CD Recordings

Readers can now obtain CDs of my reading from my poetry books. Following is a list of the CDs:

  • Women at the Well. Selected poems. Eve, Cain’s Wife, Rachel, Leah, Zipporah, Miriam, Delilah, Queen of Sheba, Judith (Old Testament Women); Anne, Elizabeth, Sisters of Yeshua, Mary Magdalene, Sinful Woman of Capernaum, The Woman at the Well, Judas’s Mother, Lydia (New Testament Women)
  • Novenas for Grandmother. Entire collection. Grandmother Attends Grammar School, Grandmother Boards the Princess Alice, Grandmother Hears the Wolves, Grandmother Poses as a Cowgirl, Grandmother Tends the Grocery Store, Grandmother Takes English Lessons, Grandmother Kneads the Bread, Grandmother, Plants a Garden, Grandmother Attends Mass at St. Constance, Grandmother Buries her Husband, Grandmother Warns Alice Don’t Marry Him, Grandmother Visits Poland, Grandmother Babysits, Grandmother Remarries, Grandmother Goes to the Hospital, Grandmother’s Ghost Visits Me
  • Playground. Selected poems. Preface-Before the Subdivision, The Best Toy, Bat and Ball, Ben Franklin Store, Coloring, Dandelion Necklace, Exploring the Creek, Jigsaw Puzzle, Jump Rope, Lightning Bugs, Old Horses, Paper Dolls, Picking Fallen Pears, Reading in the Tree, Running in the Rain, Snow Creations, Statue Maker, Swinging, Wax Paper Music
  • Please Trespass Here. Selected poems. Afghan Beauty, After the Forest Fire, Bookworm, Brueghel Countryside, Cairn on the Trail, I Hear Walt Whitman Singing, Emily Dickinson’s Bedroom, In Heaven There Are No Books, Julius Caesar Returns from the Dead, Loss Like a River, Morning, Pieman in the Sky, Revisiting Brothers Karamazov, Running Eagle Falls, The Weeds of Revenge, Winter Fog, Tin Soldier Shop, Rise Up, Running On
  • Still Unrepentant. Selected Poems. Incorrigible, Penmanship, The Roads Mistaken, Forest Walk, Pack Rat, Tooth and Claw, Green Folding Chair, Connection, After All These Years Still My Brown Cow, Once Upon a time in College, Dogs, Cruise Ship, Vision Quest, When the Countdown Began, What to Leave, Morning Routine, Choose Illusions, To Mourn 20 Children Slain, History Repeats Itself, Mint Tea, Sonnets 14 & 15
  • Be Thou a Man: A Poetic Tribute to Saul Alinsky. Entire collection. Coming to America, Boyhood: West Side and West Coast, University of Chicago Years, The Criminologist, Back-of-the-Yards, Decade of the Forties, Decade of the Fifties, Decade of the Sixties, Incomplete Decade: Last Three Years, Missive from the Underworld
  • Al-Andalus. Two Discs. Entire collection. Disc One – Cide Hamete Benengeli, Juan of Segovia, Iza de Jabir, Isabella, the Queen, Boabdil’s Muwashshah, Cardinal Jimenez de Cisneros, Alhambra Muwashshah, Alonso de Castillo, Mancebo de Arevalo, Mora of Ubeda, Tale of Carcayona, Charles V at Prayer, Philip II at Prayer, Francisco Nunez Muley, Farax Aben Farax, El Zaguer or Aben Jauher, Aben Humeya, Zambra Dancer’s Muwashshah. Disc Two -Zarcamodonia Morisca Warrior, Galera Muwashshah, Ignacio de las Casas, Morisco Scribe, Pedro Zagri, Beatriz de Padilla, Maria de la Luna, Philip III at Play, Margaret of Austria, Morisca Mother on the Dock, Gardener for the Duke, Ricote’s Muwashshah, Ana Felix’s Muwashshah, Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra
  • Land of the Four Quarters: A Poetic History of the Incas. Indian Woman Weaving, Quipuscamayo: Incan Account Keeper, The Stonecutter, Mamacona: Tour of the Temple, Huascar, Atahualpa, Virgin of the Sun, Francisco Huaman or the Falcon, Asarpay, The High Priest at the Stake, Indian Child Views the Conquest, Paullu Pizarro’s Puppet, Manco Inca, Cura Ocllo, Don Martin on his Deathbed, Manservant to the Priest, Tupac Amaru, Machu Picchu

To order email olivia@mountainofdreams.com.

