The light changes in April, and the skunk cabbage comes poking up out of the mud in the swampy woods, and the grass in Bedhead Hills becomes vivid green. Daffodils do their daffo-thing. It’s nature’s sleight of hand. One day it’s late winter, and the next, the birds are screaming, my eyelids feel like sandpaper, and I’m running Covid tests because I forgot about spring and I forgot about allergies.
All those years ago when my mother did us the disservice of dying in April, she should have picked a more dismal month, like February or November to ruin. Better still, she could have refrained from dying at all, and stuck around for the death-fest that is Life in the Time of Coronavirus, when hundreds and thousands die every day and no one cares. Then, we’d have spent every day of the last two years worried for her safety.
If, in the past, I felt peaceful making these, I have lost that feeling now. It might come back. I’ve saved it a seat. Meanwhile, I am still doing it automatically, without asking myself to do it. It is a daily practice. A chore, even. An obligation. To what? To the horror? To something I started and don’t know how to finish?
The totals go up. The daily deaths and cases got pretty low, but they didn’t go away. And then the cases started going back up again, despite the fact that no one seems to be counting anymore. A new variant is just around the corner.
In the spirit of “Everything is Fine,” I spent the last six months getting ready to go to the Vizsla National Specialty Show in Shakopee, Minnesota, and on the 23rd of April, I loaded the car with a lot of stuff and two dogs and hit the road.
Almost no one seems to be paying any attention to the pandemic right now, which must be very frustrating for the people whose job it is to save people from it.
And then the total number of global Covid deaths passed six million, and did anyone even shrug?
I am finding myself so conspicuously the only person with a mask on in public places I feel pressured to remove it. I have been asked why I (still) wear one when I don’t have to. I have responded with a polite, upbeat, serious answer. It is astonishing what near strangers will ask in the time of covid.
Another milestone I passed this month is 500 of these works.
Yesterday was exhausting; I pack my Wednesdays so that enduring the worst day of the week is a mild frenzy of (mostly) dog activities. The reward is Thursday: the best day of every week. Thursday has good posture. Thursday always sings on key. Thursday knows all the words. Thursday can spare an extra dog-doo bag. Thursday remembered to take out the trash and paid the electric bill on time. Thursday waves at the guy who brings the mail. Thursday heard it might rain but went for a walk anyway. Thursday might get wet, but Thursday doesn’t care, because Thursday always wears a raincoat.
Soon, it will be time to start cutting the grass again.
This year, February was like I dunno about four days long.
Then, on the second day, with the Winter Olympics and its quadrennial doping scandals over, and football finished, the infinitely short American attention span glanced briefly at some famously ignorant guy with a podcast who got a lucrative contract from an online streaming service despite building his career on stupid ramblings, racist remarks, and inviting onto his platform windbags, charlatans, anti-vaxxers. know-nothings, and snake-oil salesmen to promote the important work that the coronavirus is doing killing and disabling people both here in America and all over the world. So some of the few remaining musicians with actual control over their recordings quit the platform in disgust, while others just had to say, yeah, we would if we could.
On the third day, I was cleaning up my art materials because the cat gets into my shit and I didn’t want him to cut himself and when I went to slide the safety cover over the blade of the circle cutter I cut myself pretty well.
Next, on the fourth and last day of February, the Russians, who had waited patiently until after the Olympics, started a war on Ukraine. We have all forgotten entirely about international games of peace (which they were not officially allowed to compete in), dopes, doping, masks, and vaccines.
Almost everyone everywhere is horrified, heaping sanctions large and small upon Russia. And people are moved by the desperation of the Ukrainians, some of who are staying to fight, while others are fleeing the military invasion. We, as Americans, spend almost all of our tax dollars on our military, so we probably could step in. But we don’t, because that would be World War III.
I remembered to do a tea box again for the first time in many months. Big numbers, little box. Eggi was very helpful in the demo.
I used both sides of 5 cereal boxes this month, something that wasn’t necessary, but it was possible. As it is, you have to flatten a cereal box to put it in the recycling, so there you are, cardboard in hand, deciding if you could re-use it.
