PERSONAL HISTORY

Ode to a Linen Shirt

There’s a preamble to pressing my linen shirt. First, I plug in the iron cord into the outlet. Lift the plastic gallon jug of distilled water off the floor, hold it firmly on the ironing board then pop off the top. I tip the iron and angle the cumbersome jug, so the lip barely rests on the fill-hole. Tilting the jug slowly, I pour, watching closely as the water flows through the hole, backing off as it pools and bubbles. Feeling good that I have not spilled, I angle the jug back before the water reaches MAX. Steam rises shortly after I set the dial on high. Hiss!

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Grounding

I’ve planted a mini-forest in the small green allotment that is my suburban yard. This I have done with all of the properties I’ve owned. It is an intuitive reflex, this planting of trees and shrubs and flowering perennials. For me, a rolling lawn is a painful scab upon the earth that begs to be covered with diverse vegetation and I respond with shovel, burlapped root balls, and plenty of water.

Show me a lawn that exists free of human intervention! These monocultural carpets are not a natural phenomenon. I sometimes hear them cry out in pain, like those Chinese noblewomen who once had their feet forced into shoes that maimed.

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Defcon 3 in Germany

“You can’t leave the building,” Jimmy said. “The whole base is on lockdown. We’re at Defcon Three. The planes are on the tarmac. Our nukes are armed and we’re ready to go at it with the Ruskies–they’re helping the Arabs and Nixon wants them to back off.” He sighed. “Can you fucking believe it? We haven’t been on this high alert since the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

“Holy fucking shit!”

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Biking to Baja

Today is the fiftieth day since I set out on the bike from my house in Lake Tahoe. I feel the hot desert sun on every inch of my body, and I suddenly realize how thirsty I am. Take me home, I whimper to the Travel Gods. But where is that? I’m still not sure.

What I do know is that I am hours away from any help. I am running low on water, and my 100-pound body is an easy snack for a predator, though there’s no longer much meat on it.

“You need to keep going,” says a voice out of nowhere. I tell the voice, “Go to hell!”

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Self-defense in Sarajevo

I was asked to teach self-defense to the volunteers who worked at a local community Center. Fights were common between overburdened migrants and refugees and a few women voiced concerns for their safety. After a while, I began to teach self-defense to women in the refugee camp too. The night before my first class, I wondered, would I be doing more harm than good by teaching Muslim women how to kick ass?

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The Soul of Washington

As the nation absorbs gripping accounts from lawmakers who sheltered within the U.S. Capitol during the riot, and from the Capitol Police—a lingering trauma remains. If there is a redemptive dimension to this tragedy, it may be that it has brought home the city’s significance in our collective American story.

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Sheltering in Place on Rhodes

Slowly, the story our lives emerged. We’d each left home at a young age to escape convention—she left a village in Sweden for a Greek adventure, and I left a small southern town to pursue my writing in New York. Now here we were two independent women in their 70s, wondering about our final acts.

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