dystopian

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.

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

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

Returning to Source and Writing Again
anarchy | apocalyptic | authors | beauty | dystopian | eros | errors | friends | gratitude | happiness | hard work | healing | hope | horror | I am | kindness | life and death | life model | love | marriage | maturity | missing people | passings | real friends | redemption | sex | spiritual teachings | vulnerability | wholeness | writing

Returning to Source and Writing Again

Write again, they are telling me. You must write, Traci. 

It’s the new theme: writing again.

The past twelve months have been excruciating. I am struggling.

It’s been a year of comings and goings from my life; intermittency like a suddenly thrown grenade blew up my peace of mind. It has been a year of travel, loss, loneliness, bad advice, uncertainty, sadness, emptiness, tough choices, betrayal, humiliation.

It has also been a year of joy: the birth of my beautiful grandson, deepening friendships, richer closeness with my sweet middle daughter. A lot of yoga! Books newly cherished. A beautiful place that has come into my consciousness as a home.

Change is afoot.

Write again, my husband says, as if that will erase everything that has passed between us. His eyes are soft and his voice is loving as he counsels me. Write again. He holds me often throughout the day.

His hands on my shoulders, my arms, my breasts, my belly help me. He is kind. And I am still struggling.

In every moment brims the fullness of the spiritual imperative: We are here to love, to learn, to work, and to play. We are here to choose love over fear.

Why then this heart ache?

For what reason did I come here? I’ve asked myself a thousand times over the last span of time.

What is the imperative that I am mindful of it?

How have I betrayed myself?

I suspect it’s the effort to answer these questions that will heal me. It’s the journey itself that will return me to Source–whatever the destination may be.

 

 

Snooty Rich Women Are Everywhere, Including New Zealand
dystopian | errors | psychosis | redemption | vulnerability | wholeness

Snooty Rich Women Are Everywhere, Including New Zealand

Snooty rich women are everywhere, including New Zealand

Places change but people don’t.

A recent trip to Wellington showed me the commonality of human traits, especially foibles. In a land where people pride themselves on being non-materialistic and friendly, I got to experience the same self-aggrandizing arrogance that I see in New York city.

Here in the Big Apple, my daughter attends an excellent school. Many of the students are the privileged scions of Masters of the Universe. Now, most of the kids are lovely people, and most of the parents are lovely and congenial. There are many kind, decent people who happen to be wealthy. Even enormously so.

And then there are the moms who’ve known me for the eight years since our children were in kindergarten together–and they still look at me every time they see me as if they’ve never met me before.

What makes them so special? It mystifies me.

An experience last fall illustrated this point. My daughter was doing a project with another girl at the girl’s house. I went to pick up my daughter. I stood in the entry foyer of the 20,000 square foot, marble-floored Park Avenue apartment, waiting. It became clear that the girls were finishing slowly. Reluctantly, the mom invited me in. She spent the next half-hour talking exclusively about herself. She didn’t pause in her self-recitation to ask one single question about me.

I walked out laughing, because, really, such enormous self-absorption is funny.

Cut to Wellington, New Zealand, where my husband worked for six months. Our daughter spent a month with him, attending school there. It was a great adventure for her to see how Kiwis live and to immerse herself in another culture for a month.

But people are people in all cultures.

My husband’s landlady had hosted my daughter every day for the month of August when she was there; she would climb 20 yards up the hill to their house and play with their daughter. The landlady and her husband, an enormously successful entrepreneur, hosted my husband for dinner twenty times. But when I arrived, they pretended I didn’t exist.

It is true that they, along with several other people in Wellington, were trying to break up our marriage. I overheard the husband on speakerphone dissing our marriage before we returned to New Zealand together for my husband to finish his work.

I spent some weeks with my husband in Wellington. No word from the rich folks up the hill who had been so inclusive to my daughter and my husband.

The last week, I bought a pastry and climbed the hill and introduced myself to the rich lady. I gave her the pastry and said, “I’d like to thank you for your kindness to my daughter and my husband.”

She spent the next fifteen minutes talking about herself.

I took my leave and climbed back down to the house my husband had rented, thinking I had found a snooty Park Avenue lady in Wellington, NZ.

I felt badly for my husband, because he had actually considered these people friends. Their treatment of me, his wife, proved that they weren’t. In the eyes of God and the law, he and I are one person. How people treat me is how they are treating him. He had a day of heart-ache about it. Then he let go of those snooty folks.

It is hurtful when people treat me badly. I feel pain and sadness when people are nasty to me.

Because of the 9000 mile separation, and because of other issues before he left to do the project, my husband and I had reached a dark place in our marriage. He had vocalized his upset to people in Wellington. In the short time he was there, he had reached out to many people and built a community for himself.

It was clear to me that his real friends were the people who welcomed me. The people who truly cared about him were the ones who said, “Fix your marriage. You’ve been nearly 20 years with your wife. You have a child with her.” These are the people who were able to take a nuanced view of what he said, the people mature enough to understand that there are two sides to every story. Those were the people who value marriage and who understand that a long marriage goes through long cycles, and that the imperative is to return to the marriage and to work at it until you fall back in love with your spouse.

It would have been wonderful–and I think correct–if the wealthy people up the hill had invited me for a drink within a few days of my arrival. It would have been kind and humane.

Of course, I know that how people treat me is a reflection of them, not of me. Their behavior reveals them. It’s not about me at all.

But I still felt hurt to be treated so shabbily. Wellington, New Zealand, left my heart with some scars that won’t heal quickly.

For the image for this blog piece, I have selected an image of myself. This was taken in Paris last year. A writing partner whom I love took this photo. It goes along with this post because in the picture, I am vulnerable.