the events of yesterday

Sumana is wondering what we’ll end up calling it. I’ve seen it called the Capitol breach, the insurrection, the putsch (with a nod to Hitler), and my favorite so far: Trump’s riot. It’ll probably resolve into something non-committal like January 6th. Right now, though, I can still hope for a name that makes it clear who was at fault: the crime boss in the Oval Office and his murderous fascist thugs.

My coven and I watched the march from the White House with gradually increasing concern. We have day jobs so had to fit this in around meetings, but also, out-of-control pandemic, so we were already glued to our screens. Being a conscious citizen of a failing democracy is a whole nother full time gig.

A friend who’s an experienced protestor on the side of justice pointed out just how unprepared these weekend warriors were to meet any real show of force from the authorities. But of course the authorities did nothing. There were off-duty cops and military among the rioters, apparently flashing their badges and ID to reassure the Capitol police. My anger at this, at shots fired in the chambers of my government, at the sight of some unspeakable shitheel with his feet up on my Congresswoman’s desk, is enormous. It’s exhausting, to be in such a state of cold rage.

The one friend from my old fundamentalist church who lives in America and votes Republican posted to Facebook that this has made her want to retire to central America. I have spent five years trying not to snap at her but after repressing a dozen much more inflammatory comments, I wrote: “You voted for this.” She deleted my comment, and later, her original post.

This is the situation in which we find ourselves. Healing and reconciliation can’t even begin until those who brought this horror upon us can acknowledge the great evil they have done.

May this turn out to be the death-spasm of white supremacy, of unearned privilege fighting the emergence of a better and fairer world. May we name it accurately and know it for exactly what it is.

my favorite murder

My garden has been a gift all quarantine. My whole life I’ve hardly enjoyed anything as much as I enjoyed Bic, Emma and Precious, the City Grazing goats who took down the worst of the weeds. After Marco and his team pulled out the raised beds I didn’t want and built a retaining wall and stairs, I started planting, and I haven’t stopped. There’s still one big raised bed at the back for a kitchen garden. So far I have nasturtiums, white sage, rosemary and wood strawberries, plus a young Eureka lemon to complement the neighbor’s Meyer lemon that leans over our fence. The rosemary, lemon and a potted jasmine are the only non-natives I bought.

Everything else is hyperlocal, from Bay Natives, Mission Blue or Yerba Buena nurseries, Annie’s Annuals or Larner Seeds. Ceanothus, ribes, coffeeberry, coast live oak – the keystone species. Bay laurel – much more delicious than dried bay leaves, we put it in all our soups and stews. An arroyo willow. Native grapes, Dutchman’s pipevine for the swallowtails, silver lupine for the Mission Blue butterflies, narrow-leaved milkweed for the monarchs. Hummingbird sage, blue eyed grass, variegated yarrow, coast buckwheat. A bog with sword fern and chain fern and douglas iris. A pond with seep monkeyflower and rushes, which is doing extremely well and which I hope will attract frogs. Yerba buena trailing down the retaining wall. Two elegant Dr Hurd manzanitas that, goddess willing, will grow into sinuous, sculptural rainbow beauties.

It doesn’t look like much yet. I am in constant battle with the Bermuda oxalis, wild radish and those bastard arum lilies. Everything else is barely knee high. But every chance I get I loll out here in a comfy blue lounge chair, listening to contentious crow parliaments in the neighbor’s lillipilli, watching hummingbird aerobatics, loving the sweet descending melody of gold-crowned sparrows. There are fat red-tailed hawks who coast from the hill to the canyon, often with an escort of angry crows. I leave almond offerings on the deck railings for the members of this murder, whom I dearly love. I planted a bog. I am a real bog witch now.

the wow signal

I’ve been riding at the new barn for a year and change now. It’s a serious barn, although not serious about showing in the jumpers (like Glenoaks and McIntosh) or in the Welsh breed shows (like Heather Hill). Not even super serious about dressage shows, although it does that. Serious about correctness, starting with correct position and then continuing through tempo and line to rhythm and bend. An intense, meditative practice, conducted in partnership with large livestock animals.

Russell, who is Heather Hill Rhodri, drew me to this barn in the first place, being literally the dream horse I described to my former trainer Laura: “Rhun, but younger.” Rhun is Laura’s horse, and Russell is his nephew. Laura bred them both.

Russell is exactly what I was looking for. I call him Black Beauty. He has a small, refined head with a big unmistakable fan-shaped star. He likes you to rub his velvet nose and cheek-ridges and fuzzy ears. It’s as tender as petting a purring cat. He’s gentle and obliging and talented and experienced, and he has taught me a lot about how it’s supposed to feel, what it’s like when you get it right, how you know.

