bird watching, anti-racism, and living with a chronic/painful disease

How do I title these posts that are essentially train-of-thought? Today I’m writing the title based on some thoughts I had in the last couple hours and I’ll see what comes up as I write.

Ah-ha! My groceries are being delivered. I can see the helper bringing bags to the porch as I sit outside “working” (writing this post at the moment) in the sunshine. I love (and can currently afford) to tip really well. I am so grateful for the risks she just took for me!

If I was someone who bought stock, I’d buy stock in the company that sells computer domes. I love mine so much and I have been telling everyone about them. We’re all so tired of being on all these video calls, but if we can at least sit outside to do it? Tah-dah!

Topic change! On the bird feeder so far Ive seen one chickadee, one goldfinch, and many appearances of house and chipping sparrows. I haven’t walked with intentional birdwatching as the focus since I posted last. But I do know there’s a starling pair (I assume? though I only ever see one at a time) with babies in the gutter of our neighbor’s house. WOW. Those parents work hard!

Changing topic again! Talking with a White friend about the concept of White supremacy culture today was lovely. We were on a call for topics not obviously related to racism, but I shared with her how what I’ve learned about White supremacy culture has me stretching my concept of “how things are done.” Time, especially, as it loses and morphs meanings in this pandemic.

Relationships with BIPOC have had challenges for me and for my (very few, as is typical for so many of us White people) BIPOC friends. For me, anti-racism is sometimes just doing things differently than I have “always done them,” following the lead of other cultures, and learning as I go. I’m grateful to have a couple friendships deep enough to process the miscommunications and biases together when they come up.

I won’t speak for my friend and our private conversation, but she and I have also worked on finding the courage to speak honestly about racism. She comes from a much more conservative framework, and I’m grateful we’ve practice saying what we’re really thinking from a loving and non-judgmental place.

Listening is a bigger part of bird-watching than I knew until I started it. Now I hear bird calls and songs (I’m still not clear on how those differ) all the time. Some I now easily recognize. Most blend into each other like they used to always do. (I knew I’d find analogies or metaphors or teaching moments in bird watching and the rest of my life! Listening, hearing differently, is a big part of my anti-racism work.)

I’m tempted now to stop typing because this is getting long and I don’t want people to associate LONG READ with what I write, but I do want to get out a few more thoughts.

I’m not sure if I’ve written on here before about the fact that I have an autoimmune disorder? Well, I do. It’s most likely rheumatoid arthritis (that’s what I call it for the shorthand) or possibly psoriatic arthritis. Both diseases have similar prognoses and treatments, so which one it is doesn’t really matter. We caught it early, so I’m lucky.

But, living with this disease has been challenging on many levels. This past week I had what I now recognize as a “flare.” I think it was the worst one I’ve had (though my brain tends to minimize/forget previous pain so I can’t be sure). I was close to tears on and off throughout the day for a two or three days. If I stopped moving, starting to move again was excruciating (words fail). I was weak in ways I’ve never experienced — holding my coffee mug made my arm tired? Anyway, my rheumatologist is wonderful and accessible via the patient portal. I’ve started a short burst of prednisone and found relief almost immediately (within the first day).

The medications I take regularly to treat this disease impact my immune system. It’s not that I don’t have an immune system, my doctor assures me, but there is a pathway that isn’t there at the moment. A different pathway will be knocked out and the current pathway will be back up when I change medications in a week or so as part of our years-long exploration of what treats these symptoms best. (I did take Tr*mp’s favorite, Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine), for a while but it didn’t resolve my issues.)

During this pandemic, having an even slightly compromised immune system adds to my daily awareness that we all need to look out for each other. You don’t know who might be high risk, so we need to assume everyone is. You don’t know for sure that you don’t have COVID-19 (so many are asymptomatic) so if you care about people other than yourself, you need to wear a mask. Please.

birdwatching and other notes

In the middle of March I thought I’d be posting here regularly. But, if you’re anything like me, you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m pretty tired of computer screens. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful we can connect with our loved ones via these digital pathways. But, ugh, a computer screen for *fun?* Hardly.

That said, I do want to check in now and again so here I am.

A few weeks ago I bought myself some binoculars and a bird feeder to hang outside our window. Both of these purchases are related to my newly forming interest in watching birds. It started a few summers ago, but it’s only this pandemic that’s got me slowed down enough to pursue it in earnest.

This week, I opened the box and brought out the binoculars. I tried them out when we were up in the mountains of Maine with very, very little success. Who would’ve thought it difficult to find birds?

It’s not, actually. It’s just that I was sitting there scanning the woods with the things instead of listening for the songs and calls and guiding my view there. I suspect many metaphors for life will come from this newfound interest. (Paying attention, focusing, slowing down.)

In probably less than an hour, total, or maybe closer to two, I’ve finally learned pretty well how to use the binoculars properly and have spotted some birds: grey catbirds, crows (who needs binoculars? but they are extraordinary close up!), chickadees, goldfinches, house sparrows, cardinals, and today I saw a pair of magnolia warblers! I’ve never seen those before in my whole 50 years, so that was a treat. I didn’t even know they lived around here? I’d never heard of them. Here’s a picture of what they look like, though I’m not going to delve into trying to get photos myself until I’ve gotten much, much better at simply spotting them.

Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia) (14023131977)
Magnolia Warbler (male)

Meeting for Worship

Like so many of us, I’m feeling pretty zoom’d out. But I’m happy to report that Meeting for Worship with my Society of Friends community “works” via this online format. It probably sounds strange if you aren’t used to unprogrammed Quaker Meeting for Worship, but we join together in silence — or “waiting worship” — for an hour. If someone is moved to share, if they feel led by Spirit, or the Light, or God… (there are many ways to describe it) they may speak out of the silence.

In our family, we turn off the video during Meeting, though most people leave it on. I don’t insist my kiddos sit still in the silence; I’m grateful they’re willing to join me in Worship at all. My younger daughter usually plays quietly or reads, and my older has lately been drawing and painting. This is something she drew during Meeting for Worship in April. The quote, “There is something in my mind that I do not invite,” was said by someone in worship.

One of the advantages of this new way of living is it’s easier than ever to join Meeting for Worship. If you’d like to join us, it’s at 10:30am EST on Sundays. Our website has the zoom info.

working from home(s)

Folks who live here in Maine are rightfully angry at vacationers who are traveling from New York City to come to their summer homes, quite possibly bringing the coronavirus with them. Others who are moving to their summer homes in rural areas to get away from the crowds are also quite possibly being selfish jerks because if they get sick, they may require care from rural hospitals that may not have the resources to care for the year-round residents.

Keeping these truths in mind, I feel somewhat sheepish about the fact that my daughters and I sometimes go to my parents’ summer place to “get away from it all” for a while. We pack everything we will need — we won’t use local grocery stores, etc. — and if one of us gets sick, we will return to our home city. That is to say, if one of us needs a hospital, we will use the hospital by our real home.

Today, I went to the summer place to check on the furnace. It turns out it needed to be bled (bleeded?) so I waited there while the repairman took care of it. This photo shows my home office this morning as I was working from one of the two homes I call home:

cast iron stove with glowing embers peeking through the bottom openings