Month: April 2021

Re-Watching My Fair Lady

I grew up loving Hollywood musicals. I still love the colorful, glorious, joyous, extravagance of them, but I see them with different eyes than I used to. I see the ways that they taught my young girl self to form her identity around life with men at the center. I see and think a lot differently than I did back then, I have more trouble just enjoying musicals, I have to think about them, the messages they reinforce, and the context in which they were made. Today I re-watched My Fair Lady, which could be aptly re titled Misogyny and Gaslighting: The Musical. The nice thing about My Fair Lady is that it is specifically designed to interrogate the power structures between men and women with a small side order of interrogating class structure. The hard part is that it was filmed in 1964, an era when American women couldn’t get bank accounts or credit cards without a man’s permission. So even while the film clearly positions Professor Higgins as an asshole and shows us that Eliza is trapped, even while it gives her a powerful song of declared freedom, all of that is undermined by the closing scene where she returns to him. Higgins doesn’t even turn to look at her, just asks after his slippers while she smiles. The film pulls its punch and reinforces a status quo where men get to be comfortable and women have to put up with it. Women, you can have your independent moment as long as you’re back in the house for slipper delivery.

As a text for discussing systemic misogyny, My Fair Lady is incredibly useful. Particularly since both the 1900’s era classism/misogyny and the 1960’s era misogyny are in there to talk about and discuss. Unfortunately it is one of the beloved movies from my childhood that I can’t share with my children and have them love it as I did. It would be a huge sociological discussion rather than a shared delight. (Though, to be fair, an hours-long sociological discussion with my kids is its own kind of delightful.) We’ll find other things to love together. I wonder how other issues-based musicals like South Pacific hold up. The ones like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers are hard for me to even enjoy anymore.

Drifting Through a Sunday Afternoon

I’m sitting here in the middle of a drifty Sunday afternoon, feeling like I ought to have something meaningful to write, but not quite being able to connect with my focused thoughts because I’ve been so successful at actually having a weekend instead of a sneak-in-all-the-tasks-between-pretending-I’m-taking-down-time. Weekends are something I’ve been nurturing in the past months, especially since all my days are spent at home and my work spaces are in the same physical location as my relaxation spaces. I drift from work into no-longer-working sometime in the afternoon. Then on Saturday and Sunday I don’t assign myself tasks. I’m free to do them if I bump into them, but I’m not pushing to get anything done. I can’t always have pleasantly drifty weekends, but during the times when I can’t have them, I try to hold the memory of their importance so that I don’t return to living an anxiety-and-task driven mode of being.

My life has had more appointments in it lately. This is a shift from last year when all the days felt long and formless. They’d been stripped of external structure by the pandemic shut downs. Most of that structure still hasn’t come back. I have no kids in school, no homework to monitor or oversee. My weekly church meetings are two half-hour web streams and a family blessing of the sacrament. I still only grocery shop once per week and have consolidated all my other errands. But over the months, I built a new structure to help me connect with people. I now have video visits with various communities and friends at fairly regular intervals. Seeing people is good, but it does mean that I am back to having time segmented into parts: Tuesday before appointment, Tuesday after appointment. But I don’t schedule appointments for Saturday or Sunday. It helps me remember what those long, formless days were like. It helps me to retain the lessons I learned from having all of my days be formless.

I wish I could write down my lessons from formless days into a clear list: Things I Learned From My Pandemic Summer. I can’t though. They’re all amorphous, nebulous. Sensations and feelings more than concrete thoughts. By shutting off all the ways I’d over extended myself, I learned what it felt like to be on balance in my center. While centered, I learned all the things I had waiting for me to grieve them, so I gave space/life/energy over to that grief process. I gave stretches of hours and days to let the feelings fully play out instead of processing emotion in stolen snatches of time between other obligations. I still think about how that felt now that I’m building a new network of time obligations out of the pieces of the old. Interesting that the time spent growing in a centered way has resulted in me being able to extend outward as far or farther than I used to reach in my former overextended mode. That’s a lesson I want to remember.

Perhaps someday I’ll find words for how I feel more whole now than I did a year ago, how I’m less afraid. So far any words I use feel like a thin layer of papier-mâché over a round balloon, describing the outline of the thing while not the fullness of it. For today, I’ll put down the words and drift through the rest of my Sunday afternoon.

