Even in my basement apartment, I can still hear the rain and thunder if I try.
The sound of a storm has been soothing to me since college. On one of my four-hour drives between Southern New Jersey and Hartford Connecticut, I once got caught in a thunder storm somewhere in New York State. The rain came down in sheets, my wipers couldn’t keep up, and it was already dark.
I decided that arriving late was better than never arriving, so I pulled off into a rest area. I set an alarm for an hour, grabbed my spare blanket from the back, and took a nap while I waited for the rain to stop. To this day, that is the single most restful sleep I’ve ever had in my life.
It’s raining now, and there’s a storm outside. It’s not relaxing, though- it sounds more like a Seal being opened, and tiptoeing toward Armageddon.
I don’t like making excuses. One commitment I make to myself regarding this blog is “An entry a week- no matter what.” I may take a holiday off, or a one-week vacation, but if I’m working, I’m working. I take this blog seriously, and that means one post a week.
So I had an idea for this week. Something about the bars and restaurants Portland has lost because of the pandemic, or how delicious hiking and backpacking rations can be. It feels utterly pointless.
You don’t need me to summarize current events here- there are summaries to go around, and it’s a script that we’ve seen play out over and over again with soul-crushing repetition in this country. A black man was murdered on video by crooked cops. A nation spoke out and mourned. The justice system drags its feet, where it moves at all. In grief and righteous rage, protests turned to conflicts. Activism becomes rioting. Pearls get clutched, and suddenly the talk is about how savage it all is.
All against the backdrop of an ongoing pandemic, a struggling economy, and the thousand other nightmares du jour.
Writing about it on here feels disingenuous. I’m a cis-het white guy living in Portland. I didn’t know there were demonstrations in my city until after they happened. I didn’t know I had friends who marched and were injured until they told me. Last night, I made dinner for my wife and we watched TV. The idea of “throwing in my two cents”- another privileged shmuck adding his point of view to “the discourse” from the comfort of his keyboard just makes me angry to think about.
Yet writing about those other things- the rations, the bars, whatever- feels shallow and useless. I know the platitudes and hopes that “food brings us together” and “we need to remember our commonalities”- but they don’t lead to justice. They don’t bring back the dead. They don’t assuage the fears and angers of a righteously furious community, and they conveniently distract those in positions to help with Hallmark-Card wisdom, so those in power can stay safely intransigent. It’s what I know, and what I love- but in good conscience, I don’t want my work right now to amount to ”bread and circuses.”
Even if I was to write something light-hearted, what purpose would it serve?
What business do I have writing it?
What business do I have saying a damn thing?
It’s times like this I’m confronted with the limits of my abilties. I’m a storyteller- but this is not my story to tell. Anything I have to say dies on the desk- weak, hollow, and useless. I can’t fix the world. I can’t make it all “not so.” All I can do is watch, and witness.
Tonight, I’m making my wife and I bread. We are lucky- both of us still have jobs to do. We are still getting paid. We can buy groceries. The rain is falling outside on a city that, after last night, is under a curfew to keep as few people on the streets as possible. The smell of bread dough is on my fingers as I type, and the lingering scent of rosemary and olive brine waft from the kitchen. Petrichor, as the outside world slips in through the open window.
I’m going to start asking what I CAN do. Who I can help and how. Even if we can’t march, we can support those who do. We can raise our voices- and uplift the voices of others- to move the stubborn.
The rain is ebbing off outside, but it’s still a storm.
It’s hardly relaxing… and I have never been able to tolerate being useless for long.
Stay Classy (and safe,)