After staring at the blank page for the umpteenth time, I thought, “Buffered. I’m slightly buffered from the outside world which continues to get a bit crazier each week.”
Starts and Stops.
So I stare at the blank page and wonder how to start a post, when several have been written off line – and are waiting for time online to juggle photos and perhaps the new format on WordPress. I ponder what was written and think, “No. These are not the times for sharing ‘What I did or read or saw this week’ posts. But you need to write something to acknowledge you’re still alive and well.”
So I go in circles – never finding the right words for these strange times we’ll call ‘The Year of 2020.’
Sometimes music can lift the energy of a room, even a faux room like this blog post that connects us across the globe. Let’s start with this star-studded Stay Home Live Lounge video from BBC Radio:
Live Lounge Allstars – Times Like These

These past few months find me a bit altered; all is fine in my self-contained creative world, where I dodge the city’s noise pollution by painting at night – sometimes all night – and sleeping all morning – sometimes until mid afternoon! Painting is going well, and I am presently working on two complicated and demanding mid-sized paintings. I remain amazed at how ‘doing absolutely nothing’ except breathing, blinking (or not blinking) and holding a paint brush can totally deplete my energy – but it does. Sometimes I go to sleep at 2 in the morning – and other times I might stop and cook pancakes (!) and paint until four or even six. When I do stop, I always sleep well – eight hours and sometimes up to twelve. By evening I’m ready for the next session. Or a book. Recently I read again Corelli’s Mandolin, and this time the details about the war and politics seemed a bit spooky – that perhaps our species never learns from history.

Restrictions are lifting here in Ecuador, though I think that many people remain cautious and suspicious of that new freedom. Covid plays hardball, and I am glad to have limited interactions with the general public. The easy walk to the park offers an important dose of vitamin D as well as interaction with nature. The outings are always worth the effort, traffic fumes and all, and the mandatory mask helps screen the pollutants.

I sometimes take my computer and stop at the restaurant on my return, and the restaurant is often empy during those late-afternoon hours. With several almost-finished WP posts ready to publish, I place my order, sit at the corner table and log onto the internet. Sometimes I check emails first, and othertimes I check the news. There have been challenging hurdles regarding paperwork and emails with government agencies which – because of Covid – often take months for a reply. I was told in February, ‘Three weeks,’ and that was after a year’s wait. Those challenges are tiny compared to what many people face in this bizarre year that hurls new surprises each week.

Recently the owner of the restaurant called my attention to the news on television and stated, “Mississippi.” That was when Hurricane Laura was approaching the coast. (Or was that Sally?)
One hurricane after another seems to be barreling across the Atlantic; this week there are so many disturbances that the satellite images look like Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night. Those early-warnings help save many lives, though the tropical storms and hurricanes leave a wake of destruction. Electricity, water, shelter – and so many displaced people.

While slow-moving storms drench some areas, scenes of wildfires leave me almost physically sick – how horrible it must be to see fires like that in the distance – or approaching way too fast. Given the mandatory evacuation orders, my Colorado friends benefited from an abnormal cold front which doused the approaching fire with snow. Others not so lucky only received the winds which fed the fires. To those of you in California, Oregon and Washington, I hope that you and your loved ones are fine – it must be a huge worry throughout the fire season. The protests and riots were bad, and now this.
The various news sources and videos capture the good and the bad side of human nature, especially the bad these days. The USA seems to have become a country divided, and we are in need of peacemakers – lots of them!
In her 2017 talk, How Music Saved My Life, Kathy Mattea opened with a story about music and its effect on human behavior:
” …I did a workshop with Bobby McFarrin the great jazz singer, and 120 of us gathered together and we stood in a circle and they divided us into sopranos, altos, tenors and basses and they would come around – and give just an improvised part in the moment – to each section – and we would keep singing as the next section came in and the next section came in – and then, Bobby McFarrin would improvise over us … and then somebody else might take the mike and somebody might change the bass part – and then change the soprano part and stop the tenors and then do a whole other section and the thing would just keep morphing — and we would do this for 12 hours a day… We did this from 9 in the morning until 9 at night…
“…about day three or four – you just find yourself standing there (sniff sniff) singing and crying, singing and crying and you’re like ‘I can’t even believe this!’ and he looked up about day four or day five and he said, ‘Yeah, it’s pretty amazing isn’t it – singing together is just such an amazing thing – I keep wondering, you know, what would happen if – every time Congress met – for the first thirty minutes they had to do this… I wonder how it would change the course of history.'”
Kathy Mattea Keynote remarks and song – SERFA 2017
For those fluent with ‘the oldies,’ look for her cover of The Ode to Billy Joe.

