Optimistic, but also realistic. Hopeful, yet cautious. Upbeat, with a bit of soberness. Bold and, of course, prudent. Those are my values when I’m writing my blogs. Many people respond that my pieces lean toward the positive, and that pleases me. It’s my goal: balance, leaning to the positive.
Recently, though, my writing critique partner, Heather, said, “Amory, why don’t you write something positive? Something uplifting? I need positive right now. Leave out the negatives.”
My first response was abrupt. “No,” I said. “That’s not how I write. If you want positive only, you need to read someone else.” I dismissed her comment with no more thought.
No more thought until the past few days, that is. Why not try? So, I did. It’s been good to keep the positives in the forefront. (A disclaimer. I can’t go on without saying that the problems and hardships of others have never been out of my mind. I know I am privileged. I know my sense of security and comfort occurs while others are struggling. I know, I know.)
Here, then, comes some happy talk.
I was in awe during the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Right there, for all to see, was an unstated celebration of advances in America’s movement toward inclusion during my lifetime. January 20, 1961, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was inaugurated as the 35th president of the U.S. His campaign had been darkened by concerns about his Catholicism. Comments such as “the Pope will be calling the shots,” and “his allegiance will be to the Vatican, not to the American people,” were widespread. Sixty years later, Joe Biden, a faithful Roman Catholic, was elected as our second Catholic president, minus all the papist flap.
Also unstated, but a delight to see were the results of two U.S. Supreme Court decisions. In 1967 the Court heard the case of Loving vs. Virginia. In a unanimous decision, the Earl Warren court ruled all race-based restriction on marriages violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. This year we cheered happily for Vice President Kamala Harris, an African-American/Southeast Asian woman with Doug Emhoff, her white, Jewish spouse.
June 26, 2015, the Court, in a 5-4 decision, struck down all state bans against same-sex marriage, relying on the same Equal Protection clause. January 20, 2021, we saw Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasten, seated together at President Biden’s inauguration. (Postscript: On February 2, Pete was confirmed as the Secretary of Transportation. By a vote of 86-13, the Senate confirmed the first-ever openly gay cabinet member.)
Along with those causes for celebration, President Biden’s ceremony was a marvelous display of inclusion. I’m still glowing with the glory of Jennifer Lopez singing in Spanish, twenty-two-year-old Amanda Gorman breathing life into poetry, Andrea Hall, a black fire chief, reciting and signing the Pledge of Allegiance and Lady Gaga, resplendent in red and blue, bringing new meaning to “gave proof through the night, that our flag was still there.” January 20 was a time of rejoicing for so many of us.
As I continued thinking through the positives I’d share, my mind wandered from the national to the particular, the personal. There’s so much for which I feel delight.
I remember well the press conference last March when Governor Inslee told us to stay home for two weeks to get this outbreak under control. Sure, Guv, I can do two weeks. No problem. For me, personally, those two weeks—which have stretched into eleven months now—have been problem-free.
It’s easy to remember the joy-filled parts of spring and summer. When Linda and I first saw this condo, we were enchanted with its three hundred square foot deck, bigger by far than any other condo deck we had seen. That deck, especially my hammock, gave me countless hours of reading, reflecting, and snoozing. The view of Bellingham Bay and the delight of observing a family of five baby seagulls on the roof of the apartment building across the alley were part of the daily routine.
On our second visit to tour the condo, while we were waiting to hear if our offer was going to be accepted, we overheard a woman say, “This is a lovely condo, but I couldn’t stand to look at that every day.” That was the 1910 Armory building, a Chuckanut sandstone fortress which was to become our next-door neighbor. Linda had fond memories of the years when the Armory had been a roller rink, the Rolladium, and I was wistful about my childhood dream of living in a castle. The Armory, with all the jokes about Amory and the Armory, pleases us so.
Early days of the pandemic, Linda and I wandered the neighborhood, seeing it with new eyes. Every day we pledged to find “something new, something interesting,” and—because we were looking—we did.
As the weather moved into summer, my special treat was a daily jaunt to Zuanich Park. A perfect place for me! I’d walk a bit (masked, of course) sit on a bench overlooking the Bay reading and scribbling, then walk back to my car. My earliest blogs were all incubated in that spot. Pandemic or not, that’s where I would have spent those summer days.
We met friends for picnics, hosted driveway happy hours, played with Mason, our five-year-old granddaughter—maintaining a healthy, six-foot distance between us.
I did have some qualms moving from fall into winter. So much of what had given me joy during the first months of the pandemic was good-weather based. However would I handle the gray and gloom? Well, the Washington weather brought its own sort of comfort. Our home is filled with the things that give us joy: books, paper, pens and pencils, a whole stationery store’s worth of office supplies. This season I’ve added candle light, more candle light than ever before.
My greatest light against the darkness of this set-apart time is Linda, is the easiness of our relationship. With twenty-three years of living together, we two introverts have mastered the art of creating individual space while also relishing one another’s company.
The past eleven months have given me time to think, to be, to pray, to reflect. In ways I hadn’t understood before, these words from Philippians 4:11 have rung true: “ … for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” For that, I am deeply grateful.
Last Sunday I had a glimpse of greatness, of fortitude. Following our YouTube church service, those who wished gathered for a Zoom “coffee hour.” We regulars were delighted when the screen showed that Verdie was logging in. I talked about Verdie and her pragmatic view of life in my last blog. I mentioned her matter-of-fact description of turning 100. Verdie is now 102. When we asked “Did you have help getting on Zoom this morning?” she replied, “Oh no, I figured it out myself.” There lies the best of us all.
Thanks, especially, for reading along, friend. Please fill your day with happy talk.
PS As I was thinking through this piece, trying to hone my positivity, the song “Happy Talk” came to me and then stuck in my brain for the longest while. Here it is, if you’d like to listen to Bloody Mary, and lose yourself in positivity, too