anarchy

E.B. White & Winding the Clock
anarchy | apocalyptic | beauty | dystopian | evil | excellence | freedom | friends | gratitude | happiness | hard work | healing | hope | kindness | love | maturity | real friends | redemption | spiritual teachings | vulnerability | wholeness

E.B. White & Winding the Clock

Of late things have been hard. 

My heart is broken. Broken again, for the 3477th time this life.

“Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time,” wrote E. B. White, to a despairing Mr. Nadeau. The actual first paragraph of White’s letter said:

“As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.”

I must say, on this journey, I have met some extraordinary people. Amazing, wonderful people. They hail from disparate walks of life, different races, different cultural backgrounds. Some  are immigrants, no two from the same country of origin.

They share a love for Freedom.

They are passionate. They are quirky. They are independent. They tend to be wildly intelligent and creative and brimming with life.

They tend to be honest.

Right now some feel inconsolable.

I feel fortunate to have encountered these souls, who are all, as I am, beset with difficult feelings.

People I considered friends have shown their true colors. I know now who really has my back. It’s painful and it’s good.

I counseled some lovely friends: “We must think of ourselves as the Londoners during the War. They thought God had forgotten them. God-Goddess-All-that-Is hadn’t forgotten them then, and hasn’t forgotten us now.”

But E.B. White that masterful wordsmith said it better:

It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.

So tomorrow I will rise too early, as always. Luminate coffee with coconut creamer and coconut sugar, beguiling and delicious. I will wind the clock.

Hope
Love and chaos in the time of the coronavirus
anarchy | apocalyptic | dystopian | friends | hard work | healing | hope | life and death | missing people | passings | vulnerability

Love and chaos in the time of the coronavirus

The world is rife with panic and pandemic.

People are sick. People are dying. The COVID-19 respiratory illness is sweeping across the globe. No place will be spared.

Italy is quarantining. Have the Italians stopped their millennia-old practice of bussing on both sides of the face in greeting? 

I bet they have. Kissing is for the inviolate.

The macrocosm is a mess. In the microcosm, in the tiny whimsical, poignant slice of All-That-Is that is my personal life, a chaos stew bubbles.

One friend died of a drug overdose. 

Did she intend to die?

I was close to her during grad school. I remember her talent, her intellect, and her bright smile. Could I have done anything else to help her?

A beloved family member succumbs to cancer, by degrees. He’s in palliative care now. It’s hard to watch a good man die.

A beloved friend is mentally absent. Something has claimed her wonderful intelligence. She tells me the same stories over and over, sometimes beginning the anecdote mere seconds after finishing it.

I have pulled away from a friend whom I love. I can not tolerate her lack of truthfulness and lack of consistency right now. Usually I can shrug off her failings because I remember my own flaws, and because I have in mind her many wonderful qualities: her extraordinary generosity, her capacity for lovingkindness, her playfulness. But right now, the lack of truthfulness and lack of dependability feel like too much chaos, in a world that is seething with chaos.

On the slow journey of passing
anarchy | beauty | gratitude | life and death | love

On the slow journey of passing

One of my dear ones marches inexorably toward his passing. Another dear one walks this journey with him, holding his hand.

I admire her patience and resolve. She’s been stronger than she ever imagined possible. It’s marvelous and poignant to take in her acceptance and her softness in the face of an unimaginable loss.

Even for one like me, who sometimes sees through the veil, this process of dying is a panorama of terrible grandeur. Sometimes my breath barely comes in beholding it.

I pray for ease and peace for him.

I pray for solace and the sure knowing of love for her.

I pray that the Great Mystery will hold them both tenderly in this moment when neither can avoid the truth of our core essence.

And I pray for myself that I may honor and support them in ways they can receive.

 

 

My Letter to Portland Mayor Tom Wheeler
anarchy | criminal behavior | dystopian | errors | evil | harassment | horror | tragedy

My Letter to Portland Mayor Tom Wheeler

I emailed this letter to Portland Mayor Tom Wheeler

Dear Mayor Wheeler,

Like millions of Americans, I am shocked by the violence of Antifa in Portland, Oregon.

In particular, I am horrified at the assault on journalist Andy Ngo.

But the trouble in Portland has been going on for a while.

My husband and I have been hearing reports of how bad things are in your city. Last spring when our daughter in her last year of medical school was creating her list for internship and residency, we counseled her against Portland. She has a close childhood friend in Portland, and she liked the program where she interviewed, but we advised her to look elsewhere to complete her medical training.

We discussed with her how Antifa controlled Portland and harassed citizens who were not in line with their radical beliefs. That was before Antifa attacked Andy Ngo.

I said, “Antifa is an aggressive, psychopathic militia—like the Brown Shirts under the Nazis. Don’t be fooled by their claims of trying to help the unfortunate. They are an intolerant and totalitarian group of enforcers who use violence to achieve their goals. And they are being condoned by the Mayor and the governance of Portland. You deserve a safe and peaceful city for your medical training.”