Price: $3/per CD plus cost of mailing.

Another CD is forthcoming of selected poems from my eclectic anthology Geography of My Bones, first published in 2004 by Helm Publishing. This volume, which includes over 300 poems, represents the body of my work up to that time.

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Whited Selpuchres

Hurling opprobrious epithets dominates the national political scene. Is this practice any more prevalent than in any other period of history? Maybe not, but in my lifetime of following presidents since Dwight D. Eisenhower, a precedent has been set of slinging derogatory names that previous occupants of the Oval Office were not in the habit of doing. What makes name-calling different from prior eras is that the practice emanates from the White House to the citizenship at large. One of the most frequently used epithets nowadays is hypocrite, leading me to wonder if hypocrisy is, in fact, more common today throughout all sectors of our society.

The word hypocrite arises from the Greek word hypokrites meaning actor, from which is derived the meaning to act in contradiction to the moral principles one claims to espouse. Definitely, there is plenty of play-acting visible on the political stage. The players recite their lines, wear their masks, and strut about denouncing their opponents as veritable devils while presenting themselves as pure souls defending freedom, justice, and family values–any virtue in the abstract that they purport to uphold.

American literature abounds in hypocritical characters. Plots thrive on the intricacies of people presenting themselves as more virtuous than they are or hiding dark secrets about their past, starting with Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter. Hypocrisy in one form or another seems an inseparable part of human nature. Everyone wants to appear better than they actually are, but everyone knows in his heart that he has fallen short many times from the standards he has set for himself. Without launching into a confession of my personal hypocrisies, in itself proof of my desire not to reveal that I am not a paragon of virtue, I know I can truthfully be called a hypocrite.

I contend that everyone can justifiably be called a hypocrite for either some great duplicity or a minor failure at some time or other. It is not the failing as such to abide by one’s moral beliefs, but the denial of the misdeed that warrants the label of hypocrite.  The hypocrite often does not know he is being hypocritical, so steeped is he in denial. Hypocrisy is part and parcel of the human condition. It is easy to recognize it in others but not so easy to see it in ourselves.

The antithesis of hypocrisy is self-awareness. Honest self-reflection ameliorates the effects of hypocritical behavior. It is the path to spiritual and psychological growth contained in the unrelenting examination of one’s own conscience. It identifies the individual of strong character. It brings humility to the front stage as one of the greatest virtues to possess–the humility to admit we are not the greatest; we are not invincible; we are not the savior come to rescue the universe from alien invaders.

To end this short treatise on hypocrisy, I invite my readers to offer instances of the theme of hypocrisy and/or hypocrites in books or in movies. What characters come to mind as you reflect on how this theme has played out in novels or on the screen?

I Am Not Your Negro

So much history and cultural commentary are packed into this 2017 documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, narrated with excerpts from James Baldwin’s writings. The story of the civil rights movement is told through the eyes of this important African-American author who knew three key murdered leaders in the struggle: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of his death in 1987, Baldwin had written thirty pages of a memoir focusing on these three men.

Baldwin’s eloquence moved me. Combined with his dignity and clarity of vision, his understanding of race relations and the dynamics of white bigotry produced a film, which any white American who continues to claim they are not prejudiced or tainted by racism should watch. Slavery, its aftermath, and segregation have left its legacy. As much as Americans would like to believe progress has been made, my impression after looking at the historic footage from the 1960’s alongside news clips of recent events is that the more things change, the more they stay the same–particularly, in consideration of the results of the 2016 presidential election.

One of the many striking statements that Baldwin makes is his response to Robert Kennedy’s opining that in forty years the United States could have an African-American president. Baldwin took umbrage at this bit of condescension that Kennedy wasn’t even aware he was projecting. Baldwin parries: Why should I have to wait forty years for the presidency; I have been here for four hundred years. Another of Baldwin’s statements that sticks in my mind and that illustrates his keen perception and intelligence makes the telling point that the African-American knows the white man better than the white man knows him. The African-American has had to face the white man, and therefore, he sees him. The white man does not see the African-American; he is invisible to him–the point Ralph Ellison was also making in his novel The Invisible Man. Baldwin goes on to state, in fact, the white man, if he sees him at all, sees the African-American as less than human, and until he confronts and examines his own perceptions, there will be no healing of race relations in this country. James Baldwin was right.

This goes for all relations between ethnic, racial, and religious groups. Americans now have a White House occupant who a few days ago called immigrants “animals.” We have a portion of Americans who chose to be blind to racism, claimed it didn’t exist, and voted for the kind of person who makes such statements to succeed an African-American who had fulfilled the duties of the highest office in the land with dignity, competence, and eloquence, and furthermore, without a taint of personal scandal.