Three or so months ago a young university student and I were talking about Covid; he is studying to be a pharmacist, and two of his brothers are doctors. On the television were scenes of USA protests about masks and restrictions. He said, “I used to think that people of the USA were the most intelligent people on the planet. Now I don’t think so.”
His parents own the restaurant – (which is my office away from home.) About a month later we visited again, and I said that Covid was a lot like a Trojan Horse, and I asked if he knew that story. (Of course!) He replied, “I don’t think so. It’s not sneaking in – those people are opening their doors and inviting it inside.”

I have suggested to him more than once that he should consider taking some courses in philosophy, as he’s a natural!

I think that seeing things from a distance sometimes helps, but then sometimes one has to be right there to truly understand the issues. Sort of like being in the bullring as the matador and not in the stands… yet one can also think about a co-dependant relationship, and one sometimes cannot see what’s happening until being able to step away. It’s sometimes hard to see things from different tangents. These are challenging times.
When one ponders all of the people in this world – each with a specific story and lineage and history, and all of us learning as well as teaching through actions and behavior – we are either adding something positive or something negative or maybe neutral. This planet is one very-complicated organism, and here we all are on somewhat of a pause mode – or the Timeout Corner. Will we have grown in our compassion for our fellow man? Will we emerge with the same attitudes, the same concerns, depending on our personal interests?
As for me, there are some concerns about not-so-good news some might have not heard about:
Galapagos /Chinese Fishing Fleets… friends Stephen and Xiomara started a Go-fund-Me project.
Via The Watchers, https://watchers.news/2020/09/16/bird-die-off-new-mexico-2020/
which links to articles from these respected sources about a”Bird Die Off – New Mexico” The iNaturalist link is a citizen science site with reports and images.

By the time I’ve scanned the news, loaded hurricane updates to read at home – three in three weeks for those aimed at the Texas/Louisiana/Mississippi area – the tired battery for the laptop has usually shut down for the session. I return to the apartment with a browser full of open pages, downloaded videos, interviews and some music sessions. If I am lucky, the browser doesn’t crash.
My friend Dady stopped by a few months ago to hand me an unexpected gift – a personal-sized bottle of fresh sangria! Wearing masks, I stood at the door and she stood on the sidewalk and visited. Recently she and her sister shared a take-out pizza, and they volunteered to take the box to throw it away. No, I smiled, I would like to use it to illustrate something I wrote a few years ago. I showed them the booklet with my reply to Hugh Curtler regarding ‘Are Poets Mad.’
” – …but at the moment I swatted the thirty-fourth mosquito I realized that WHY I was hanging out the window and scrawling the moon’s image on the back of a takeout pizza box …”
I told them that I had been wanting to paint a small picture of a moon to go behind a wall sconce – with mirrors glued to the painting to reflect the candles – and that box would be perfect for that project!

As the third tropical disturbance ‘Tropical Storm Beta’ aims toward the Texas/Louisiana/Gulf Coast, I leave you with the almost-finished Pizza-box Art and Lianne La Havas’s cover of a classic song that seems appropriate.
Thank you for hanging with me – and for understanding my long period of silence. This long epistle surely balances against all of those weeks of ‘nada.’
Would the peacemakers please step forward? The planet needs every one of you.