The Princess baked a cake for the inauguration. She wanted to write “The horse has left the hospital” on it, but decided sprinkles would get the point across just as well.
So we spent most of Wednesday eating cake and expressing our relief in various ways. There’s a lot of work to be done, and (not but, and) we needed a moment to just take a breath.
There might even be weekend cake, if I have the energy. Or maybe just a lot of napping. I’m finally feeling just how exhausted I truly am, and I suspect you are too. Be as gentle as you can with yourselves, my beloveds. We’re not out of the woods yet, but I think we can see the meadow.
Yesterday was… an experience. I was already exhausted, unable to sleep Tuesday night; I finally got up, let the dogs out and fed them, and grabbed my phone on the way back to bed, thinking I could at least have a bit of a lie-in.
Boy, was I wrong.
I found out white supremacist terrorists were rioting in federal and state capitols, egged on by their Dear Orange Leader. It was unsurprising–I did, after all, write a whole book about this back in 2015–but still terrifying.
I’ve read history. I know what could happen, what’s likely to happen. I don’t mind telling you I’m not sanguine about any of this. Most of all, I’m pretty sure none of the racist fuckwads attempting a coup for their Tangerine Twitler will suffer any real consequences.
The Princess was home from work, too, and had glanced at the news early in the morning–then remained fixed to it, horrified. Every time some-damn-thing else happened, one of us would call down the hallway. The Prince, busy with distance-learning, spent the entire day holed up in his room with schoolwork, and consequently had only faint intimations of trouble until we all convened for dinner. I was glad both of my children were safe and home where I could see them. Probably irrational, but powerfully comforting nonetheless.
What I really want to talk about, though, is chocolate chip cookies.
The day ended, for me, with hugging my children–though both of them are much taller than I am now, they still find comfort in Mum’s closeness–and reassuring them. Reminding each other to breathe, reminding them that we have plans in case things go haywire, reminding ourselves that we’re in fact extremely privileged and lucky. I retreated to bed hoping against hope for some sleep.
Helped by exhaustion (and, let’s face it, a dose of Tylenol PM) I did manage to pass out. My dreams were feverish, ending with some guy in a flying lawn chair swooping through neighborhood backyards. (I don’t know, don’t ask me.) And when I resurrected in the clear light of dawn to take the dogs out once more, there were chocolate chip cookies on the dining-room table.
“Yeah,” the Princess muttered, when she shuffled out of her bedroom for breakfast. “World’s on fire. Figured I’d bake.”
“The cookies,” I said, through a thick fog of pre-caffeination, “didn’t exist before, now they do. We’ll eat them and they’ll be part of us forever. You made something out of other things. That’s just so cool, and it doesn’t have to be monetized although we’re trapped in late-stage capitalism.”
My daughter grinned, in the particular way that means she understands but can’t resist poking me. “Get some coffee, Mum.” She paused. “I love you.”
Really, they weren’t just cookies. They were a cry in the face of destruction, a hope for something better, a way to say I love you not just to me but to her brother as well, a soothing reminder that we can build and make and do things that weren’t there before.
Creativity–making things–is powerful and healing at the same time. Making something that wasn’t there before is an old, old human magic, and so innate we overlook it. Magic is changing consciousness at will (thank you, Aleister, you were a jerk but you did have a way with words sometimes) but it’s also willing something into existence. The human capacity to create is natural as breathing; we take it for granted. And it’s also therapeutic when some assholes seem determined to be as hateful and murderous as possible.
Creating doesn’t have to be monetized, it doesn’t have to be a side gig. It’s a natural human function performed in a hundred little ways each day. It’s also a powerful way to say fuck you to those murderous, treasonous assnuts who like to poison themselves, not to mention the rest of us, with racism and violence.
I have a whole rant about how choosing that poison means throwing away their humanity, but now’s not the time.
If you’re utterly exhausted by all this, if you can’t look away, if you can’t seem to focus on much else, well, welcome to the club. Don’t beat yourself up over it! It is an utterly reasonable response to this fuckery. And this is not a call for you to drag yourself forth and have to deal with one more thing. You don’t have to make something right now. It’s okay if you don’t have the energy.
I’m just saying there are more cookies in the world than there were yesterday, because the Princess made them. People are making things, people are sticking together, lots of people are staying home to protect others during a pandemic and lots of people are trying like hell to do something, anything, whatever they can to make the world a little better.
We outnumber the racist, destructive, poisonous assnuts. We always have. The news is dire and the situation is bad, and (not but, AND) the human capacity to care and to create is so innate, so reflexive, that we’re still making and doing and caring for each other despite that. It’s natural and sane to feel overwhelmed right now. It’s also natural and sane to make something if you’ve the urge and the energy. Both are okay.