I have written elsewhere that the 2016 election represents the triumph of pop culture in the United States. When Baldwin comments on the role of Hollywood movies in shaping his consciousness growing up in Harlem, he supports my contention. Clips of westerns and romantic comedies appear to underscore that fantasy has permeated American culture to the extent that the ability to discern reality has been seriously impaired. Movies have created the image-making industry; they produce idols, standards of male and female beauty, and ideas of heroism. Baldwin had the self-reflection and self-awareness to examine how these images had affected his attitudes. He calls upon all Americans to examine their premises, to develop some self awareness, and most importantly, asks the white American to answer the question why he continues to view the African-American as less than human. Lyndon Johnson, I believe, picked up on Baldwin’s analysis that as long as the poor, downtrodden white American could feel the black American was worse off than he was, he could feel superior.

Consumerism has been an integral part of capitalistic growth. As soon as the television entered the living room, America was inundated in advertisements. This documentary includes a marketing clip featuring a middle-class African-American family as representative of a growing consumer group ready to be exploited. Inherently racist in its tone, it provides another example of treating African-Americans as a commodity to be manipulated in expansion of the economy and not as a human being.

The Negro as a commodity receives further treatment in the segment that replays the debate between James Baldwin and William Buckley, Jr. at Cambridge University in 1965. The question the debaters considered was “Has the American Dream been achieved at the expense of the American Negro?” Baldwin forcefully proves the African-American planted and harvested the crops, built the railroads, and worked at back-breaking jobs for low wages. Buckley, on the other hand, comes across as a pompous ass with no convincing arguments, offering rather obtuse, specious meanderings that are impossible to follow.

Given the persistence of racial bigotry and inequality, where do we go from here? That’s the question Dick Cavett posed to James Baldwin in his 1968 interview. In effect, Cavett was asking whether there was any hope for improved race relations in a time of race riots and murders. Today this is still a legitimate question. Barack Obama proposed the notion of hope in his first run for the presidency. Baldwin’s answers that despite the indignities of racial prejudice and the three assassinations–everything that his race has suffered–he has the right to be angry, yet he is optimistic, adding he has to be optimistic as long as he is alive. My take-away, when I have every reason to be sad and depressed at the state of my country, is to repeat that bromide, “As long as there is life, there is hope.” And I hold the hope, at my advanced age, to live long enough to see America correct its course and salvage those truths that we hold self-evident, which are not so evident on the nightly news broadcasts today.

Female Figures in Tolkien

Since I discovered the Lord of the Rings online game, my husband and I have been avid players. Board games and card-playing before the computer age furnished pastimes for senior citizens; therefore, this craze was not incompatible with our advanced age nor with my past enthusiasm as a reader of Tolkien’s works.  In my younger days I had read The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. Furthermore, we both loved Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of Tolkien’s novels and had just finished viewing all six of the films again. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve watched those movies since they were first released, and viewing them once more triggered my desire to read all four books again. I read them this time with the distinct purpose of examining Tolkien’s female characters, which are known to be few and far between, so much so that Peter Jackson felt the necessity to invent some. In either film or book, it is a mystery whether dwarves had any mothers. Interestedly, Jackson in one of the films has Gimli pull out a picture of his wife–a clever invention witnessing to Jackson’s own speculation about the absence of dwarf women in the novels. As for Bilbo and Frodo, they were confirmed bachelors. So let’s take a look at the instances of female figures in Tolkien’s books.

The Hobbit appeared first in 1937 and the trilogy was written over a span of years from 1937-1946. The Lord of the Rings was divided into three volumes–The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King–to save on costs, the first title published in July 1954, the second in November 1954 and the last in October 1955. Peter Jackson decided to first adapt the trilogy for the screen. Peculiarly, although The Hobbit is a shorter book, Jackson managed to stretch Bilbo’s adventures into three long-length feature films. There are no female figures in The Hobbit except for passing references to females in Bilbo’s genealogy. Because of this lack, Peter Jackson creates Tauriel, the elf who falls in love with the dwarf Kili. He also gives Lady Galadriel more scenes than she enjoys in the book.

