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15 May 2020
Vol. X, No. 6

15 May 2020: Letters from Home (in Time of Plague), Vol. II

“Life is short, though I keep this from my children./Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine/in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,/a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways/I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least/fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative/estimate, though I keep this from my children./For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird./For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,/sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world/is at least half terrible, and for every kind/stranger, there is one who would break you,/though I keep this from my children. I am trying/to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,/walking you through a real shithole, chirps on/about good bones: This place could be beautiful,/right? You could make this place beautiful.”

— “Good Bones,” by Maggie Smith

Gouaches by Hiroyuki Izutsu.

Gouaches by Hiroyuki Izutsu.

“Kabuki,” by Hiroyuki Izutsu.

“Kabuki,” by Hiroyuki Izutsu.

This May 15th, Weekly Hubris publishes the second of two issues devoted to our Contributors responses to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, filed from our home communities around the world. Here, we feature poet Claire Bateman, from Greenville, South Carolina; essayist Elizabeth Boleman-Herring, from Pendleton, South Carolina; Rev. Robin White, from Anderson, South Carolina; dramatist Helen Noakes, from San Francisco, California; cuisine-artist Diana Farr Louis, from Athens, Greece; poet/professor Don Schofield, from Thessaloniki, Greece; and climate scientist Dr. Guy McPherson, from Maitland, Florida.

About the artist featured on our May 15th Home Page: Hiroyuki Izutsu, born in Tokyo in 1955, is inspired by the subtleties of everyday Japanese life, and works in opaque watercolor, combining hand-drawn and digital techniques to create his distinctive images. Based in Tokyo, his career began 40 years ago in the advertising industry and, most recently, his work has been featured in Taylors of Harrogate tea and coffee ads in the UK and imagery for Wetransfer in the US. He is a member of the Illustrators Society and a lecturer at Tokyos prestigious illustrators’ college, Aoyama-Juku.  . . . .  (Follow this link to read more and to purchase the artists prints.)

Salvador Dalí's “Persistence of Memory” displayed at Norrmalmstorg in downtown Stockholm, 2019.

Salvador Dalí’s “Persistence of Memory.”

Speculative Friction

“Dear People of The Future,” By Claire Bateman

GREENVILLE South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—15 May 2020—Dear People of The Future, Here in 2020, the vast territory of what was allegedly the near-past seems distant, diffuse. The clasp of a hand, the kinetic buzz of a crowd, the lightest contact with a shared surface—these must have been eons ago. Paradoxically, on the other hand, “right now” is extremely constricted, yet it engulfs us so we can’t see beyond it. That’s why we need a designated verb tense for this indeterminate present.  (Read more . . .)

Companions, on Duke St. (minus one elsewhere Australian shepherd) for the duration.

Companions, on Duke St. for the duration.

By Way of Being

“While I Breathe, I Hope?” By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

PENDLETON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—15 May 2020—Dear Ones, Even before the virus we’re all calling COVID-19 jumped the hair’s-breadth caesura, the lark-wide hiatus, between some unfortunate prey animal and the animals that hunted it, people, I had gone largely silent. I’d been so stunned by my own long, multifarious illness as to be rendered mute. And that was before the pandemic. Long before. I had two years to practice groveling and trembling before COVID-19. (Read more . . .)

Ray White with granddaughters McKenna and Rachel.

Ray White with granddaughters McKenna and Rachel.

Wing + Prayer

“I Will Take You to Myself: John 14: 1-4, By The Reverend Robin White

ANDERSON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—15 May 2020—Here we are again. Rather, here I am, wishing you here with me. I hope you will take a minute to read the scripture and look at the outline of it included at the foot of this column. If you will bear with me, I want to try to explain something I find fascinating about our Lectionary reading for this week, which comes from Chapter 24 of Luke. (Read more . . .)

Courage in the time of COVID.

Courage in the time of COVID.

Waking Point

“A Letter to the Front Lines,” By Helen Noakes

SAN FRANCISCO California—(Weekly Hubris)—15 May 2020—When you called to tell me not to worry. To stay home, wear a mask, wash my hands, but not worry. I listened, because I knew that your words meant more than all the barking idiots at White House podiums. Because I knew that your level-headed efficiency in dealing with the worst human maladies was famous. I listened because it was you, the lovely little girl who’d grown into a powerhouse of service and a well of compassion. (Read more . . .)

Bee orchid, just one of the four or five different species thriving in the field in March.

Bee orchid, just one of the four or five different species thriving in the field in March.