That’s what I’m clinging to, this first Thursday of 2021. There are more cookies in the world than there were yesterday, and once consumed they’ll be part of us forever. It doesn’t feel like a lot when I stare at the news, I’ll admit.
My Aussie friend D.K. sent us a care package; there was even a tiny ‘roo ornament. (She was present during the party that gave rise to Jozzie & Sugar Belle, naturally.) The kids barely let me open it before the TimTams were snatched.
I mean, just LOOK at the carnage. Oh, the humanity!
If there’s anything more perfect than the dark-choco-and-chili TimTams (not pictured, because they were MINE ALL MINE) I haven’t run across it yet.
I hope you had something sweet this past week, my beloveds. I’m still hiding in my hole, still too embarrassed to come out much, but that doesn’t mean I can’t offer a word of support, I think.
Hang in there. We’re almost done surviving this year. No matter what 2021 brings, we’ve done this. And that’s an immense victory, considering.
The Little Prince (I should just call him “The Prince” now, he’s taller than me, though not even close to my Machiavellian status, ha ha) is barreling ahead in his Baking & Desserts class. Each week he has a choice of three recipes, and this past week he chose… bread.
“But, Mom,” he said, leaning in my office door, “I want it to be like yours. Will you help me?”
There were no fluttering eyelashes, but I felt the need to clutch at my heart just the same.
So now he knows about autolyse and has kneaded a giant hunk of dough; he’s heated the oven just right for proofing and used a bench scraper, how to rescue a dough too wet or too dry, and he baked a lovely, lovely loaf we had with dinner and then for breakfast the next day.
He’s very proud of himself, and my poor heart is so full it aches. I mean, just look at that lovely crumb! The well-shaped loaf! The beautiful crack in the top crust! The irregular holes!1
It tasted pretty spiffy, too.
I hope you had a similar victory this past week, dearly beloveds; I hope someone let you know just how important you are and how much they treasure something you do–something you might not think much of, but they think is just the bee’s knees and the cat’s pyjamas.
I am swinging between hope and despair, as I have been all year. But it’s nice to take a breath, and a bite of something with love baked into its very molecules.
So last weekend, when the news came that the election was no longer in doubt, I double-masked, grabbed hand sanitizer, staggered out, and brought home a celebratory tiramisu.
The tiny local bakery (always my first choice) was jammed with (masked) customers so I didn’t even get out of the car; there was nothing in one supermarket bakery, so back into the car it was. I lucked out in the third, and carried my prize home.
We put a tea light on it, and the Little Prince–as our newest registered voter–got to make a wish for democracy and blew the candle out.
It’s been a week, hasn’t it. The nightmare is not over, but the chances of a coup are slowly–sloooooowly!–receding. We’re not out of the woods yet, but as Churchill intoned sententiously, it may very well be the end of the beginning.
I’m tired, and still a little ill. I know you’re tired too, my beloveds. I have grown to dislike hope over the last five-six years, since it hurts so much when that hope is ripped away by fascism. Still, like a cockroach, hope survives in hidden cracks, and I have been feeling it these past few days.
At that third supermarket bakery, the lady behind the case nodded when I asked if everyone else was celebrating Pennsylvania declaring for the forces of good, too. “Oh yeah,” she said, quietly, the corners of her eyes crinkling with a broad smile behind her mask. “Everyone’s tired, but so happy about it. Want ten percent off?”
Bless you, Bakery Case Lady. Bless you, bless you deeply.
So. Last Saturday the kids and I gorged on tiramisu and hope at once. After a long time in dark hopelessness, we are hungry for the good.
Here’s to hoping, then. (Even I can’t eradicate that cockroach.) Here’s to hoping, and to kindness, and to working together; here’s to a ringing defeat of fascism and its fellow travelers. Here’s to the end of the beginning.
There’s a lot of work ahead of us, I know. And it’s a Friday the 13th in 2020. May Freyja grant us light and strength for the road ahead.
I woke up with R. B. Greaves’s Take a Letter, Maria playing inside my head. If it means anything, I’m in the dark about precisely what. The Princess would have helped me analyse it along with my dreams, but she says she’s never heard the song. Which I know is inaccurate, since I listen to it in the car whenever it comes on for whatever reason–the lure of familiarity, I suppose. This probably just means I need to listen to it a couple times today to get the song out of my head.
It’s a nice cloudy Monday. I have a new keyboard and took a few days almost-off social media. We call Twitter “hellsite” and it’s beginning to sound less like a tongue-in cheek observation than plain unadorned truth, or even understatement. Still, it has its uses, and I spend most of my time on my Mastodon instance anyway.