Easter Thoughts

I don’t have any personal traditions surrounding Easter. I probably ought to since it is part of my religious tradition, but somehow the ones I used to have were all focused on providing an experience for my children rather than me forming a personal connection with the holy day. So when the kids stopped caring about egg coloring and Easter egg hunts, we also stopped having lessons about Christ’s resurrection. The two probably shouldn’t have been intertwined, but somehow one triggered the other. The other thing that led to an ebb in household Easter traditions was that some of my kids have stepped away from my religious tradition. We’ve found a good family balance now where all the beliefs are given space without imposition, but it means that creating a family experience out of a religious symbolic holiday is not something we do anymore. Christmas still works because we can all engage with the more secular trappings equally, but Easter always had a lighter touch on our lives. (This is a cultural oddity since from a purely religious standpoint the importance and spiritual weight of Easter is far greater than that of Christmas. Christmas is the promise of a Savior to come, Easter is the culmination of the atoning work of a Savior.) All of which is to say that I’m in the middle of a holiday with no particular plans for marking the day.

I did listen to the General Conference for my church which is a semi-annual broadcast that happens the first weekend in April and October. Sometimes the spring conference coincides with Easter, which it did this year. So I got to hear multiple people speak about the holiday, its personal meaning to them, and its larger significance. I particularly appreciated that the church chose Easter Sunday as a day to lean into the multi-national aspects of my church. The vast majority of the speakers gave pre-recorded talks from their home countries. For most of them English was not their first language. I loved hearing different sounds given to familiar words, and I marveled at the courage necessary to give a speech to a global audience in a secondary language.

For me Easter is deeply connected with the Spring bulbs that are blooming. It is hope for things to grow and thrive even after they’ve died or gone dormant. It is a calmness of spirit that rings like a clear tone inside me when I pause to listen to it. It is knowing that when I reach out to the divine, I connect with a source of strength larger than what I can carry inside me. It is a thread of hope that I can someday hug my grandparents again even though they died years ago. And yes, it is also in specific stories about Jesus Christ, His life, His death, His resurrection. I’ve seen some of those stories scoffed or ridiculed on the internet today. Not in the gentle meme jokes that someone inside the community makes for fellow believers to laugh together (I’ve seen and laughed at some of these too,) but sharp jokes aimed at Christianity as a powerful giant to be speared and taken down. Christianity is indeed a large and clumsy giant with very large footprints. It is sometimes leveraged harmfully. Yet it is also a source of personal strength and guidance to many people, and careless attempts to spear the giant can wound people.

Today I am not wounded. In fact, I feel profoundly healed and whole. The other day I was having a conversation with one of my kids about how the pandemic quieted all the noise in their lives. It removed all the options for schooling, volunteering, expanding outward, and forced them to sit with themselves. In that quiet they gained identity that they had lacked before. In many ways pandemic did the same for me. Today as I sit with the feeling of Easter and try to connect with God, I feel grateful for the lessons of the past year, I feel hope for how far I can fly once I’m fully free of the pandemic cocoon. Easter is a story of suffering, betrayal, pain, death, entombment, transformation, and re-emergence. It feels very relevant and important to me this year.

An Early Spring Garden Walk

Today it is 70 degrees out (21 celsius) which makes it a lovely day to walk in my gardens and see what is growing. The front flowerbeds have begun to put forth new growth. Soon these red peony shoots will turn green and leafy.

Dandelions are cheerfully growing in places where I don’t want to have dandelions.

I have my first tulip blooms.

The spring star flowers and grape hyacinths are out in force.

In fact, the grape hyacinths have started invading the lawn. I love it and put off the first mowing until after they’re done blooming.

Above the invasion of grape hyacinths, you can see the grape row. I need to trim it back and build a better structure for them to grow on. I should do that soon before the vines start to leaf out.

Another trimming project is this pear tree that I’m trying to rescue from blight. Those last tall branches will come off as soon as I figure out how to put the chain back on the pole saw. When it grows out again, we’ll be able to watch for blight and trim it out.

The apricot tree is in full bloom, though some of the blooms got caught by a freeze, so I had to pick a bloom cluster that didn’t have freeze damage.

The first daffodils have made their appearance

I’ve got a birdbath, wind chime, and bee hotel to put up now that the weather is nice. I’ve already got this stacker feeder to draw birds into my patio space. Some day I need to sit outside long enough to catch pictures of the goldfinches which have started coming around. They look so dapper in their spring colors.

The new garden bed next to the patio is getting ready to bloom.

Parts of it are blooming already. This is going to be lovely spot to sit in the warm weeks to come.

Spring always gives me joy. Thanks for coming on this walk with me.