicine enters the next generation…
Nephew Corey (my sister Robin’s oldest and the first of our next gen) JUST graduated from Medical School.
Continuing on the path of his father (ER doc), grandfather (Surgeon) & grandmother (Nurse), great-grandfather (Surgeon), great-great grandfather (Physician) & great-great grandmother (Nurse), and his great-great-great grandfather (Health Officer.)
The island in May. Empty of commerce. Pulsing in preparation. Landscapers. Dune-shapers. Painters. Stockers. Deliverers. A shoulder season like September, but intemperate & gusty with an unwelcome chill. A desire for baring, not covering. Skin. Aching for swimsuits, not sweatshirts. The anxious cheer of Open for Business. Eager staff training & being trained. Busboys seeking anything upon which to apply clean rags. Everyone practicing on pretend customers, like me, before the real ones arrive, in throngs, in season, with the height of the summer sun…
Happy 26th Anniversary of our Marriage, Casey
the “backdrop to women’s oppression for centuries”
(I wouldn’t want to live inside this institution with anyone else.)
Though I was born here, and lived here from time to time throughout my life, it is the returning that I most appreciate. And in this, I have been well received, both by the sea, and by those who have welcomed me and my family over a lifetime. First grandparents, then parents and in-laws, aunts & uncles, siblings, cousins, friends, friends of siblings, parents of friends–each providing spare bedrooms, empty apartments, entire homes–so that I might know, and always remember, that I belong.
The pre-patriarchal goddess, Hera, returned for a ritual bath to the Spring of Kanathus every year to renew her Virginity–the quality of belonging to herself.
~Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter
In my bag, I have packed, just about 700 pages
Ready for gentle eyes
If ever cease I to call Vermont my home, this may be what I’ll miss most…
To her home state. The great state of North Carolina.
“Let us learn from our history and avoid repeating the mistakes of our past… Let us write a different story this time.”
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch
How often have I lived my life in compensation…
for another’s lived or unlived life…
Or my own…
How might I live without it…
Where does the balance of self reside?
Healers, artists, builders, coaches, counselors, teachers.This rich village in which we raise children.With special gratitude for Beverly Current at the Colonial Pool & Spa, who retires this summer, but not before coaxing a reluctant swimmer into proficiency & delight. True mastery.
I don’t read a lot of fiction. Because I feel manipulated and all. But my favorite fiction is once read. Sent by a friend. Who just had to share. Post office and all. Hoping I’d love it too.
I guess there’s some alchemy to an old white guy reminding us who we are as a country (and who we are not.)
30 years ago. The phone rang. It was Casey Deane.
Calling for a job.
what if i didn’t try to change how i was feeling.
what if i felt tired or depressed or heavy or all three and i just let that be. as if there was nothing wrong with me. as if how i am feeling is an invitation. as is. to really know. me. nothing to change. nothing to fix. nothing to flee.
next time, i’ll try this.
today i had chocolate. (lots of it.)
~EARTHSHINE: Sunlight reflects off the earth and lights up the moon; most intensely just before & after the New Moon of April & May.
Mothers Day sightings:
Racoon. Porcupine. (both dead)
Fox with two kits. Crossing road.
Turkey. Crossing highway.
Mouse. Crossing Rte 9.
(honorable mention: Golden Eagle, seated, on Rte 9, the week prior.)
Mothers day. Every day.
Feel the love. The sacrifice. THE POWER.
~A middle-aged man & woman, searching for trash along the side of the road, pause to exchange a touch & a kiss. #GreenUpDay
~A silver-haired man wipes tears from his cheek as the chorus sings, “Every week, I visit my mother. She lives in a place where they can take care of her. She’s not sure that I’m her daughter, but that no longer makes me cry.” #BrattleboroWomensChorus
~HEROINES with young children at performances throughout time, braving the gauntlet of breakdowns, while the rest of us get to focus so intently that we bristle at each squeak. #Motherhood
Celebrating all the ways we’ve been mothered well, and all the ways we can mother ourselves…
I can look out the window and see another dreary day or I can see the carpet of white blossoms on the greening earth.
I can look toward my kitchen and see the crumbs and disarray, or I can sense into the years of feeding a family and celebrating home.
I can look into the past and remember a mother who abandoned her children or I can see a woman who looked her demons in the eye and invited to them to the table where she nourished my soul.
Even the cd shuffler knows that stealing the sun after a few hours flirtation is crueler than another day without it.
Daffodils on a string of cold, dreary days; like sunny people at funerals.
You know that moment just before you transition into deep sleep? It’s there that He appears. Waking me. With a startle. Each night since Cruz dropped out. (Thank the Lord.) But now there’s no more pretending. He’s their guy. #Trump
Yesterday I finally tracked down a beloved. I can’t believe how hard she’s been to find. Made simpler by one fact: the smile that greeted me every morning in 7th, 8th & 9th grade was the same one she beamed at 51.
From her obituary.
That in every country of the world, women may be honored and respected and that their essential contribution to society may be highly esteemed.
After a 6 month hiatus, I’m struck by a tidal wave of sensation. Fear. Constriction. Resistance. A
nd something even more immobilizing:
Who do I think I am?!
The stakes are this high.
9 years of experience washed away.
Forced back to the beginning.
The initiation. Ishvara Pranidhana. Let my successes and my failures be an offering. #TeacherAppreciationDay#Unmasked
I asked Father Hodges–the one who wore a hair shirt and had us sing Irish drinking tunes in our senior theology class at Wildwood Catholic High–if I might be excused from getting on my knees and saying the rosary.
“I’m not Catholic,” I said.
The next day he volunteered me to crown Mary in the May pageant.