I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Bringing the past into the present

Me and my son Chris in the sixties

 I have pondered all week what I might write about today, since I started the new year with the word, "Uncovering." Just the mere intention of uncovering what has kept me from looking at uncomfortable memories has stirred up the depths, things I haven't thought about for many years, even decades. And this happened during a very momentous week in our nation's history, which I'll try to deal with later in this post. It's impossible not to have been moved by the images of the Capitol being breached by huge mobs intent on destruction.

That picture was taken by my husband at the time, Don. He had an SLR camera and took many wonderful pictures during the five years we were married. I left my first husband, Derald, the father of Chris, in the aftermath of our infant son Stephen's sudden death of spinal meningitis in 1965. This could have been taken only a few years after that awful time. I realize that therein lies the beginning of my journey to attempt to bury, not only my grief, but also the pain that I carried every day about the life I left behind. It will require quite a bit of digging to get to the bottom of my renunciation. And it might take some time, but now I have begun the journey to wholeness. It is a good way to begin the new year.

I have no actual memory of that picture being taken, but I know we lived in Flint, Michigan, and it was wintertime. We lived in the country, and I suspect we drove to some nearby woods. We must have heard a bird in the tree above us, and as we looked up, Don captured this picture, for which I am very grateful. The three people in this portrait don't exist anymore; I am now an old woman, Chris has been dead since 2002, and Don died a few years ago. In fact, I realize that many friends and family have passed away, and in the present moment I must cherish those who remain. Especially my dear life partner, who sleeps next to me as I write. He's grown accustomed to the sound of the keyboard, and it doesn't seem to bother him a bit to have me busy rummaging around in old memories.

SG is one of the best things that came out of my skydiving years. I met him on a newsgroup of the time (early 1990s) dedicated to skydiving. Those were the days before websites and the current internet. He posted often about his past adventures, and they fascinated me, a newbie to the sport who could not stop thinking about it every moment of every day. We began an email correspondence, which evolved into phone calls. In those days he lived in San Francisco and I in Boulder, and we had to pay long-distance rates to talk with one another, but we fell in love that way. No actual bodies involved, just our mutual passion and our voices. He had made thousands of jumps, and I had a few hundred. Eventually, inevitably, we met in person and he ended up quitting his job and moving to Boulder. We had some hard times during those early days, but it got better, and now we've been happily married for more than a quarter century. I am so grateful to have found him. We are now old retired people, scraping by on Social Security and annuities. But we have each other, which makes us wealthy in love.

I was talking on FaceTime with my sister Norma Jean and my nephew Peter last Wednesday, when they both looked up at their television screen (sound was off) when the Capitol was breached. It seemed incredible to all three of us that what we were seeing was people breaking down the doors and windows and streaming into those hallowed halls, bent on stopping the counting of the electoral college votes. It's only been four days since all that happened, and pretty much nothing else is on the air but videos and pictures of the mayhem. Was it an attempt at an insurrection? The word is defined as "a violent uprising against an authority or government." I guess it was, then.

I was horrified by the people looking to execute Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi, and others. There was even a makeshift gallows with a noose visible in the crowd. People interviewed during the melee scared me with their intent, not only to destroy property, but also to kill lawmakers. These images and videos have gone around the entire world. I fear that the violence is not over but will increase as like-minded people are emboldened to take it to the next level. It terrifies me.

And this was after two new senators were elected on Tuesday, the first black senator from the South, along with the first Jewish senator from Georgia. I was happy to see that, because it meant the the new administration will not be blocked from bringing legislation to the Senate floor, which would definitely have happened if Mitch McConnell had remained majority leader. Biden has pledged that he will give the American people more money to make it through the pandemic, and he has also pledged to get it under control. I hope he will be able to make good on those promises. The pandemic is now raging out of control through much of the country, and hospitals in many places are forced to triage care, since there are not enough hospital beds or healthcare workers to cope with everyone. And it is getting worse.

We are under strict pandemic lockdown restrictions here in Washington state, but our numbers are nothing compared to California's or Arizona's. When I go out, everyone I see is wearing a mask and we are not able to attend indoor gatherings, not that I wish to. No more indoor dining or gyms, until we are past this time. More than 4,000 Americans have died from the virus just today, and more are to come. I look forward to the day when I will be able to get the vaccine.

It doesn't seem possible that we will be getting back to a normal life any time soon. And when we do, it won't be the one that we had before. It will be different, but I believe it could be even better. I hope many of us will do our part to make that dream a reality. And with whatever will be happening in this country, I know we will do our best.

