Creating Hope

I don’t know when I started to run on fumes. My last post was September last year (about the delightful Star Wars Visions, which has a second season coming later this year). I’ve had a bunch of blog post ideas since then. I thought I had followed through with at least one, but no.

Life got in the way, as it does, only this time it was a jack-knifed semi-truck blocking all lanes of traffic.

My family life has been rough, and not something I want to discuss publicly. Add to that the growing embrace of theocracy in this country, making me wonder what kind of life I want to have if things go south.

In short, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find hope again.

I recently read Why Fish Don’t Exist by Lulu Miller, part-memoir and part-biography of 19th-century scientist David Starr Jordan, and one of its themes is how to keep going when everything is falling prey to entropy. Halfway through, Miller learns something about Jordan that upends everything she had thought about him — specifically, his enthusiastic endorsement of eugenics — and she wonders what awful things result from a desire to put order to a chaotic world.

So, what are some alternatives?

There’s faith, I suppose, but that’s long since fled my life. I once had it when I was a committed Unitarian Universalist. Having left the church — both a physical building and the denomination as a whole — it has never stayed, sometimes flitting through like a bird through a yard, grabbing an insect or a worm before disappearing. I can’t say I’m an atheist — I still believe in the God of Einstein and Spinoza — but that God isn’t coming to save us.

So I decided to lie to myself.

A better world is possible. Help yourself and those around you.

As lies go, it’s pretty small. It’s kind of the Bodhisattva Vow in miniature: everyone can be free of suffering, and it’s your responsibility to free everyone else once you’ve freed yourself. But it’s a lie because I have no evidence that a better world is actually possible.

But the first sentence is just a hook to hang the second on: since a better world is possible, it’s your responsibility to help yourself and those around you to make it happen.

I wish I had more than that. I wish I weren’t just running on fumes. I just hope it’s enough to get me home.


Star Wars Visions, or What It Took To Love Star Wars Again

Has it been long enough to talk about Star Wars on the internet?

My feelings about the sequel trilogy — The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker — are more complicated than the polarized love/hate of the entire sequence that crystallized just after The Last Jedi was released.

Well, perhaps not so complicated. I adore The Last Jedi, but was deeply disappointed in The Rise of Skywalker. This was in part because of its choppy storytelling, but also because of how reactionary it was, undoing every novel thing that TLJ introduced, seemingly as an act of spite. I can recall so many vivid sequences from TLJ, but TRoS exists in this haze. I couldn’t even remember what the MacGuffin was that Rey and the others were trying to find.


What Covid Taught Me

Sometime in late March, I contracted the SARS-COV-2 virus. I don’t know how, where, or exactly when — maybe at the office, where hygiene standards had grown lax, or just in passing at the grocery store. It doesn’t matter, and even if I knew for sure I wouldn’t say.

Two weeks later, I had a cold that morphed into the worst case of pneumonia I have ever had. After a night of nausea so intense that it literally knocked me out of bed, I went to the clinic, where I got my official diagnosis. I went into quarantine for two weeks, got some steroids, and waited it out.

When I fell ill, I was just a week away from getting the first shot of vaccine.


Vogon Poetry

If you’re familiar with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you’ve heard of Vogon poetry: verse so stilted, so cliché, that is tantamount to torture for someone to hear it recited.

Anyway, I took down my recent poems. Pretension doesn’t become me. 🙂


What Hath Facebook Wrought

(CW: suicidal ideation)

As I was closing on my house in October — amidst tribble-like avalanches of paperwork, hands squeezed with white knuckles as everything almost fell apart up until it miraculously came together — I was already preparing for an extended break from social media.

I was already emotionally exhausted from the interminable presidential election, months of lockdown and squabbling over whether the very real COVID-19 was a hoax (it isn’t), and things were nearly coming apart at the last minute as closing day approached. I had stepped away from Twitter, but Facebook was always there — where I could gloat about some small victory, or quietly envy my friends.

It was a no-brainer: I would need a break after closing, to give myself time for packing, pre-move renovations, and moving day itself. To make the house livable would take a bit of effort — new light fixtures, flooring, etc. I needed every second I could spare.