Eating Well Is The Best Revenge

“Letter From Athens, Greece,” By Diana Farr Louis

ATHENS Greece—(Weekly Hubris)—15 May 2020—Dearest E, Please forgive me for not writing sooner. These past few weeks have been so strange. Theoretically, I have more time than ever before—no work, no appointments, no outings—and yet I don’t manage to get anything done. My to do list is endless but it mostly consists of making (or receiving) lengthy phone calls or answering emails, and they get checked off a few at a time, while others are added, so it never gets any shorter. I haven’t started a new project, have read maybe three-four books, and I can’t even pretend that I’ve been spending all this time cleaning the house or sorting out the storeroom in the basement. (Read more . . .)

View of the Thermaic Gulf and Mt. Olympus from my living room balcony.

View of the Thermaic Gulf and Mt. Olympus from my living room balcony.

Imagination’s Favors

“Letter From Thessaloniki, Greece,” By Don Schofield

THESSALONIKI Greece—(Weekly Hubris)—15 May 2020—I have to admit that in some ways this staying-in-place is life as usual. I’m retired now (after six years, the words still feel strange in my mouth), so spend lots of time at home, writing, reading, texting with friends. In my everyday social life, I can go for days without talking to anyone, except, when I see my neighbors, go shopping for groceries, or get the occasional phone call. I love being alone, love leading a quiet, slow-paced life, one that affords me the time to go deep into my imagination. (Read more . . .)

Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael.

Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael.

Going Dark

“What I Have Learned,” By Dr. Guy McPherson

MAITLAND Florida—(Weekly Hubris)—15 May 2020—I have learned a lot since I voluntarily left active service as a tenured professor at a major university. I was 49 years old when I cut the monetary cord on 1 May 2009, the day most of the world celebrates workers. I will share some of the hard-earned knowledge I have gained in this short essay. Perhaps doing so will prevent others from making some of the many mistakes I have made. Perhaps I can continue to encourage learning, creativity, and pushing beyond the shackles of the culture into which I was born. (Read more . . .)

Home, minus most of the traffic.

Home, minus most of the traffic.

West Side Stories

“Letter from Manhattan, New York,By Ross Konikoff

MANHATTAN New York—(Weekly Hubris)—1 May 2020—I was dumping an extremely large and loud bag full of peanuts into a plastic container when Deborah walked into the kitchen to see what all the noise was about. I said, “I’m just organizing the peanuts.” She said, “By size?” I laughed and then she left. I thought for a minute and then thought, why not? I dumped them all out again and started putting them back in, one at a time, starting with the largest on the bottom, diminishing in size as the pile grew. That took about 15 minutes. Now, I have nothing to do again. (Read more . . .)

Thatched Cottage, Aynho, Northamptonshire. (Photo: AJTooth.)

Thatched Cottage, Northamptonshire.

By Way of Being

“Letter from An Unnamed English Village,” Via Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

SOMEWHERE IN RURAL ENGLAND—(Weekly Hubris)—1 May 2020—Dear Elizabeth, I’ve titled this piece “Shored Against My Ruins,” and I would prefer that you not publish it under my name. This is not going to be about the virus. It’s not going to be about death or sickness or economic collapse or poverty or plague or social apocalypse. I’m tired of reading about all this, sick of hearing about it, and I have nothing to add to what every journalist and real or would-be writer has already said. Instead, it’s a letter from middle age, which just happens to coincide with all those things.  (Read more . . .)

Grave stele of Hegeso, c. 410 BCE, marble and paint (National Archaeological Museum, Athens).

Grave stele of Hegeso, c. 410 BCE.

Going Dark

“Letter from Maitland, Florida,” By Dr. Guy McPherson

MAITLAND Florida—(Weekly Hubris)—1 May 2020—Dear Mom and Dad, I know the lockdown is inconvenient for you, as it is for most of us living in this country. I suspect it will get worse before it gets better. Nobody wants to hear it, of course, and I do not want to say it. It is the evidence that makes argumentation so difficult. Our own inconvenience pales in comparison to other locations. We hear from our friends in Belize quite frequently, and the stories are amazing. Banks, pharmacies, and grocery stores are closed indefinitely. These folks know how to implement a lockdown! (Read more . . .)

Cartoon by Andy Marlette.

Pinhead Angel 

“Letter from Gainesville, Florida,” By Burt Kempner

GAINESVILLE Florida—(Weekly Hubris)—1 May 2020—Dear Steve: OK, it’s time to take the Flori-DUH and Florida Man memes off the shelf again (they don’t stay up there long enough to get dusty, do they?). But this time the humor is running heavily on the gallows side. I sent you a photo a couple of months ago of our hapless governor, Ron DeSantis, holding a press conference wearing only one glove and scratching his nose with the ungloved hand. Last week, he demonstrated that after all this time he still doesn’t know how to put on a mask. At a time when we need an FDR, we get Benny Hill instead. (Read more . . .)

St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church, King’s Sutton.

St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church, King’s Sutton.

