On an unseasonably warm day in February, Clio and I went for a jaunt on the towpath. It was like swimming in the ocean. We passed through alternating currents of warmth and coolness, which bewilderingly didn’t correspond to the areas of slatted light and shadow. The birds were confused and loud, in a tizzy; the bees and beetles were aimless and dizzy. Thawing mud and wet grass had a hopeful scent. And the late February light was hopeful, slanting on slick bare branches, bright wet moss and bark.
Of course the unseasonable hopeful warmth came to an end. The sky was inky, gloomy and ominous. The rain spattered against windows half-opened for the first time in months. The wind threatened to tear the roof off, and the storm on the radar looked like a solid flaming bar of hellfire headed our way. And now the bushes and trees, with their hopeful budding leaves, look vulnerable and almost foolish, stretching out of the snow.
Everything has felt a little darker and colder since the election of our 45th president, and the creeping greyness gets thicker and heavier with each passing day, with each new reading of the news. So much to say and do, nothing to be said or done. It’s overwhelming and exhausting, which is the point of it all. It’s like we’re all little kids with super-villain parents. They’re trying to wear us out or distract us with shiny things so that they can get on with their fiendish plans.
Yeah, I’m tired. I guess I’m just a “liberal snowflake,” and I’m melting. Like everyone else who didn’t vote for Trump, I’m weak and needy, and I should just man-up and accept the reality of Trump’s world. Except that there is no reality in Trump’s world. It’s not real, it’s based on alternative facts and ambiguous words and outright obvious ridiculous lies. And one of the obvious lies is that there’s any strength or courage in anything Trump represents. He claims to be a tough man who will make America strong again, but he is so clearly a weak childish man who is frantically destroying everything that made us strong in the first place. His platform is, unabashedly, that America and Americans should say “Me first, everyone else is trying to hurt me and take what is rightfully mine.” Toddler logic. And the funny thing is that Trump is like a toddler with super-villain parents just like the rest of us. Because he’s not in charge, and we all know who is. And his handlers give him shiny things so that the rest of us will get distracted when he has a tantrum and throws them out of his pram.
Well! Surely nothing makes you weaker or more of a victim than to assume that everybody is out to get you. As anyone who as ever spent time being human can tell you, it takes more strength to care about people than to shut yourself off. It takes great courage to care for someone you know, and even more to care for a stranger. It’s not brave to assume that anyone different from you is a threat, and it’s downright evil to play on ignorance and sow fear by telling people that anyone different from them is a threat. It’s cowardly to shut people out of your life or your country, and it’s more-than-foolish to do so based on rumors and lies. It takes strength to fight these appeals to the worse demons of our nature, the demons of selfishness, suspicion, and bigotry. But we’re finding the strength to fight, often in surprising places. There are no paid protestors at the Town Halls and rallies. These are grandparents and babies and everything in between, many of them politically awake for the first time in their lives. And I’m beginning to let myself hope that the warmth and ferocity of our struggle will melt this administration, with its feeble understanding, fragile ego, and frightened brittle rhetoric; we will melt it to nothing.
Politics and potatoes! We’ve been eating a lot of comfort food as the winter drags into the spring. These were very easy and very lovely. Crispy, warm, smoky, a little bit spicy. They were so easy that it’s not really a recipe, more of a short set of instructions. Preheat your oven to 425. Wash some (6-8 smallish) potatoes (I used yukon gold, but you could use any kind, I think).Chop the potatoes into pieces about 1/3 to 1/2 inch and spread them in a single layer in a roasting pan. Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil over them and mix to coat. Add a tablespoon or two of chipotle purée (available in little tins in the international section of your grocery store. Mix that in as well. Roast the potatoes, stirring and scraping the crispy bits off the bottom until they’re thoroughly crispy. 30 – 40 minutes. If they start to stick to the pan, add a little more olive oil or a few pats of butter. At the end, add 1/2 t of smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Return to the oven for about five more minutes. Add more salt and pepper to taste.