That’s the term JRR Tolkien invented to describe a terrible event that ends well. The climax of Lord of the Rings (when Sauron falls, not the scouring of the shire or all the loose ends) is a eucatastrophe. Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star is a eucatastrophe — because while the weapon of mass destruction was itself destroyed, nearly every pilot in his sortie was killed, and the rebellion had to retreat before imperial reinforcements arrived.

Biden’s win — at this point indisputable — is a eucatastrophe. Four more years of Trump would have ruined this country, set back any progress made against climate change, and seen an even tighter grip by white supremacy on our nation.

I’m relieved Biden won. Not excited, just relieved.

And yet there’s been so much damage. That’s the catastrophe part of eucatastrophe.

A month ago, just as I was closing on my new house, I decided to take an extended break from social media. No Facebook or Twitter, and no Tumblr since before then. I recalled election day 2016. That night, and the day after, saw me at my lowest in years. What’s worse, the sanctimoniousness of timeline acquaintances and circular firing squads on social media drove me …

…I’m not going to discuss that in public. I’ve had enough of strangers and false friends picking at my mental health.

But I didn’t want that again, not this year, not after enduring pandemic lockdown, my family coming apart, and years of work getting myself back together.

Maybe that’s why I’m just simply relieved? I’ve made a point not to chase conspiracy theories about four-dimensional chess or bombard myself with ever-more cynical image memes.

So, the eucatastrophe. Tolkien didn’t believe in progress. He was a classical romantic, meaning the old days were better than now, and the future even grimmer — a “long defeat” that could never end well. The eucatastrophe was an aberration, a glimmer of hope among the decay.

Well, I don’t share that belief with Tolkien at least.


Longleaf Pines in the Breeze: On Hiking In Florida

From my last trip to Brooker Creek Preserve many years back, I knew that there would be standing water on the trails. I should have known better. I did know better.

And yet I still wore cotton socks.

Brooker Creek regularly floods during the rainy season in Florida, which is any month you don’t need to wear a sweater. Portions of the trails close depending on how bad the flooding is. Last Saturday, when decided to visit, most of the trails were closed, except for a short ~2 mile loop.

But while I was drenching my trail runners and ill-chosen socks, I noticed some white petals on the ground. The magnolia trees nearby were blooming.


Black Lives Matter.

Angry? Me too.

Here’s a list of things you can do to help.

And here’s why identifying how you participate in white supremacy culture is only the first step.

Edit – 6/5:

How to be a good white ally

Project Implicit – Unconscious Bias Test. One of the first steps is seeing how white supremacy culture has affected your unconscious bias towards black people and other POC.

11 Black-Owned Vegan Businesses. Support black businesses always, but especially now.


Choose Health

Shortly before my departure from my church last year, I asked for counsel from a good friend about this decision. She suggested I make a sign that said “choose health,” put it somewhere I’d see it frequently, and follow its advice. In that context, it meant prioritizing my mental health over the demands of a toxic congregation.

Now, as I’m practicing social distancing — working from home, living with just my cat, going out only as needed — “choose health” has a very different meaning.


Prying It Loose: On Writing Poetry Again

Like many teenagers, I wrote poetry in high school. I cobbled together a journal from spare ruled notebook paper and a used binder, hand-sewing and gluing the spine. The pages were deckled (not intentionally) by my inability to cut straight. I filled this upcycled journal with confessions, story snippets, and poems.

I wrote far more fiction than poetry in the years between, but I indulged on occasion. I used to post Wednesday poems on this blog some years back. I’d mess around with metaphor and meter in my stories, but not to great effect. (Rhyme was always hard for me.)

Since my writing block last year, I’ve struggled to find ways to put words to screen. I practically reinvented my writing process twice, but that didn’t seem to fix things. Even blog posts have been difficult and sporadic, though to be fair my topics have been difficult, deeply personal, and met with a great deal of hostility.

Earlier this month, unsure of what day exactly, I started writing poetry again. The first poem was excruciating to write, like turning a rusty nut off a threaded bolt, but the threads caught and subsequent poems have been easier.