The dogs are quiet, for once. They’re probably still exhausted from yesterday, since they had to supervise housecleaning, window washing, and the making of bruschetta. The Princess has a recipe for mimicking the Trader Joe’s tomatoes-garlic-basil-oil-vinegar spread, which is our very favorite over tangy sourdough and fresh mozzarella. (The secret? Citric acid! You can find it in the canning aisle of the supermarket, or King Arthur Flour has some I personally prefer.) I’ve been experimenting with chana masala and cocoanut curries, and she’s been on a real Italian appetizers kick.
In short, there’s been some good eating around here lately. Since we’re mostly still quarantined (for when we’re not, there are plenty of masks, since my writing partner’s way of coping with the first boomerang of the pandemic was to get out her sewing machine) it’s pretty much taking the place of all socializing or field trips.
The Prince (sadly, I cannot call him the Little Prince anymore, both my children are taller than me) has been on a homebrew science kick. I let him take apart my old, battered keyboard to find out how it’s constructed and how it works, and he was thrilled with the idea of repurposing bits of it for “experiments.” I don’t ask questions, I just order the supplies and enthuse over what he tells me of the results.
I feel sort of like a mad scientist’s corporate backer, but I’m sure there are worse fates.
Living in historical times is exhausting, physically and mentally. I want to retract like a salted slug. I know not seeing the disaster is a privilege, I know the disaster is continuing whether I look at it or not, I know if I don’t find some way of settling back into work we’ll be in even worse shape in a few months. Plus, there’s a part of me that sniffs you wrote a whole fucking book about this and they didn’t listen, let them sit in it. I know it’s not fair of me to think it; there were other people far smarter and more famous sounding the alarm who were ignored as well.
I just can’t help myself.
So now it’s finishing coffee, taking the dogs on their ritual ramble, getting a run in, and keeping social media shut off for the day while I go back to work. I don’t want to look at the schedule and see how far behind I am; I just want to put my head down and lose myself in a world where anthropomorphized gods are visiting parties, or a court where the politicking continues while the state’s ship goes down (it occurs to me my main difficulty with the last Hostage book is probably that it feels so familiar), or the Robin Hood IN SPACE story where everything is heating up for the final half of the final season. At least with the new keyboard I’m not in a state of high irritation while typing; I hadn’t realized how much the missing stair behavior of the old one was affecting me.
I have a bunch of Cowboy Junkies and Cocteau Twins queued up, though I’ve listened to Take a Letter, Maria about five times so far today, attempting to scratch whatever earworm itch is in my head. We’ll see if it works. What the Muse wants, the Muse gets, although I’m not sure she’s the one in charge of the sound system this morning. It seems suspiciously like there’s gremlins lurking in my cranial folds.
It wouldn’t be the first time. Might as well just let them play.
Happy Monday, my beloveds. I hope your weekend was calm, and I hope for a sudden volte-face in the state of the world. The latter might not be very likely, but at least I can hope. Dum spiro,spero, and all that.
Apparently the bees are following me even into the kitchen. The Princess brought this home from work for us last night, along with a completely fabulous Dunder Mifflin pillow that was on sale. There was much hilarity.
Since she works at a grocer’s and the general public seems to think the worst is over, I’m terrified she’ll catch the current plague. Of course she’s young and not in the most at-risk group, her store has started providing masks, and my writing partner also sewed us cloth masks, so at least there’s that. And the Princess knows she can quit if she decides to, but she’s determined to stay the course for now. If it was up to me she’d be home and safe, but she’s well over twenty now and… yeah.
I thought I knew what terror was. Then I went and had children. Love rests cheek-by-jowl with fear; after years of listening for their breathing in the middle of the night, constantly focused on the safety of small dependent beings, it’s hard to loosen one’s grip. The habit of constant vigilance, care, and correction is difficult to alter, especially when it was ground in over years of sleep deprivation bordering on psychosis.
Toddlers are not for the weak, my friends. And the thing about children is… they grow up.
Now there are bee cakes and pillows, laughter and hugs, dogs to pet and a cat to cuddle. There’s seeing my babies grow into fabulous human adults, and learning to leave them space to breathe while still holding the last line so they have somewhere to retreat if needed.
And if I get frosting in my hair from perching a plastic bee decoration in it, if I am so excited over a pillow I act like a complete dork, if my pride is still stung by the need to say “You know what, I’m absolutely wrong. Let’s try that again,” daily, it’s an infinitely small price to pay for the love that fills every corner of whatever house we live in and slops out into every other part of my life.
The world is a dangerous place. But we have each other. Love is unutterably precious in all its forms, and the cracks of heartbreak make that organ bigger. The gold of grief hammered into those fissures can grant us grace and strength.
Gods help me never to forget that. And let me always, always be grateful for bee cakes.