Lenny is the horse I didn’t know I was looking for. He is a mouthy, bratty sorrel mustang with a tentacle-shaped white snip licking up the end of his Roman nose. He looks like a little Belgian draft horse, like Ice Age megafauna painted in ochre on the wall of a neolithic cave. I call him, and this is even more embarrassing than Black Beauty if you can believe it, I call him Bright Angel because the expression on his face when he sees me and knows I have sugar in my pockets is like a messenger of God’s grace. I have often been infatuated with ponies but Lenny represents a severe and ongoing case.

I rode Lenny for months when most other people weren’t very interested in him, but as he got stronger and rounder he has started to be a sought-after ride. Of course now other people can ride him better than I do, and we had a few weeks where I was frustrated about this and we lost our groove. But yesterday I somehow got over myself and found my balance again. Maybe it was watching the Spanish Riding School show and remembering to sit like a pair of wings folded into his back.

Whatever it was, he found the round soft trot of his that’s like a Zen monk deep in prayer, and I’m still thinking about it a day later. Holding the reins like I am holding hands with a little kid, dancing like we’re Nureyev. People call it round or collected or on the bit but the best word for how it feels is contact, like a burst of radio waves from a beautiful, friendly alien. The wow signal.

eleven books i appreciated this year

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

Alta California: From San Diego to San Francisco, A Journey on Foot to Rediscover the Golden State

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

Miracle Country

Real Life: A Novel

Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Landscape Wars of the American West

The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California

The Shepherd’s Life: A People’s History of the Lake District

Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart: An Adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail

When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities

As is abundantly clear, I was craving books about Californian and Indigenous history, as well as strong landscape writing. Rebecca Solnit’s Savage Dreams hit both nerves hard. It’s an unjustly neglected masterpiece.

I read more fiction and poetry than this list would suggest, but Brandon Taylor and Chen Chen were the absolute standouts. They’re also both fantastic on Twitter, which probably helps them stick in my mind.

I read 142 books, give or take, which is pretty normal. I might’ve expected more in a quarantine year, but I started a new job and house and garden and got two new horses and it’s a golden age for television, so. 92 books by women, 37 by identifiably queer folk, 5 of whom were trans, 30 by POC. It’s hard to read enough books by trans and POC writers, but I should try harder.

I read two separate books of nonfiction called Horse Crazy, which is probably all anyone needs to know about me.

hidden valley road, by robert koller

embrace the cards you are dealt or it will eat you alive. If you go to the heart of your own matter, you will find only by loving and helping do you have peace from your own trauma.

our malady, by timothy snyder

We would like to think we have health care that incidentally involves some wealth transfer; what we actually have is wealth transfer that incidentally involves some health care.

a charmed life, by liza campbell

both Sleeping and Snow attracted the attentions of princes with necrophiliac leanings.

savage dreams, by rebecca solnit

the great curse of Euro-American history is its shallowness, its failure to take root in a place so different from its place of origin.

miracle country, by kendra atleework

If I spent years clawing toward sunlight from the bottom of a dry well, that summer I looked over the edge for the first time and saw my sister.

adventure time: the sea, the sea

It was Dad’s birthday on Saturday so I drove over to see him and Mum.

There is beauty even in lost things. Lucky for me!

harrow the ninth, by tamsyn muir

Somewhere out there exists a home not paid for with blood.

recollections of my non-existence, by rebecca solnit

A Muir Woods park ranger once remarked to me that she saw in these structures the great redwood forests that had been cut down to build them, and so those tall groves up and down the coast were another ghostly presence.

adventure time: dances with horfs

Took Lenny the mustang to a little horse show.

What a very excellent boy.

once upon a time i lived on mars, by kate greene

Historically, much of Earth exploration has been rooted in colonialism and subjugation. What kind of remnant legacies and unexamined assumptions thread through today’s discussions to colonize Mars?

generation ship

In February I moved to a new barn; in March we moved house and I started a new job. Also in March, of course, the shelter-in-place order came down, and we have been isolating ever since.

All at once, the house was a space station. I don protective gear for away missions, and decontaminate in a scalding shower when I get home. Everyone else stays home and communicates only over network links.

Don’t know when we’ll hug our friends again. Don’t know when we’ll see the rest of our family. But the house is glad to have us here, and I am glad we have each other.

don’t call us dead, by danez smith

history is what it is. it knows what it did.

lent, by jo walton

There is no fellowship in Hell, the only relationship possible is that of tormenting one another.

atlas of a lost world, by craig childs

I felt that I’d been here before, had walked into these grassy slopes on a sunny day, horses in the distance lifting their heads, watching me pass. Wildflowers would have been blowing in a warm breeze.

homie, by danez smith

trees! y’all! they look like slow green explosions!

when i grow up i want to be a list of further possibilities, by chen chen

For I will consider my boyfriend Jeffrey. For he is an atheist but makes room for the unseen, unsayable. For he is a vegetarian but makes room for half-off Mondays at the conveyor belt sushi place.