-1, First Day, New Administration

This past week the feelings returned.

Dizziness. Nausea. Agitation. Anger.

Other women shared the same sensations.

How it all became personal again.

The bristle at any uninvited touch–from male beloveds.

The chip on the shoulder (the size of North Dakota) in the face of their mansplaining.

The startle at sudden sounds–a dish dropping, a voice raised, the exhaust of a car.

On the day before the inauguration, I returned to the place where, on the day before the election, a young man called me: Cunt; and to the place–inside my heart–where my anguish and concern was met in a community Facebook group–with gaslighting–a term with which I hadn’t been familiar, but now know we experience regularly, throughout our lives, as woman.

At mid-day on Inauguration Eve, desperate for anchoring in the feminine, I met up with a friend, but each time I mentioned the President-Elect’s name–in earnest–speaking my intention to bear witness to the inauguration–my head spun and my stomach curdled.

I couldn’t eat.
I bit my nails.

In the comfort of twilight, I gathered with community members for the #GhostLightProject, and afterward, I carried my lantern through the town, and into the Co-op, and placed it on our table where we shared a family dinner in the cafe, and then into my cart while we shopped for the week’s groceries.

As I did this, a dear friend, 300 miles away, one with whom I’ve regularly wrestled online (due to dramatically differing views on the outgoing and incoming President) died.

Thus Inauguration Day was saturated with grief.

Even the world outside my window was drenched in wet snow.

Even JT (no, not that one, the original) wrote to his fans to say how the earth was crying where he was too.

Even the Inaugural Address by the new President my friend had elected had rain fall upon it.

Laura and I met when we were 14 though a common beloved–our best friend, Lou Ann. The three of us made a road trip to Philly to see JT perform on Lou’s 19th birthday.

Each time he sang:
Close your eyes and think of me…
W
e smiled.
And when he sang:
To brighten up even your darkest night…
We beamed our youthful faces toward one another.
And as he sang:  Call out my name…
We opened our mouths and hollered toward the stage:
JAMES!!!

16142721_10155055080958746_4917426351186997672_nLast year we gathered on Laura’s 53rd birthday in Cape May–her favorite place on earth. Friends and family filled the branches of a handmade felt tree with all the qualities we admired in her.

Laura surprised me by her willingness to read each one out loud, lapping up our love unabashedly, like the puppies upon whom she doted.

“They knew when I was first sick,” she often said. “They could smell it on my breath.”

What does it mean that Laura missed the inauguration, dying just hours before it took place?

What does it mean that a small blistered rash began in the inside corner of my right eye, just after the Trump video, and continued its journey in the 70 days between Barack and Donald until it arrived at the opposite corner, and then squarely landed above my eye as Laura died?

The three of us were meant to meet at Longwood Gardens last Sunday, after the funeral of a friend’s mother; but the respiratory virus that has been going around got the best of Laura’s compromised immune system, and she spent the day in quarantined hospital room where they pumped her system with antibiotics.

16142639_10155055058868746_4447611203624494931_nLou and Laura once flew to London to visit me in the 80’s during my semester abroad, and 30 years later, the two of them joined me for my 50th birthday retreat near my home in Vermont.

Despite her decreased mobility, Laura traveled solo by train, insisting on an extra day with me in the mountains.

She took a walk into our woods with my son and convinced him to hide a gift in my favorite spot, telling him not to say that the dragonfly was from her. (He never did.)

Dragonfly has long been my writing medicine, though Laura wouldn’t have known that, nor did I ever think to tell her that she once planted the seed that I might be a writer one day.

“I let my mother read the letters you send to me,” she once confessed, in our college days. “We read them aloud.”

“Why?” I asked, perplexed.

After another heated Facebook quarrel earlier this month–one in which I insisted that Laura more carefully check the information she posted–she surprised me by sharing this image on my wall:
15726854_1075061979269770_8740175318812512124_n
Laura added how lucky the world was that my voice wasn’t silenced.

While she took her last breaths, I listened to Michael Moore outside Trump Tower, and watched as the crowds lapped up his words in a way I had never witnessed before.

A scene from a favorite movie came to mind–a sobbing Tea Leoni comforted by her mother, Cloris Leachman, in the Romantic Comedy, Spanglish.

cloris_leachman53“You’re really enjoying this aren’t you Mother!” Tea accuses Cloris.

“No,” her mother insists, but then admits that she is enjoying the ability to comfort her daughter and the fact that her daughter finally needs her.

We’re a lot like that daughter now.
Desperate. Fearful.
Needing guidance.
Leaning into the Mother.

As ballast and balm for watching the entire inauguration yesterday, I took myself to see the newly released film, Hidden Figures, a historical drama about some of the leading mathematicians behind NASA’s flight program in the 60s.

hidden-figures-posterThese brilliant minds were marginalized, not only because of gender.

I cringed at every affront they had to bear–from the police, to their colleagues, to the segregated office, bathrooms, water fountains, coffee pots, buses and schools.

It was the same cringing I did as a child when I watched the series Roots, and younger still, the film Soldier Blue, about the Calvary and the Cheyenne.

It was the same cringing I felt as I came of age and heard discrimination spoken aloud by the adults I had respected.

As I swallowed pieces of buttered popcorn, I wept through Hidden Figures–for women–for all those marginalized–for the current administration of the United States–and for myself, in losing Laura.

~

When I woke this morning, I did not join in at any of the rallies–not the one in Massachusetts with my sister and my niece, nor the one in Montpelier with my husband, nor the one downtown with friends.

I stayed put, even though I had previously rallied for Planned Parenthood, for Bernie, for health care, and for Obama.

I wept my way through the day while bearing witness to the pink-hatted, bold and beautiful and angry and righteous and loving voices–on every fucking continent.

A single memory of Laura kept poking its way into the day.

The scene was set at a restaurant beside the inter-coastal waterway where we both worked in our early twenties–she, as a waitress, me, as the boss of 50 peers. Laura arrived late, and I took issue.

“What did you want me to do, swim here!” she hollered across the diningroom.

img_2038“No,” I said, “I wanted you to leave early enough in case the bridge went up since you live in a place where that happens every day.”

And this is what I want to say to Laura today:

I’ll miss your fiery heart. The way it ached like mine, not for women or minorities, but for animals and police officers.

I can’t breathe imagining the world without you.

~

Addendum:

The haunting feminine solos and aching melody performed by Missouri State University Chorale at the Inauguration (see video below) soothed by grieving heart. (I wonder if Laura, in her joy, would have been similarly moved.)

Now We Belong

Here are the voices of every creature,

Here are the calls of every heart;

Here is the place of strangers’ welcome,

We who once walked in strangers’ shoes.

Once we were strangers,

We were welcomed,

Now we belong and believe in this land.

Here are the rivers of many echoes,

Here are the leaves of every tree;

Within us live the long horizons,

Winds that stir the sacred stones.

Once we were strangers,

We were welcomed,

Now we belong and believe in this land.

Keep faith, keep watch,

Take heart, take courage,

Guard mind, guard spirit,

Feed love, feed longing.

Here are the cities where we have gathered,

Here are the barns where hope is stored;

We are the gleams of every being,

Filled with the dreams that build the day.

Once we were strangers,

We were welcomed,

Now we belong and believe in this land.

Keep faith, guard mind,

Take heart, guard spirit,

Take courage, keep watch,

Feed longing, feed love.

(written by Minnesota poet Michael Dennis Browne and composed by John Wykoff.)

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