Perhaps realizing the absence of female characters in The Hobbit, Tolkien in the trilogy supplies Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, Goldberry, Arwen, Lady Galadriel, and Eowyn to fill that void. Lobelia is briefly mentioned as Bilbo’s somewhat obnoxious relative who resents his adoption of his nephew Frodo covets Bag End and reappears in the trilogy when Frodo returns to The Shire to find it assailed by ruffians. Lobelia fights the ruffians with her umbrella and is imprisoned as a result.  Goldberry is an intriguing, otherworldly female who inhabits the Old Forest with Tom Bombadil, equally mysterious. They both seem to embody the joyous, life-giving forces of nature, always singing and dancing. When Frodo asks Goldberry who she is, she replies that she is daughter of the river. Arwen, Elrond’s daughter, is encountered in Rivendell and makes only a cameo appearance and re-appears at the end of trilogy for Elrond to present her in marriage to Aragorn. Her beauty impresses Frodo and he learns her name means Evenstar.

Lady Galadriel plays a greater role in the advancement of the story when the company arrives in Lothlórien. She has telepathic and visionary powers, and of course, is painted as a creature of ethereal beauty. Gimli is particularly taken by the elf. Before the fellowship departs her realm, she presents each member a special gift to carry on their quest. These are the boons that are granted in the medieval quest tradition that will prove valuable to the bearers on their journey to Mordor.

Eowyn is the most fully drawn of the female figures. In his creation of Eowyn, Tolkien broadens his characterization beyond a beautiful female physical presence to include personality traits and motivation. Eowyn is depicted as a young woman with strong feelings and passions. She resists being left behind to tend the home fires while men go off to war. She is a shieldmaiden who is so incensed at being left behind that she disguises herself as a man and rides off to fight in Gondor. This woman occupies more scenes in the novel than any other female figure. She participates in the battle, is wounded, and is taken to the House of Healing. Eowyn interacts with Aragorn, Faramir, and other male characters more than any other female character. It is evident that she loves Aragorn from the first moment she sees him. He does not reciprocate that feeling, because he is smitten by Arwen. In the House of Healing, Eowyn is tended by Ioreth who is another stock character, noteworthy in that Tolkien casts a woman as a healer and herbalist. While under her care, she meets Faramir, also injured in the battle. Faramir falls in love with Eowyn who at first rejects his declaration of love, but later, with not a lot of explanation, accepts his proposal, probably realizing alliance with him is a good option in light of the fact Aragorn is betrothed to Arwen. Back in The Shire, Sam Gamgee weds the girl Rosie Cotton only mentioned briefly earlier in the trilogy and has a daughter he names Elanor for a golden flower found in Lothlórien.

Tolkien realized that The Hobbit was missing the element of chivalric love often found in a medieval quest narrative. In writing the trilogy he introduced romance and Eowyn, archetype of the warrior woman, the Amazon, who refuses to accept a minor role. Whenever I turn the last pages of The Lord of the Rings, Eowyn remains in my imagination as the most memorable female figure and potentially the focus for a spin-off novel–a sequel of Eowyn and Faramir during their long dual reign after their triumphal return to the Kingdom of Edoras–should a writer be so inspired.

Jigsaw Puzzles and Writing

Margaret Drabble’s The Pattern in the Carpet starts out as an exploration of the history, development, and popularity of jigsaw puzzles. It progresses into a long disquisition among other topics on childhood, board games, card-playing, needlecraft, Roman mosaics, collectibles, and aging. Putting together jigsaw puzzles is intimately connected in her mind with reminiscences of her maiden Aunt Philly and her growing up in a town situated on the Great North Road in England. Her narrative takes many side paths to reach its conclusion in which she clarifies the similarity of doing jigsaws to writing books.

I warmed immediately to Drabble’s point of departure in her ramblings because I also have fond memories of working jigsaw puzzles when I visited my Aunt Irene first in girlhood and then as an adult when she lived alone in retirement.  In childhood, I received Christmas presents of jigsaw puzzles and remember putting them together (usually by myself because my parents and siblings did not share this pleasure) on the dining room table while the television played in the background.  I set my Kindle ebook to text-to-speech and mounted my exercise bicycle to enjoy Drabble’s book. I did this to divert my mind from thinking while I pedaled, “Is this work-out over yet?” My strategy worked and time sped, believe it or not, pleasurably on the bike.