The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults. —Alexis de Tocqueville

And with that thought, I leave you for another week. Sunday mornings for me always begin with this task, the one I am finishing right now, writing a post from the depths of my mental wranglings. As I've said before, sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't. It will take a few more readings of this one before I figure out where it lies.  In any event, I am tremendously grateful for my ability to reach across the miles to you, my dear reader, for yet another week. It's time for me to move into the next phase of my day. Hopefully it will be a good one for me, and for all of you, my sweet virtual friends. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well.


gigi-hawaii said...

That is a beautiful picture of you and Chris, which I have seen before. I never tire of seeing it, DJan. You have some poignant memories for sure. I am glad you and SG get along and being married for more than 25 years is great! Let's just forget the debacle in DC, shall we?

Sheila said...

That is a beautiful and timeless photo. I hope we never forget the scene at the Capitol and who caused it.

Anvilcloud said...

You have had heartbreaking losses. Be kind with yourself as you examine your life.

Susan Sawatzky said...

I have my own heartbreak, a son gone wrong. If ever we meet, I'll tell you about it.

I went out to walk my dog on the morning of the Capitol takeover. We were just about a half mile from home, I was watching CNBC on my phone. When the crown seemed to be contained and the capitol lit up I burst into tears.

I consider myself to be a citizen of the US but have never described myself as a patriot. At that moment I did.

I envy you your love, I lost mine 8-1/2 years ago. Not a day goes by I don't think of him.

Susan S, John VW's friend

John's Island said...

Good morning DJan. Looking back on life and recognizing the spots where we left our best path forward is difficult. I admire you for choosing “uncovering” as your new word of the year, and your efforts to resolve any suffering that still exists due to those times in the past. I like what Anvilcloud said above, “Be kind with yourself as you examine your life.” An excellent suggestion. You have so many good things in your life history. You have certainly been a positive addition to my life as it has been affected by the blogosphere over the last decade. Congratulations to you and SG on 25 years happy together! I appreciate and agree with your take on the events of this last week. I had to smile when I looked at the comments before mine today. The first person said we should just “forget the debacle in DC” and the second person said, “I hope we never forget the scene at the Capitol and who caused it.” So go the comments on a blog. :-) This time I have to agree with Sheila. Thank you for another fine Eye on the Edge. Have a good week ahead, take care, and be safe. John

ApacheDug said...

You always post the best photos on your Sunday essays, but I sure love this one. The clarity is amazing (it doesn’t lose its quality even when I click on it twice to enlarge it). Anyway DJan, so nice to see you and Chris here. My God, 2002... and your infant son too. While I personally don’t see anything wrong with ‘rummaging’ thru older memories, what’s amazing & wonderful is—you go on making new ones! I hope you know how much I look up to you. I greatly enjoyed reading how you & SG met too... DJan, that’s incredible. And I didn’t realize you two had been together 25 years. As for events this week in our nation’s capital... I feel your disbelief. I never thought I’d see such a thing happen in ‘real life’. I’m honestly trying to see the positive side of things, like our now slim majority in the Senate. Joe Biden deserves that, SO DO WE. Sorry for my long ramble here (I talk too much!) and I hope you & SG have a terrific week.

Barbara Rogers said...

Thanks for telling a bit of your history. I have high respect for all you've experienced. Not so those who chose to become terrorists at the Capitol this last week. I'll continue blogging my thoughts on that. I agree with several of your commenters...examining the past can envelope us in a lot of emotions, so be sure to stay grounded in the present as you do such. Have a great and safe week.

Linda Myers said...

What a beautiful picture! I don't think I've ever seen it.

Linda Reeder said...

I have been privileged to read your much earlier posts where you shared the great losses in your life. I am familiar with your sorrow. I thought you had dealt with it quite well, but only you know what is still to be "uncovered". Go gently.
Wednesday's events continue to haunt me as I progress on my recovery with too much time on my hands and not enough joy in my life. No, we must not forget. The threat is real and we as a nation that cherishes democracy must be vigilant.

Marie Smith said...

American friend in blogland have been on my mind all week as the tragic events at the Capitol unfolded. The American people will come through this terrible time though, stronger for the experience. Take care, Jan.

Red said...