Grackle was a regular pest in January.
People on Twitter had things to say about the stripes. Here’s what I can tell you: I dreamed I did it.
Idaho should not feel singled out; I found a box of maps. If you have an old map of a state you’d like me to feature, maybe we could work out a trade.
The 20th, below, became the 25th, and then became the 26th. Shit happens.
Those paintings are still there; you just have to see them with your mind.
I feel I have a new relationship with the color yellow now.
Because I write these numbers down every day, when we passed ten billion vaccine doses administered worldwide on Friday, January 28, it was cause for exclamation. I yelled, like, “holy fuck,” or something. That’s a lot of shots. There are still plenty of Americans yet to get theirs, and if you know some, I’m sorry.
Pretty soon I’m going to have to buy some more paper. I’m thinking about making these smaller for a while; I’m not sure how that will work.
[NOTE: Yucky photos of a turkey carcass, but no guts or anything. Just dirty meat.]
Somehow, last Thursday I forgot it was Thursday and I didn’t write anything.
I have been staying busy doing nothing, trying not to get the Omicron variant as the entirety of America seems to be working on getting it. No one outside of my paranoid household and any given hospital ICU seems bothered by this, though. Half of America still won’t get vaccinated. The other half of America might definitely sometimes wear a mask, mostly covering part of their face, at the doctor, when they go to the movies (ok, until it’s like dark anyway), and when they walk into restaurants (but obviously not when they’re eating). They’re uncomplainingly sending their kids to in-person school, taught by whatever random substitute is replacing their usual teacher (because she’s out with COVID), and they’re just so psyched for when this whole thing is like over and we can like just go back to like normal.
Last Friday I passed some garbage on the side of the road near my house, which is, in and of itself, a remarkable thing. I live in a community with both paved and unpaved roads, all lovingly maintained by our taxes to preserve the rural flavor. The local Department of Thoroughfares is quite responsive if alerted to a downed limb or illegal dumping, and typically the roads stay clear. Those of us who walk our dogs around here pick up errant trash when we see it and this corner of Bedhead Hills stays picture perfect.
So when I ran out again to mail a letter, and it was still there. I slowed and rolled down my window.
It was a turkey.
Not like a wild kind of turkey that lives in a flock in the woods around here. It was a naked, plucked, legless, headless, ready-to-be-salted-and-peppered-and-roasted kind of bird. It was raw, and not frozen. It had slid out from its butcher paper wrapper, and bounced, out of whatever vehicle it was being delivered by. I imagine it was in the way of something else that had to be delivered, and it got moved, and then it slipped out. It was abandoned in the gravel at the side of the road, and easily a 20 pounder.
Now, whoever dropped this turkey obviously messed up. Big time. Maybe the turkey escaped without notice. Maybe the turkey exited the vehicle with a dramatic flourish. Either way, someone around here did not get their 20+ pound fresh turkey delivered Friday. It was a turkey they were waiting for, that they had special ordered, that they weren’t expecting to need to defrost; this wasn’t an easy to replace item. This was dinner for 12, plus a weekend’s worth of leftovers.
All I really wanted to see happen next was the sad turkey accident going to a good re-purpose. Sure, it wouldn’t be feeding the neighbor’s weekend houseguests, but maybe the crows would find it. Or the coyotes I sometimes hear yip-yipping in the woods. We’ve heard stories of the bears down the hill, and I’ve even seen their poo around here. Would a bear eat that? Might they come up this far? And when the deer died in our wetland, we had a great congregation of vultures gather. Would there be vultures?
Friday night we had a big wind storm, so I drove down to check the carcass late and didn’t get out of my car. Saturday morning it was very cold, so I put Eggi in her jacket and she and I walked down together first thing. She noticed the crow in the tree before she saw the turkey, and they exchanged insults. The crow was still shouting at us as we retreated homeward through our woods.
That day was very, very cold. I assumed that whatever was scraping away at the turkey wasn’t going to be able to move it, since everything was frozen solid.