Avid jigsaw puzzlers know that the frame is assembled first; next colors are sorted in separated groups; then a section is worked from the border that appears most promising; from there the picture is built. Drabble does not immediately draw comparisons between her career as a prolific novelist to jigsaws. The drift of where the direction of her meanderings is going is put together rather like a jigsaw puzzle slowly unfolding. A clue to her meaning can be unraveled in her title, which she leaves the reader to decipher, because nowhere in the book does she explicitly unpack the reason for her choice of title. What are the reasons for the words pattern and why carpet? She does not discuss carpets in her book, but carpets are a frame too placed on the floor; they are all of a piece, that too must be woven together by numerous threads to form a whole. The carpet suggests a journey, as in the magic carpet to adventure and perhaps an unknown destination to be revealed as the flight continues. Drabble writes her book as a journey along which she pauses and observes many sites, objects, and phenomena. Similarly, the jigsaw is a pattern that only reveals itself at the end of the journey in its making.

Drabble comments that jigsaw puzzles provide a welcome relief and refreshing diversion from the intensity of writing. Both require pattern-making  and a working out of meaning from disjointed fragments, an order out of chaos, with the difference that jigsaws are visual, physical, involving manipulation of color to achieve pattern. It’s a shift from the verbal to the non-verbal. She acknowledges that activities like crocheting and knitting achieve that same change of pace for the writer. Having worked two 1000-piece puzzles in the last few years as well as being an obsessive knitter, I share Drabble’s experience of their beneficial effects.

I like to describe novel-writing as a long journey into night. Putting a jigsaw puzzle together is often a long journey into night as it is not unusual to stay up until 2:00 o’clock in the morning finding that obstinate last piece to insert in a glaring gap. The motif of the journey becomes abundantly clear at the end of the book when Drabble writes: “The concept of life as a journey, a pilgrimage, a quest, a ladder, or a spiral track may be attractive to some, but to me the notion of a goal is not.” I believe that Drabble did not have a definite goal in mind when she started her book; she reveled in the journey as she wrote, exploring every alley and corner as she went along. For Drabble what has meaning is the journey itself, the endurance on the path, both the indignity and the dignity of her Aunt Philly’s dying in the nursing home. The persistence in completion of the jigsaw puzzle is laudable. She goes on: “In the larger pattern, all the solitary journeys combine, and we arrive together. The jigsaw, with its frame, is a simulacrum of meaning, order and design.” Startlingly, she ends by stating books too attempt to make a pattern and fail.  The last sentences of the book read: “The admission of failure is the best that we can do. It is a form of progress.”

The puzzle remains. Drabble’s meaning is not entirely clear. Maybe this is by design. I must pause and think, ponder the meaning. And that underscores the journey again. The process of seeking and forming the pattern is what makes us unutterably human and what makes jigsaw puzzles and writing similar. The process of writing itself has a way of creating a pattern unpredictable at its beginning, taking unexpected turns in the middle, and revealing a goal in the end that was not there.

The Day after Christmas

With each succeeding year, Christmas has become increasingly a pared down affair. Simplicity supplants tinsel, colored light bulbs, decorated trees, Santa Claus cookies, candy canes, and a house adorned with religious and secular gewgaws.  My dispensing altogether even with a table-top artificial Christmas tree stripped the last bit of material observance from this holy day or holiday, as you would have it, in my household, which on the day after, causes me to meditate why, at seventy years old, I have arrived at what could be called a “pretty pass.”

As I meditate upon Christmases past, I see the spirits of friends and family who have passed; among those who hover in the air are my parents, two brothers–one younger, one older–my daughter, an uncle, an aunt, a brother-in-law, and a lifetime friend. What seems to keep my contemporaries celebrating Christmas with the same degree of gusto they did in early adulthood is the presence of beaming grandchildren. My son and his wife have decided to remain childless, so this impetus to maintain family traditions does not motivate me to drag out the box of ornaments and string electric lights around the Douglas fir. Even if they had decided to have children, since they live a thousand miles away, their children could not be an integral part of my daily life.  Therefore, I am a slug, an utter pacifist when it comes to decking the halls with boughs of holly.

Is it because I’m old, jaded, the sway-backed nag tired with running through the same paces again and again? That could be a part of my disinterest. I can rationalize other reasons that contribute to my bare bones Christmas of recent years that consist largely of listening to carols and watching television Christmas programs. This season, I acknowledged the holiday by watching two favorite Christmas films, Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Story, a performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,  and concerts by Belmont College and Concordia College music students. These are my concessions to the season when the rest of the hustle and bustle, shopping, and eating have become meaningless. Even without the excuses of advancing age and loss of family members and friends, the commercialization of Christmas long ago tainted my enthusiasm for the usual customs of the holiday. For years I clung to attendance at midnight Mass to listen to the beautiful music and in the preparing and partaking in the big communal dinner. As my family shrank and I moved to an isolated area, even these observances lessened.  Despite these considerations, I have always preferred Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday.

