There be Monsters

Old maps recorded as much as they knew. After they reached the end of their knowledge, they drew sea monsters.

The unknown is dangerous. It’s scary and should not be messed with.

And yet we know we must. Every day is filled with possibilities, and we don’t know what will happen.

On a good day, that’s really exciting and wonderful.

On a bad day, it’s terrifying.

What is going to happen today? 

In the world of pandemic today, a whole lot of us know what is going to happen. I am going to stay home. I will take a walk and not breathe the air of anyone but my family.

How boring.

How stressful.

I don’t know what will happen.

When will this stay-at-home thing be lifted? What will this disease do? And what will happen to the world because of our measures? What businesses and what people will be left?

I don’t know. No one knows yet.

In my job, I have to take high-powered executives through the process of a project. Something they want done needs to go through the process from start to finish. And always always there is a snag along the way. Something that we didn’t expect.

It’s my job to take that unknown and wrestle it into the plan. But while it is still unknown I have to talk to all the people working on it. The high-powered execs want to know “What is going on and will you fix it?”

I have to make the unknown look small and fixable. Mostly this is done in two ways:

Review what has already been successfully completed

Pick the very next task to work on

I spend a lot of time and energy on this for my customers at work. I am resolving to do it for myself too. I don’t have to do all of it today. Just the next thing. Look how I’ve already come so far!


Road trip! Suzanne and packed a tent and our sleeping bags and headed off to the Grand Canyon. Like so many things she’d already been there. This was my first time.

We had our road music and drove and drove through the bare desert. We turned off into the national park, still sandy rock and pine trees. We got out and walked the little insignificant trail.

And then I saw it. A very big hole in the ground. Breath- taking. I was rooted at the sight.

At the camp that night, I said, “There was no warning. Mountains, you see from far away. But a canyon? Nothing nothing nothing all the way up to the end and THEN! Everything is different.”

I could not see that I would be trapped voluntarily at home. I did not know that my whole family would lock ourselves away from other people and develop strategies to avoid the air of other people for as long as possible.

I did not see that coming.

Very few of us did. So the grocery stores are picked clean like a swarm of locust. No toilet paper, bread, bananas, milk or eggs.

During Soviet Russia, at least they had bread.

None of the other things. In 1992, I made it my job to walk to every single store in town to see what they might have and make sure we got what we needed. Usually in 40 below weather.

The shelves were bare. I never did find toilet paper or baking soda. Not the whole year.

Walking through the stores now grips my lungs with the memory of those uncertain times with the reality of these new times.

My family–husband daughter dog and cat–are staying home. For a month at least. Today was the first day of no school. Day one of 30.

And it is raining. Spring is the rainy season.

Rain means life. Blessing. Especially in our dry county.

Growth and new life are all around.

My tree has tight buds. Perhaps the leaves and the people will burst forth together.

Some things you don’t see coming.


Last Sunday was International Women’s Day, one of my favorite holidays. It’s such an easy thing to celebrate. Of course! What took us so long to come up with this holiday?

Places with a history of communism celebrate this with pleasure. Many other places celebrate it with guilt.

Google had a doodle for it. A circular parade of paper dolls in what appeared to be women in the costumes of different professions.

I”ve been looking forward to this woman’s day, 2020, since it marks the 100th year anniversary of American women getting the vote (most of them, anyway). And I’ve been reading a lot of feminist literature.

That’s a lot to think about.

One of the books pointed out that women think in terms of relationship. How will policies and personal decisions affect those around us?

And I realize what bothers me about that google doodle. They are not in relationship with each other.

As a woman, I think of myself in relationship to others all of the time. A mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter a friend.

I have a lot of connections, and they pull me and I pull them.

Equality is a small part of the story. An important part, but nowhere near the whole picture.

In the creation of a person, which we women do, and in the creation of a society, which we all do, there are a lot of components. There are an incalculable number of compromising, giving and takings, sacrifices and demands.

It impossible to keep track of it all.

These books have convinced me to take better care of myself in these interactions. To fight for myself as much as I would for my family. To require an equal partnership moment by moment and to speak out when I am blocked or hampered.

What give me courage to do that is that I am not doing it only for myslef. In woman-fashion, when I speak up and demand I am doing it for everyone.

Better all the time

He did set his lower lip when he played the bass. His daughter pointed it out to me. We had been friends for a long time. She was one of the few friends I could trust.

Thing is, most of the time I didn’t see him. He was playing the bass behind in the seat behind me as I played the piano.

He had a band, and he played really well. He played at home, with an amp and a guitar out in the living room. He was the real thing.

Sometimes I would get to go to some of his band’s performances. They played Christian music, of course. But I loved it. I loved being near the performance, done by people I knew. Impossibly cool.

He encouraged me, and told me how to be in a music team–that is what it was called when we played the songs at church. But it was kind of a band. And I was the lead instrument.

That’s what he said.

I wanted that to be true. And it was true, when we all played together. I wanted to be a real musician, but I had no idea what that was. I’d taught myself how to play, and even though he said I was the lead instrument I was sure that I was secretly deficient in all kinds of ways. As if I had huge hole in the back of my pants but could never quite see it.

I practiced, all alone, learning what I could on the Casio keyboard I’d bought from Costco. I was alone and ashamed, but I did all I could.

I asked him, the one who knew, “Is this how it works? That I will get to a certain level as a musician, and then I’ll stay there? That I’ll be set?”

He cocked his head, trying to understand my point of view. Then he shook his head decisively. “No, you keep getting better.”

“You do?”

“Sure. I practice, and I think I’m better than I was last month. I know I’m better than I was a few years ago.”

I looked at him, wanting it to be true. Wanting there to be something I could be good at and get better and better. To have something in my future that I could count on and look forward to.

I trusted him. He was a full-on grown up. And he said I was good. Probably he was saying it to be nice, but when we all played together, it did sound good.

But then things happened and we didn’t play together anymore.  And I became a grown up and I didn’t play much anymore. Life has a way of catching up with all my time.

This year, I decided I had to do something creative. I had to make time. I wanted to write more. I also gave myself permission to buy a new keyboard.

And it was there. In a way that writing was not. I remembered how to play the keys. The way I had learned to play never left me, and I could play something new every single time.

It was right there. Practically where I left it.

And I remembered. I thought about Bill and his bass. I wondered if I could find people to jam with. Maybe I could find a band.

Somewhere between the chord changes, I thought maybe someday I’d get to play with him again. That would be incredible! I’d kept in touch with his daughter. It felt good to imagine that bass behind whatever progression I was working out.

Then I heard the news. Bill’s heart gave out.  It’s done.

I owe him. I owe him big. I wish I could tell him.

He made room in his life for creation, for music and performance. I didn’t know then how hard that could be for grownups.

I want to get better. I know I’ll remember him as I do.