Sunday afternoon, I took Eggi for another walk to see if it was still there.
By Monday afternoon, the snow was very soggy, and the turkey was turned over, but it was still there. The Bacon Provider ran out to mail something and said he saw buzzards in the road, but didn’t get a picture.
Tuesday, I took Eggi to obedience class, and the turkey was lying on its back again in the middle of the road.
A few hours later it was out of the middle of the road but not quite to the shoulder.
Had something attempted to carry it, and failed?
Yesterday afternoon, before we got more snow, the carcass was to be found over on the shoulder, and was looking pretty stringy and dirty.
At 11:45 this morning, Eggi and I saw that it was in similar condition, under fresh snow.
Today at about 5 pm, I drove down to try to see if I could find it before I lost the light.
All that is left are the two big thigh bones, the spine, and the pelvis. And, of course, the plastic hock lock, because plastic is forever.
About 434 days ago, I started writing down what day it was, because I was having trouble telling what day it was.
We’ve had only a few days of genuinely cold weather this winter, and one snowy day. Otherwise, it was mud, mud, mud outside at the end of 2021, that very long, very strange year.
Some nights I dream about making paintings. Once, I dreamed I was in a great gray void with a long, long brush that was two or three times as tall as me, and a clanking tin bucket of black ink hanging on my belt, and I danced across a great, undulating sheet of soft, thick paper as it floated on a shallow sea. The paper wanted to curl into a scroll before I could finish writing the numbers, trapping my feet between the two tubes.
Thanks to the arrival of the omicron variant in the U.S., on top of the reluctance of about 40% of America to bother getting vaccinated, we ended 2021 in the U.S. with an explosion in the number of infections. There may not be enough test kits available to measure the cases.
I had an impulse to paint over the 20th and it became the 27th. I also painted over the 26th, and it became the 31st.
What I did beforehand: I woke up this morning around 5:30, in a tangle of quilts, hearing the cat purring. It was still dark. I wondered why the Bacon Provider wasn’t yet up; we was due to leave early for a meeting with the board of the company that he runs. I did not know all of the details. Eggi surprised me yesterday by coming into season a full month before we expected her to, so it was easiest to leave all the dogs exactly where they were (in their boxes), while I slipped out of bed and started doing stuff in the kitchen.
Things that were sad: see painting, below
Dog breakfasts made, coffee brewing, crossword started (I’m on a 46 day completion streak), Fellow’s bag packed with food and a jacket for his vacation away, I got started on my December 16 data painting, knowing it was going to be a big one. Today is the day the U.S. passed 800,000 COVID dead, like that’s an achievement.
What I wore: dirty jeans, clean t-shirt, old barn coat with deep pockets, Chinese-made Australian-brand barn boots, a Chinese-made “N95 Particulate Respirator” mask which my husband swears is fake, homemade cloth mask
Who went with me: other residents of Westchester county, New York, by appointment only, plus that guy who thought I looked stupid for wearing two masks.
How I got an appointment: online, in mid-November, after failing to find an appointment at a pharmacy
Why I got boosted: because I want to outlive the schmucks who’ve refused to get vaccinated.
Where I parked: like, I would’ve left early, but by the time I was dressed and the dogs were fed and the painting finished, I had to snatch my vaccine card from my desk, jam my feet into boots, shove my arms into a coat, grab keys, and go. I took the big Ford, and let the Navigon pick the route. I took the paved back way (as opposed to the unpaved back way). I parked at the back edge of the sprawling lot, over by the creek with the other bozos in large trucks who also can’t squeeze into itty bitty parking places. As I marched confidently towards building 110, I checked my phone and saw that it was suite 110 and building 100. But, I needn’t have worried. Just had to look for the line of sad, grumpy people, and the confusing signage.
What it is: there’s one of those loud, genial Westchester doofuses talking in the 15-minute post-vaccine waiting area and I look over at him as he says goodbye to the old friend he’s run into because in the restaurant business everybody knows everybody doncha know? Well, his mask isn’t over his nose.