You've touched on three heavy topics today. I wish you success in your journey of discovery into the major losses in your life. Writing is one way to think about your losses. As for this weeks events...it's unbelievable. Just when we think Trump can do worse, he does. A riot such as this one this week will take long time to resolve if it ever does. Good luck on your journey.

Margaret said...

It's a strange dynamic to uncover a past and people who no longer exist and a life that is completely different from how it was. It's almost like we lead a multitude of micro lives. I'm not the same person I was before my husband died. I wonder if he would even recognize me now. Thank you for sharing your journey.

Rita said...

I agree with the others who ksay to be gentle with yourself upon your uncovering. I do know that digging into the dark places usually reveals the light, too.

This has been a horrible week for the United States. I am still processing it...and those forces are winding up for the 20th, too.

I do love that picture. Priceless.

I hope we have an uneventful week. I really do.

Arkansas Patti said...

I am as enchanted with that picture today as I was the first time I saw it. You and Chris were so enthralled in the moment is a treasure. He was so a mini you. To see it must be so bitter sweet for you. Dwell on the sweet part, not the bitter.
I am still trying to wrap my head around the unthinkable thing that occurred a few days ago. I do so hope Alexis is correct and that we can repair our faults.

Rian said...

DJan, I thought I commented on this post earlier, but perhaps I started and was interrupted, that does happen. Anyway, love the picture of you and your young son!

As for what happened on Jan. 6th, I find it hard to believe that in this day and age that people can still think that violence is the answer. Those faces that had their 'moment in the sun' will now face years in prison. What did that accomplish? And I've no doubt that there will be more disruption as that is what they feed on... fear and chaos. But I do believe and trust that those in charge will handle it... and those responsible will pay.

And yes, the pandemic still rages on. The vaccine is out there and will be distributed as best they can to as many as they can despite all the obstacles... and we will continue to follow the guidelines for months to come. But in the end, we will beat this.

Glenda Beall said...

This post touched me deeply because I know you suffered great pain losing both of your boys. I have suffered losses, too, and will never stop thinking of my husband and his tragic journey with our health care in this country.
As you dig into your memories, be sure to savor those moments when you were so happy. I think we live on the good memories of the past, and we learn from the bad memories.
I have been deeply depressed since last Wednesday. I never thought that we had people in our country who actually wanted to overthrow our government. I hope we can come out of this with healing of the division, but who knows where it will all lead. All we can do is support the good and disparage the bad where we can. Be safe and kind to yourself. You mean so much to us, your readers.

Tabor said...

you are the blog I turn to for stability. Life can toss us up and down, but you swim back up and take a survey of the surface of the ocean and swim on. Your having been a skydiver tells me about your bravery and love of the thrill of life. As I have posted on other's bogs this will be a civil war across the U.S. But I think we will be better for it. No pain and no gain.

Marty said...

I find myself dodging memories sometimes, since the bad ones usually push themselves forward, elbowing out the good. At that point I tell myself that at 71, it's about darn time I get over it, and not let the past define me any longer.
Sadly, there's little comfort to be had in the present but there are glimmers of hope ahead if we can only keep Biden and Harris sage.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Lovely photo of you and Chris. Sometimes the painful memories float to the surface more than the happy ones. Be kind to yourself.
As for the riots...Violence is violence and it should all be dealt with the same...Not many people were upset when they burned down a Police Station in Minneapolis...or BLM busting windows of downtown shops in Fargo...a few paid protesters cause lots of problems.

Sandi said...

"...I am tremendously grateful for my ability to reach across the miles to you, my dear reader..."

Me too. One thing the Internet does is gives people who would not normally meet the opportunity to hear eachother. I think there was fraud in the election, but I was horrified by the events in the Capital. I want a peaceful world too, though I think only the Lord can give us that. Have a good day, Djan.

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Friko said...

Funnily enough I have also started to delve into the past. So far I have read 2 years’ worth of diaries and I am not best pleased by them. I was a miserable woman even then.

Of course, we too have seen the pictures and the paper I read (The Guardian) is full every day of the misdeeds of unbelievably unpleasant people. Any opinion piece here is not optimistic about the future in the US. There is much disturbance to come yet. Will Biden be able to overcome the forces of evil? (sorry, but I feel justified in calling certain sections of US politicians by that name.)

Dee said...

Dear DJan, thank you for the de Tocqueville (spelling???) quote. It gives me hope. And know that you and your journey into "uncovering" will be in my thoughts and prayers and visualizations as this year passes into the past and as you share with us your discoveries, your gratitude, and your humility. Peace.