She is a fine student and a splendid doctor and she was matched to her first choice: it was NOT Portland.

For your consideration, I am a registered Democrat. So is my husband.

I wanted to let you know that there are consequences for Portland when a group of thugs controls the city. Wise people avoid Portland.

Sincerely,

Traci L. Slatton

Mystery of Birth
anarchy | errors | healing | life and death | passings | redemption | vulnerability | wholeness

Mystery of Birth

Mystery of Birth

 

 

 

I had the misfortune to be the impecunious shiksa married into a well-to-do Jewish family.

My sincere conversion to Judaism, a religion I love, slightly blunted their dyspeptic view of me but didn’t resolve it. Not that my former in-laws were aware of their bias or their inability to accept me because of my differentness. They’re a generous folk. They mean well, by and large.

But the plot thickened some years after my divorce, when I did my first DNA test. The results came back with so many “Ashkenazim” notes that I thought there had to be a mistake. I phoned the company.

I said, “I don’t understand my results.”

The lady clerk said brightly, “Oh, you’re Jewish.”

I murmured, “Yes, but who knew?”

I figured my mother had some Jewish progenitors. There were large murky areas in her ancestry, though we knew they largely inhabited the Southern parts of the US, with some Native American Indian thrown in. I figured some lost little Jewish girl had got off the boat in Ellis Island and found her way down South, where the crazy Scotch-Irish were boiling up squirrels in their crockpots and alchemizing moonshine in the hills. As well as marrying themselves some Indians.

My father’s family had been in the US for generations. They all had quintessential American names like Foster and Taylor. They were English-Scotch-Irish, with some Native American Indian thrown in. His mother was dark-haired and claimed Apache blood. There was no way my dad had any Ashkenazim blood.

Then my mother and I both, coincidentally, took another DNA test, 23andMe.

I was visiting my mother when she mentioned she had her results.

“Oh, let’s see your Jewish roots,” I chirped.

She opened a web browser, logged in, and opened her results.

0% Ashkenazim.

This did not accord with the 25.5% Ashkenazim ancestry that 23andMe revealed to me.

For a moment, the room swam in front of my eyes. I had a sinking feeling that I had been switched at birth. My mother, whom I love dearly despite our sometimes fraught relationship, wasn’t really my biological mother.

She said, “I guess Jim was Jewish?”

Oh, right. My father. I said, “He had to be half Jewish because I’m a quarter and you’re zero.”

But this was all very odd. My father’s family was from Arkansas, had been there for generations, and I had a recent Jewish ancestor from the Lithuania-Poland-Russia-Belarus area. Very recent.

I returned home and shared my DNA results with my mother, and 23andMe kindly confirmed that she was, indeed, my biological mother.

That left the mystery of my father. He never fit in with his family. Looked nothing like them. Had at least 75 IQ points over them. Was basically given away to be raised by a prosperous farmer. Called himself “the black sheep of the family” because he was smart, and joined the Navy and moved away from them.

My mother says he never bonded with anyone his whole life.

I didn’t like the man. He was abusive and prone to dark, erratic mood swings. He was an alcoholic. He cheated on my mother and engaged in all sorts of nasty behavior.

But I began to think that there was more to the story than met the eye. I began to believe that he wasn’t biologically related to the people who had raised him so poorly–because none of them are Jewish.

On 23andMe, I’ve been able to eliminate all the DNA relatives from my mother’s side. The remaining DNA relatives fall into 2 camps: one is Jewish, largely Russian-Polish-Ukrainian-Lithuanian. The other side is largely British-Irish and German.

That would be my paternal grandparents. Among them, there aren’t Taylors or Fosters or Slattons, or any of the other surnames associated with the people who raised my father. There is no commonality with the Slatton family.

The question is: Who was my father?

There’s some possibility that the woman who claimed to be his mother was indeed his biological mother, and she had fooled around.

But I think it far more likely that my benighted father, may he rest in eternal peace, was swapped in the hospital. Some other family went home with the real Slatton boy. And the son of a Jew and a German-Brit went home with the Slattons.

So I am sleuthing.

Who was my father? What are my real roots?

Factual Error in The New Yorker: Is this how fake news starts?
anarchy | art | authors | autobiography | criminal behavior | dystopian | errors | hard work | healing | hope | literature | love | marriage | maturity | Memorial | politics | psychosis | Sabin Howard | Sabin Howard sculpture | vulnerability | WW1 Memorial

Factual Error in The New Yorker: Is this how fake news starts?

Factual error in the New Yorker: I write this post not just for myself, but for all women whose ideas were misattributed to a man, and who were told to leave it be and not to rock the boat.

New Yorker Factual Error

My husband Sabin Howard is making a national memorial, the National World War I Memorial.

He began with drawings. He drafted several iterations of a relief that would tell the story of the Great War.

One morning over breakfast, he was talking about the design and showing it to me.

“My goodness,” I said. “You’ve got Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey there.”

Sabin said, “Explain that?”