Things that were funny: many things were funny. I am fucking hilarious.
Things that were not funny: no matter how long this coronavirus goes on, we keep acting like this shit is temporary.
What I did on the way home: I got gas.
What I did after that: then I met the vet at the barn to take a look at my mare. We exchanged texts, and I managed to pass them on the highway and arrive just in front of them. My arm isn’t as sore as it’s going to be in a few hours, but the child I saw with the lollipop in their mouth, being carried out after their vaccine floats by in my mind. In their dad’s arms. Their mask under their chin. I wear a mask the whole time I’m at the barn. No one else does.
My horse has a little arthritis in her ankles, and got some injections. She’ll get a couple of days off, too.
I delete another email about a virtual program that wants me
to enroll to help manage the virtual programs I haven’t yet enrolled in.
I have a Zoom appointment and we touch on what I eat and what I don’t eat
and whether I’ve tried riboflavin yet
and I write magnesium continuously on the back of an envelope
and we get down to brass tacks about caffeine intake.
Brain doctors and mind doctors have no fucking idea what they are treating
but only they have the pills.
What even is a headache if the brain cannot feel pain?
Whatever they are, there are many. And more.
We will try something else.
Since my last medication change there is something new to try.
A new class of migraine meds.
The catch is she said to get it covered by insurance you have to have tried
at least three of the old class and her eyes circle the screen as she opens my chart
ah it’s fine she says actually you’ve tried five this is good this is great
Is this good is this great
I get to go to the office and pick up samples and try them
I drive in
I wear two masks
I like one I dislike another I take them
It’s ok things are ok and then and then and then things are not ok
And of Course
let me ask you
is anyone ok right now
anyone anyone anyone at all
Even the person who made fun of migraines in fucking front of me was she ok
oh no she wasn’t ok
I’m not ok you’re not ok none of us are ok none of us at all
Some time around Thanksgiving I am having so many headaches that I am taking pills every other day and I am only given nine a month and at this rate I’m going to use up the allotted quantity in the prescription and then and then and then what So
I call and ask for another follow-up
And the brain doctor says it’s time to stop treating my head
we are going to treat the air around my head
There are a number of different medications for this and each has its own plusses and minuses
We discuss which one sounds the most promising and I choose the one that offers peace and well-being
The drug is as small as a peppercorn. The drug comes with a large sheet of paper folded many times and printed on both sides with many paragraphs of side effects including weightlessness, tingling, and invisibility.
Well, I sleep so hard I think I haven’t slept. I am invisible, and struggle to drive. I reach the nurse.
Oh no she says. Stop right away. We’ll get you something else. Bye bye now.
The next pill I try I must take twice a day. It is confusing, but slows down time. I have to drink quantities of water so I do not become a stone.
Did I think, last November, that I was starting this at the beginning, middle, or end of the coronavirus pandemic? Did I imagine the pages would get bigger and bigger? That I would use yard signs and cereal boxes? That there would continue to be inconsistent messages to Americans about wearing masks? That so many people would forgo being vaccinated in favor of just being demonstrably stupid?
Add to this the fact that our least democratically chosen and highest court in the land is now hearing another challenge to Roe v Wade and it looks like the decision will be in favor of the special religious interests and against the poorest women in America, who apparently do not deserve bodily autonomy.
I went to bed angry last night. And I woke up angry.
Don’t you dare tell me to vote. I voted.
An abortion is a medical procedure. A religious fringe group has decided that procedure offends them, and they’ve spent 40 years working to change laws in your state to limit your ability to have that procedure. The Supreme Court has been packed with justices hand-picked to make this decision in favor of the religious fringe, and, if the vast majority of Americans doesn’t like it, well, too fucking bad.
We were taught that ours is a system with checks and balances, and is a democracy, with liberty and justice for all. All.
No matter what I try to think about today, it is drowned out by the screaming fact that American women are not yet considered people. There is no liberty without bodily autonomy.
I will end with the cat. He likes to step on the work.