Sometimes I create images and I don’t know what to make of them exactly. Today, is one of those days. I would’ve preferred using images of other people…I wasn’t in the mood to ask for and wait for permission though. Shocking to those of you who know me well, I know.
OK, if I had to guess what sparked these now that I’m about to post them. I think they are about being honest with myself and protecting my heart, even when faced uncomfortable truths I would rather deny.
Colder temps are arriving tonight, so when I woke up I thought I better take off on one of my predawn rambles. I stepped out into the cold, my only agenda to get some exercise and enjoy the quiet before the relative hustle of COVID life in Burlington, Vermont begins.
I got much so more…
I started thinking about how many people in the world are facing some of the same challenges as me right now. I felt an instant expansive kinship with them all. I imagined a middle-aged mom in Tibet taking a walk, coming in from the cold, making a cup of tea, and wondering what her next chapter will bring.
Perhaps she too is struggling to find some grace and acceptance in that endlessly tricky space betwixt & between her intentions, words, & actions.
Next, I thought about my sister-in-law and all of the school administrators/teachers struggling to keep the world’s children engaged and healthy. Then I imagined our planet’s exhausted nurses and doctors working to heal the sick, and be present with folks in their last moments when visitors are no longer allowed. I went down the line thinking about the professions and circumstances of all of the people I know and their cohorts around the world.
As I walked back home thinking about the web of our shared humanity—I felt lighter, less burdened, and more a part of a team.
Funny, just last night my husband said, “You really like being part of a team, don’t you?”.
I recently picked up my great-great-uncle, Will Lillibridge’s book, Ben Blair and landed on a few passages that seemed to fit what i was pondering in the moment.
“Ten miles out on the prairies,—not lands plane as a table, as they are usually pictured, but rolling like the sea with waves of tremendous amplitude—stood a rough shack, called by courtesy a house.”
—Will Lillibridge—Ben Blair—Chapter II Desolation
Usually in January I make an annual pilgrimage to my hometown of Burke, South Dakota. This year, because of COVID19, I won’t be traveling. So, on this Winter Solstice 2020, I’m reflecting on the prairie, my ancestors and revisiting my photographs.
I’ve always assumed that my love of stark landscapes was simply due to where I grew up. However, as I age I’m increasingly aware that it’s far more complex than that alone. I’m drawn to spaciousness in any form. In paintings, film, photographs, literature it’s what’s NOT there that I love and am so drawn to. Oh, and when there’s a well-placed pause in a song—damn, I swoon.
There’s a duality of growing up in rural America that I understand now at fifty-four and having lived out east for thirty years. There’s on one hand, a fiercely independent streak born out of generations of hardscrabble pioneer and homestead life, but there’s also what’s in the negative space everywhere that I’m more curious about lately.
For that pioneer spirit to survive on such isolated terrain, there’s often a high need for conformity. To me there can be a false sense of security that comes from conformity. When we conform too much, we might be leaving some of the best parts of ourselves hidden in the negative space.
INDEPENDENCE + CONFORMITY = ?
While being around the like-minded often puts folks at ease, the opposite can be quite true as well. When people are different, or deemed outsiders, it might be natural to fear that they might upset the social order in some way. Is this really true,or does it just FEEL true?
The psychology of geography, interesting enough in the year of a world-wide pandemic, is rooted in outsiders potentially bringing disease to a region. Of course illness was greatly feared when folks were trying to populate a new territory…all lives certainly mattered back then just as they do now.
To honor that fierce independence it seems to me that different skills, ideas, and perspectives should be exceptionally valued, hell, even celebrated—now more than ever regardless of one’s geography.
We really need all types of thinkers and doers to face the world’s many challenges. Perhaps this first day of winter is well-timed for some quiet contemplation on what seems likely to be an isolated, and potentially sorrow-filled season before the light returns.
“To-night, for the first time, and with a wonder we all feel when the obvious but long unseen suddenly becomes apparent, the primary fact of human brotherhood, irrespective of caste, came home to him.”
—Will Lillibridge—Ben Blair, Chapter XXII Two Friends Have it Out
This morning my coffee-fueled internet meanderings landed me a famous mugshots site. They’re quite remarkable, raw, and they all seem to just dare you to learn more about the arrests. I’m a true crime junkie.