For those who celebrate Christmas with unabated brio, I congratulate your enthusiasm. The world needs your merriment. Strike up the orchestra and let all the choirs of angels sing to herald in a better year than 2017. Truly, let the light of Christ’s message of love brighten up every facet of personal and national life in 2018.  With every Christmas we look with renewed faith, hope, and charity that the coming year will bring us closer to the peace that passes understanding.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all my blog readers!

Knitting in the Reign of Trump

In January 2017, taking a cue from Madame DeFarge in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, I resolved to knit fifty lace love shawls while The Donald occupied the White House. The identification with DeFarge’s incessant knitting and implacable determination to use her knitting to record the names of all the aristocrats she intended to consign to the guillotine may seem incongruous to my purpose to offer love instead of the fear that the real estate magnate sold to his American voters. But in other regards, the connection to Dicken’s novel struck me as highly relevant in several ways. The juxtaposition of the purpose of my relentless knitting with Madame DeFarge’s provides a stark contrast. Like Madame Defarge, my obsessive knitting channels my raw emotions of consternation, shock, and grief; however, unlike Madame Defarge, it transmutes these emotions into acts of love, into gifts for others to wear around their shoulders. Madame Defarge focuses her knitting on vengeance and hatred toward the aristocracy, particularly the Evremonde family, responsible for the deaths of  her sister, her brother-in-law, and her sister’s unborn child. Working with one’s hands is also a vehicle that Doctor Manette uses to deal with his imprisonment for eighteen years under a cruel regime. He hammers single-mindedly at his shoemaker’s bench to assuage his anguish.

Charles Dickens exemplifies a writer with a social conscience who considers it his role to direct the issues of the day in his novels, and so do I. Writers are observers and recorders of the trends and events of history. In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens looks backward at the Reign of Terror and reflects on the how the lives of Englishmen and Frenchmen are connected. What happens in France reverberates across the channel just as the events in the American colonies had repercussions in France. Integral to the plot is the redemptive quality of love, best illustrated by Sydney Carton’s sacrificing his life to save Charles Darnay from the guillotine and to ensure the future happiness of the woman he loves, Lucie Manette. Where there is fear, love cannot exist; and Carton rides fearlessly in the tumbril to the guillotine, holding the hand of the seamstress also condemned to die that day with fifty-two other victims of the revolutionary tribunal.

Knitting is a domestic craft, usually associated with women, and an activity that binds them in a communal group. Counting is basic to keeping track of stitches and patterns. The women spectators at the executions count the beheadings as they knit, presumably not dropping a stitch. It is both a mental and a physical exercise in control. Hands and mind work together to maintain focus. Knitting strikes me as particularly appropriate to count the days until The Donald departs the national scene. In the process I am producing an article of clothing that will be both useful and attractive for someone else to wear. Instead of wringing my hands in despair and wallowing in pessimism and doomsday proclaiming, I can use my energy and time to express love instead of to spew hate and disgust.

I am finishing my fourteenth love shawl. I may not reach my goal of fifty lace shawls or I may exceed that number after January 20, 2021. Granted, I am counting on the present occupant of the White House being evicted on that day. Fifty is a good number like Dickens’ fifty-two guillotined prisoners, perhaps representative of the weeks in a year. My number can represent the fifty states in the union subject to the Reign of Trump. It is no coincidence either that the nation-wide march organized on January 21, 2017, to protest his inauguration adopted as their liberty cap the pink pussy hat the marchers hand-knitted to wear for the event. Dickens depicted women intimately involved in the combat for liberty, equality, and fraternity. Miss Pross and Madame Defarge in one of the final scenes of the novel are pitted against each other, one symbolizing the force of love and the other the power of vengeance.  Sydney Carton as he ascends the platform to be guillotined envisions a future where a better world emerges from the blood and turmoil of the Reign of Terror. I, too, choose to envision a better day for the United States when the purge of prejudice, ignorance, greed, and venality is completed, which the current regime inevitably will spawn. Americans will finally be sated and have enough of corruption, braggadocio, and injustice. The country will have learned that ignorance, inexperience, and dishonesty cannot produce good governance and that preservation of democracy depends on an informed electorate. Misinformation cannot be banned from the air waves in a democracy in which snake oil salesmen have the freedom to hawk their goods. Its only antidote is a citizenry that insists upon the facts and solid evidence and will not tolerate being played for fools by con men feeding them what they want to believe rather than the truth that will keep them free.