Polemicist on Holiday

“Letter from King’s Sutton, South Northamptonshire, UK,” By Michael House, FRGS

KING’S SUTTON England—(Weekly Hubris)—1 May 2020—My Dear Elizabeth, I’m not sure who is worse off, leadership-wise, we in UK or our friends in the USA. While your vile nincompoop is in full flow, advising people to inject themselves with detergent, ours is recovering from a bout of COVID 19 brought on by his own laziness, stupidity, and arrogance. In March, he visited a hospital and shook hands with infected patients. Unfortunately, we have our own Mike Pence in the shape of Johnson’s deputy, a man called Dominic Raab. (Read more . . .)

Her name is Emily. She seems nice.

Her name is Emily. She seems nice.

Won Over By Reality

“Letter from Fairport, New York,” By Tim Bayer

FAIRPORT New York(Weekly Hubris)—1 May 2020—In a self-imposed two-week quarantine after possible face-to-face contact with someone infected with COVID-19, I thought I would keep a Stay At Home Log . . . . Stay at Home, Day 1: She seems nice. I get very focused and I have been told that, sometimes, I can miss out on other parts of life. When I get up from my computer and go to the kitchen, there is a woman there. Her name is Emily. She says she is a teacher and is home because schools are closed. She seems nice. (Read more . . .)

The all but deserted campus of Clemson University. (Photo: E. B-Hering.)

The all but deserted campus of Clemson University.

Skip the B.S.

“Letter from Clemson, South Carolina,” By Dr. Skip Eisiminger

CLEMSON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—1 May 2020—Social contact is as vital a human requirement as fresh air, water, and food. Strike your thumb with a hammer, and the pain registers in the same part of the brain as isolation. Fast for a couple of days, and your hunger registers in the same place as the pain of isolation. Share some milk-, not bitter-, chocolate with a friend, and the gustatory pleasure becomes more enjoyable. Stick your hand in a bucket of ice water, and the tactile pain increases if a friend is sharing the water. Watch a live demonstration, and you’ll remember more of it than if you watch a taped demonstration. (Read more . . .)

“Emmaus,” by Janet Brooks-Gerloff (1947-2008).

“Emmaus,” by Janet Brooks-Gerloff (1947-2008).

Wing + Prayer

“Letter from Anderson, South Carolina, By The Reverend Robin White

ANDERSON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—1 May 2020—Here we are again. Rather, here I am, wishing you here with me. I hope you will take a minute to read the scripture and look at the outline of it included at the foot of this column. If you will bear with me, I want to try to explain something I find fascinating about our Lectionary reading for this week, which comes from Chapter 24 of Luke. (Read more . . .)

Chicago’s O’Hare Airport in mid-March. (Photo: Andrew Garver.)

Chicago’s O’Hare Airport in mid-March.

Pawprints on My Ceiling

“Letter from Athens, Greece,” By Judith Lawrence Blish

ATHENS Greece—(Weekly Hubris)—1 May 2020—I live in Greece and my children—stepchildren, legally, but heartwise my own—live in  America. (Remember America? My country ‘twas of thee?) I haven’t seen them for years. We stay in close touch on Skype. Stepmothers, too, see their children by maternal timescope—ever children. My Beth, a very intelligent grownup who has written a popular book on burnout, old enough to be a grandmother herself but still my little girl, has been planning a visit to Greece, touching base with her other connections in Europe. (Read more . . .)

Aerial view of Ghent, Belgium.

Aerial view of Ghent, Belgium.

Trying to Figure It Out

“Letter from Ghent, Belgium,” By Dr. Jozefien De Bock

GHENT Belgium—(Weekly Hubris)—1 May 2020—I am writing this letter from the terrace of our tiny but lovely courtyard, with my back to our tiny but lovely 19th-century workman’s house in one of the poorer neighborhoods of Ghent. We are lucky with the set-up for our quarantine. Both working in education and research, we can work from home. Blessed with a one-year-old baby, we are never ever, bored. In Belgium, “lockdown light” began on March 13th and should end around May 15th, or so we are being told. All restaurants and cafés are closed—for a party-city like Ghent, this was unimaginable, until it happened. (Read more . . .)

Willamette River and Coburg Hills from the Owosso Bridge, Eugene, OR.

Willamette River and Coburg Hills from the Owosso Bridge, Eugene, OR.

On the Other Hand

“Letter from Eugene, Oregon,” By Anita Sullivan

EUGENE Oregon—(Weekly Hubris)—1 May 2020—Dear Outside World, I’m standing on a footbridge that crosses the Willamette River, halfway through a popular 3 ½-mile asphalt bike and pedestrian loop. I live about a mile from this trail, so it is my “local” one. I’m looking north at some gorgeous, purple-ish dark green-ish mountains on the other side of a highway. Behind me in the spring sunshine people are biking, walking their dogs, seriously striding along or, like me, just wandering with my binoculars hoping to catch sight of some herons later on in the wetland component of the trail. (Read more . . .)

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