The protests against the police brutality that killed George Floyd have gone on for 9 days? 10 days? Yesterday I found myself wondering what the goal is. When will protestors know they are finished or is it a thing now that will go on and on and on and on?

Last night is the first night I’ve slept since the protests started. If their goal was to make white people think about things they haven’t thought about before, it worked here. I wrote one blog post about (now set to private) and a letter to Obama (never sent).

There are things related to it that I haven’t thought of for decades, one of which is Louis Farrakhan. It’s a fact that not all white people are racist and not all black people are NOT racist. Farrakhan, who is an extremely angry man — has claimed that it’s impossible for black people to be racists. Any anger they feel toward the white oppressor is justified and any action taken against whites is legitimate. The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies Farrakhan — and his organization — as black nationalist and black supremacist.

He spoke once at the university where I was teaching. It was a hate fueled speech. It made the work of ordinary people — I’ll say ordinary white people — seem hopeless. The next day, when I got to school, I found the ground littered with 4 x 5 inch black and white flyers, printed with swastikas and the words, “White men built this country.”

One extreme brought out the other.

I picked up a couple of those flyers and took them home and stuck them in a drawer imagining a future collage that never happened. “It’s never going to work,” I remember thinking, “as long as entire groups of people categorically hate each other.”


In other news, the hike I’d planned with my friends yesterday didn’t happen. I texted everyone at 5 am yesterday and said, “I haven’t been sleeping. I’m going to keep trying.” or something. I finally went to sleep and woke up at 8:30 to see their texts. They answered immediately planning between them an alternative way that we could get together. It turned out to be a “Bring your own cuppa'” tea party in Elizabeth’s beautiful back yard.

The other thing on my phone when I woke up was a voicemail from the Good-X. I listened and then I screamed. He’d had a major heart attack and was in the hospital but he said, “They fixed me up.” I called him back after I’d had some coffee and got the whole story and answered some questions he had for me. As we were saying goodbye, I had to hold myself back from saying, “I love you.” How would he understand those words? Two people can have a terrible marriage and yet form a functional and mostly happy life together. We did for 12 years. His younger son is “my” son and between his family and me all the “I love you’s” are said often. In the “I love you” that I did not say are all the experiences we shared — China being one of them. Part of it, also, is “I get who you are now.” Instead of “I love you,” I said, “Come back and visit me. That was fun last time.” He and his step-grandson came through Monte Vista a few years ago on their way to Durango to meet his wife who was at a dahlia conference.

“I will. That was fun,” he said.

I told my friends about it at the tea party later. When I told them about wanting to tell my ex “I love you,” they understood. We talked about C-19, our encounters with people during this time, the weirdness, the beauty.. We laughed and did all the things that make friendships and, I think, for all of us, it was an incredible relief. None of us has been sleeping and as we talked about it, it seemed that our sleep was taking the same trajectory. Going to sleep, waking up thinking and then either getting up ungodly early or going to sleep a few hours later. I asked if they’d like to go on a evening hike to the Refuge with me when the skies and light are beautiful and the breeze is calm and fresh. Now we sort of have a plan.

Elizabeth’s husband, Bob, came out of the garage where he’s building a 1957 T-bird. I like talking to Bob and he likes telling me stories, so as my friends went off to cut rhubarb (some for me) Bob told me stories about airplanes. I don’t know that he always has a willing listener and the words just poured out of him. Later he came over and installed a new pneumatic spring on my storm door.

The day went on with curious intensity, culminating in a 1 1/2 hour phone call with my formerly lost cousin, Linda. We’re catching up on each others entire adult lives. She wanted to know about how my brother’s death affected me. That’s a long story. We talked about the deaths of the people we loved, a strange coda to my morning.

I was struck again that all we really have in this life are dreams, memories and the love we bear for others. That’s it.

33 thoughts on “Intensity

  1. “When will protestors know they are finished or is it a thing now that will go on and on and on and on?” Over here we’re not strangers to that. But here’s the conundrum as well, in the 70s/80s much of the protests were less visible because media didn’t give it 24/7 airtime— especially “social” media. This had become a recursive issue as well, protests fuel media attention, which in turn fuels social media….

  2. Eventually, Martha, energy will wane and interest will wander off. The protests, like every human endeavor, will stop being front-page news, and we’ll all be focused on the Next Big Story. Exactly the way the protests knocked Covid-19 off its pedestal. And to your list of the three things all we really have in this life, I would add a fourth; the knowledge of others’ love for us.
    I love you, Martha!

  3. Connecting and sharing with friends and loved ones can be the best medicine. Sometimes it helps my sleep. Maybe it will help yours too. I figure the protesting will last for a while – at least as long as there is news coverage. I really hope it translates into action that will make a difference. Such as the message: Get Out And Vote.

  4. Intensity~~~I feel it. It’s so ironic to me that people find “peace” in their chaos. I’ve wondered the exact things as you. Agitation is contagious and then once the rage forms it takes on a life of its own. This release of emotions can lead to change for some~and others a chance in jail. I watch from a distance, understanding positions, and knowing full well that it’s easy to get swept up~perhaps the quarantine caused the fuels to boil and release to an even greater intensity? The intensity is felt in everything. And I try to seek out my quiet place of peace (and my mind wants to keep thinking at times). The time with tea and talk is always good. My best friend had me help her write a letter of resignation yesterday~yet, wouldn’t hug me. I have a good ex. I can look back and say, “yep”, I get it and I’m good for having had it. I’ll keep loving people through the craziness. And leaning on faith and facts. And of course, puppy kisses, the trees, and my Big Empty in MO. Hugs and love 💚🐶🤗🦋

    • “…perhaps the quarantine caused the fuels to boil and release to an even greater intensity?” I think so, that and desperate insecurity about money.