So I did. As a novelist, I’ve worked with Campbell’s ideas for years. For the purposes of storytelling, the beats of the hero’s journey are useful and important. I’ve been so entranced by Campbell’s work that I’ve talked about getting a PhD in it.

And so, with my explanation over coffee and scrambled eggs, began a critical and oft-repeated piece of the story around the WWI Memorial. The Hero’s Journey connection has been publicly broadcast, by Sabin and by others associated with the Memorial, including PR people.

This is my contribution to this worthy endeavor and I’m proud of it.

Sabin is an honorable man. He consistently credits me with telling him about Joseph Campbell. He says, “My wife told me about the Hero’s Journey…” in every public venue where he’s spoken–including at a meeting of the Commission on Fine Arts in Washington DC.

In the worlds of literature and academia, claiming credit for someone else’s work is called plagiarism. Sabin is well aware of that. He is extraordinarily brilliant, but I was the one who came up with the Hero’s Journey.

The idea is to give credit where credit is due. As a matter of integrity–don’t take credit for other people’s work. Sabin doesn’t. He’s honorable.

Then came a big opportunity: The New Yorker magazine decided to do a Talk of the Town piece on Sabin and his sculpture at the New York Academy of Art.

The publicist for the NYAA was happy and excited. She had done a great job! This piece would add luster to the NYAA, to Sabin, who was showing the WWI Memorial Maquette at the NYAA, and to the Memorial itself. This was a coup!

Sabin was happy. Despite the extraordinary–unparalleled–quality of his work, he has struggled for acceptance here in the New York art world.

“A prophet is not recognized in his home town,” I tell him.

The Talk of the Town piece went live online yesterday.

It contained a factual error:

“I realized, Oh, my God, this is like Joseph Campbell’s ‘the hero’s journey,’ ” Howard said. “It’s a very simple story that everybody in every single culture has experienced.”

Sabin was out when I texted him about the error. He stepped away from a meeting to contact the publicist at the NYAA and ask for the article to be corrected for factual accuracy.

Here’s where the story gets interesting.

The NYAA publicist was less than enthusiastic about the update. She forwarded the request to the writer at The New Yorker.

Then she emailed back, “Anna…consulted with the fact-checking department on the request, and they feel since the piece doesn’t go into “how” the realization was made, it should stay as is.”

This is disingenuous. Sabin was directly misquoted and asked for his words to be represented correctly. He always says, “My wife said, “This is Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey.”

The New Yorker‘s misquote creates a factual error in the piece.

Sabin and I continued to push for accuracy. Sabin felt it was an injustice that his words were manipulated and that he was misquoted.

The NYAA publicist responded with increasing unpleasantness. She even told Sabin, “The story wasn’t pitched to The New Yorker as a piece about you and Traci.”

I emailed her,

Adding the words, “My wife remarked…” certainly does not make it a story about me and Sabin. Three words could not do that in a piece of this length. It does, however, become factually correct. It gives the piece an integrity that it currently lacks. Whether or not the magazine is attempting to be vindictive, they are acting in a way that has become a sore point with the parties involved. The magazine has been informed of a misquote and has chosen, this far, not to correct the piece.

The publicist was so appalled that I would continue to stand up for myself and my ideas that she got the head of the New York Academy of Art to email Sabin to tell me to back down.

Is that how the NYAA chooses to behave: by attempting to bully women who are standing up for their contributions? By attempting to get an authority to squelch the quest for accuracy and integrity? Women applying to the New York Academy of Art: BEWARE!

Regarding The New Yorker, here are my questions:

Is this how fake news starts: with journalists twisting subjects’ words any way that pleases them, and being unwilling to correct their piece when told about the error?

If The New Yorker makes a mistake and doesn’t correct that error because of specious and disingenuous reasoning, how is this publication any different from the fake news outlets they descry?

It’s disappointing that a venue that lauds its own integrity isn’t showing its integrity.

And there’s one more wrinkle in this sordid story. That is, there’s a concern about vindictiveness. The NYAA publicist and the head of the NYAA wanted us to stand down for fear that we would alienate people who had “been on our side.”

The NYAA publicist wrote us,

No press will be inclined to write on Sabin again, because it appears that he goes and attacks press who cover him. In addition, “fake news” is very inflammatory language to use and the New Yorker takes accusations like that extremely seriously – they have to, because of their political journalism. Claiming that the New Yorker is publishing fake news will attract a lot of unpleasant attention to you.

It’s a craven concern, but a real one. In today’s world, with its emphasis on expedience, the press might just step away from a subject who insists that his words be accurately represented.

Sabin said to me, “The New York Academy of Art will never work with me again because of this.” In order to uphold his personal integrity, he himself has to make a personal sacrifice that directly affects his career.

And so…I write this blog post for myself, for all women whose ideas have been misattributed to a man and were told to leave it be and not to rock the boat, and–come to think about it–for all the wives who are the unsung heroes supporting their husband.

Sabin Howard and Traci Slatton

Sabin Howard WWI Memorial relief drawing