David Bowie was arrested in Rochester, NY for marijuana possession on March 21st, 1976. He was held for three hours and released on bail. He pleaded guilty and the grand jury later decided to pass on his case. Even his mugshot is classy, of course.
With some regret, I’ve never been arrested. So, with the help of my daughter, Willa Govoni’s photography and highly intuitive stylist skills I now have my very own menopausal mugshots. Perhaps a protest arrest is in my future? #2021goals #resist #goodtrouble
I thought about my characteristics that feel like crimes sometimes. They came to mind quite quickly…judgment, regret, and procrastination.
Willa, you’ve got a good eye kid. Let’s do lunch and discuss more projects.
It’s uniquely warm in northern Vermont today. In the predawn hour, I made coffee then sat out on my deck for a while listening to the honking of geese, early morning traffic sounds, and autumn leaves rustling. I felt a slight breeze on my face…so lovely.
All we have is here and now…
The lyrics from Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warner’s 1980s hit Up Where We Belong have been camping out in my psyche for the last few days. I thought I better explore them further…turns out they have a pretty good message.
Some hang on to used to be Live their lives looking behind All we have is here and now All our lives, out there to find
The road is long There are mountains in our way But we climb a step every day
I know my thoughts of the past(or the stories I attach to them anyway) sometimes make me feel like a victim of sorts. And when I’m feeling anxious (fearful) about the future, those jangly thoughts will gleefully swoop in with a dizzying amount of bullshit that can affect every aspect of my life. Presence makes me calmer. That calm makes me a better human, partner, parent, and friend.
All I have is here and now...
Up Where We Belong is the theme song to the 1982 film, An Officer and A Gentleman. I just had to share a short memory with you. When I was in high school, my newly married sister and I took our grandmother to see the matinee after a day of shopping in Sioux Falls. I had never seen a movie with my grandmother before, let alone one with sex scenes…good grief. My grandmother covered her eyes with a sneaky, slightly open hand during those scenes hoping we wouldn’t notice. 😃 After the movie, we had to stop for gas on the way home. Laurie got out to pump, my grandmother was flabbergasted, she turned and said, “Your grandfather would be so disappointed if he saw that his granddaughter pumping her own gas.”. Cheers to those memories that make us giggle.
Now that I’m fifty-four and finally growing up, I’m trying to make a daily, or hell hourly grand bargain with myself of more presence. I’m discovering that staying in the moment gives me some emotional agility that helps me better handle whatever’s thrown my way…grandma was really onto something while we watched An Officer and A Gentleman. She was a very anxious woman, but in that moment she chose presence with her granddaughters and it was just wonderful.
My memories will forever come and go, shifting in both context and intensity as the years roll by. I don’t want to live in a constant state of regret, longing, or fear. I want to live in the fullness of the present. I know I will often fail and let my mind race. My grand bargain to myself is to keep trying to stay more in the moment.
As I age, it seems much of life is experienced within the gray areas of uncertainty. Thankfully, now at fifty-three, I’m finding not knowing is sort of interesting, perhaps even a bit wonderfully mysterious.
I’ve been thinking about how we will collectively remember this time in history. I decided to look back—photos, emails, texts, notes and more. Here’s a snapshot of my discoveries.
Now, these images show the mostly good memories of sheltering in place. I unfortunately, didn’t document my hissy fits, pity party days on the couch watching TV, dumping the remainder of the potato chip bag in my mouth over the sink, or the times I just drove away because my family was bugging the crap out of me.
I suspect many of you can both imagine and empathize.
A snow day.
My rehearsal dinner dress—circa spring of 1992.
Jen Wool appropriately social distancing.
A multi-day March headache.
Beer and trivial pursuit with the girls and Jeff.
Willa visiting Joanne and Bob.
Ellis stopping by for a front stoop chat.
Coffee time with Karen and Jeff.
Making coffee time a little fancier with my Grandmother’s china and a vintage wrap.
Lucy, Willa, and Jacob at Lake Winnipesaukee.
A Govoni family cookout circa summer 1998.
Things I wanted to do circa 1989…I either got distracted or thought leaving 20 blank was clever.
A note from my Dad sometime in the mid-90s after I had moved to Vermont.
Photos of a gorgeous house Jeff and I used to house sit when we were dating.
The wallet of my great uncle, that I was able to return to his family.
Below, notes on my phone I found funny and insightful.