      “The time with tea and talk is always good” — we’re going to do more, I think. It’s truly kind of crazy to think one can stop being who they are. Better to sit far apart and talk about it, maybe.

      “My best friend had me help her write a letter of resignation yesterday~yet, wouldn’t hug me” — That’s hard. My friends here and I aren’t really “huggy” but it still felt strange just to say goodby and walk off. I AM huggy, so I always feel a little awkward.

      “I have a good ex. I can look back and say, “yep”, I get it and I’m good for having had it.” — my Good X seems to have done some intense soul-searching when our marriage ended. If we had had more presence of mind SOONER and sought counseling, it might not have ended. But, by the time it DID end, counseling wouldn’t have helped.

      “I’ll keep loving people through the craziness. And leaning on faith and facts.” — Did I tell you what happened with me and the 23rd Psalm? I may have — but I was coming home from a dog walk and suddenly it was as if I heard, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” I knew completely that it was true. It was God telling me not to worry (or too little sleep 😉 )I wasn’t even aware at the moment where it came from. The 23rd psalm was one of those things I memorized for Sunday school as a kid. It didn’t mean much to me. But when I looked it up at home I thought, “Wow. You have to live a while for that to hit the right key.”

      “And of course, puppy kisses, the trees, and my Big Empty in MO.” Fireflies? Colored leaves in fall? Mist rising from the hollows? I loved those things — everything — about my childhood forest in eastern Nebraska. ❤ Hugs and love to you and Finley

  5. A good ex as a good friend? Priceless, in my experience. You “get” each other on a deep level, akin to siblings sharing a history that binds them.

  6. Sorry to see you leave the prompt, and I want to send an apology if I’ve written anything in my comments that was offensive. I’d be glad if you’d delete any comments of mine that you really disagree with.

    • No, Christine, it wasn’t your response. Personal taste is personal taste. I don’t expect the whole world to agree with me (though they should 😉 ha ha) BUT sometime later someone posted a comment to which I could not possibly respond, the kind of thing I don’t want to elicit. And as I thought about it — after deleting it — I thought, “I don’t want to censor myself. X ‘side’ has no more right to express itself than I do.” I don’t want to write only about beans and dogs, either. I think our world has lost a lot in losing the inability to respect different points of views and to express disagreement in a thoughtful, respectful way. I’m very afraid I fail at doing that now, too.

      As for Trump, he made an enormous mistake in calling out the American military to act against Americans. That’s categorically against our Constitution and the reaction to that from Republicans and military leaders has been very strong. I think we’re in the middle of a revolution here. I’m optimistic about it being possibly the moment when the majority of Americans can unify around something positive. At the same time, I’m incredibly sad. I’ll keep writing the prompt, but maybe not every day. If I can only write something controversial I won’t link it. ❤

      • I’m so glad if it wasn’t my comment that troubled you. I know I can be outspoken and fire something off without properly thinking it over.

        As to your second paragraph, the Washington Post article I read last night was SUPER. He agrees with you, saying that policing in American has drifted into a “We’re in a war zone” mentality and needs to abandon that thinking, come back to the idea of community involvement policing. Seeing cops like this one speaking out gives a person hope for you folks. Here’s the link if you want to read it:

        • Those changes are happening in a lot of police forces — good changes I think. Money for police forces in some major cities is being re-routed to communities, also good. I’m happy to see them. Having lived in a high-crime neighborhood in San Diego, I value the work of cops not only for keeping the peace but becoming part of the community and working for the Good. When that changes… Trump’s “law and order” thing has attracted White Supremacists to police forces all over the country which is creepy and scary (and true). The last straw for a lot of Republicans this past week was when Trump calling out the actual US Army to do the work of the police and the National Guard. That is categorically opposed to everything this country is supposed to stand for. It’s one of the main reasons for the American revolution — the British army was all over the colonists. I dunno.

          You know the first group in the colonies to come out against slavery was a small group of Mennonites in Pennsylvania? Because of their actions, the first colony to abolish slavery was Pennsylvania. I’m very proud of that because my ancestors were Swiss Mennonites who came here in 1743. I’m proud of them, of their history and their beliefs. I’m not one, but I honor them with all my heart. Most Americans have no idea how many Mennonites were killed in Switzerland (and surrounding countries) for their belief that church and state had to be separated, that God’s law was superior to man’s law and should be obeyed first. ❤

  7. My maiden name was Vance and my ancestors were Presbyterian Scots. You and I have switched around. 🙂 Though only Bob’s Mom was of (Dutch) Mennonite background.

    • All my other ancestors — but one, my paternal grandmother who was 100% Swede — are Scots or Irish. Kennedy is my real name. 🙂 I wrote two novels about them — The Brothers Path which is set in the Reformation and The Price which brings them to this continent. I used the facts I could find (not much), did a lot of research into life in those times, then gave them lives that might have been like theirs (can’t ask them). It was a wonderful rather harrowing journey. I’d been in Zürich many times by the time I started writing those books. I could not have been those people. I’m not peaceful. ❤ Too much Irish, I guess.

  8. The leaflets you found that day tell the story. White men did NOT build this country (USA) by themselves. They had the help of free labor, aka slavery. Those people just don’t get it and, sadly, never will. I strive to contain my cynicism because it can defeat a writer, but some days it’s really hard. This land was just fine before we (whites) got here, so it can be turned around: white men destroyed this country. Ah, perspective…

    • I seriously do not understand it. I have learned so much during this “shutdown” about people that I was a lot happier not knowing. I guess when you have to keep still you have more time to look around. Thanks for reading!

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