87 Miles (and Counting)

Not quite a month ago I posted “Walking for RBG,” about a scheme to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg, raise money for several pro-woman causes, and spend more time in the great outdoors. I chose the Run/Walk 87 Miles Challenge option. The miles can be accumulated over time, and I don’t need to tell you I had no intention of running.

So this past Friday, a dreary, drizzly, unseasonably warm morning, I passed the 87-mile mark. Here’s my virtual certificate:

I’d sworn never to take my phone on walks, but I needed it to keep track of miles. I installed the Map My Walk app and changed my vow: I would not make or take phone calls or texts on walks. I’ve pretty much kept to that, but I’ve often used the phone to take photos. Since I was already in the habit of doing this with my point-and-shoot, I don’t consider it cheating.

Statistics can only tell you so much, and I don’t want to become one of those people who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing (as an Oscar Wilde character described a cynic), but at the same time I’ve learned a few things from packing my phone on my walks.

My expanded morning walk loop. I alternate clockwise and counterclockwise.

Like my regular morning loop around the neighborhood is 2 miles almost on the nose, not the 3 to 3.5 I’d been guesstimating. When time allows, I’m now expanding the loop to bring the total up to 2.5.

My evening walks are usually a little under 1.5 miles. My daily total is around 4 miles, not the 5 I’d been guessing.

The Map My Walk app tells me both my average pace and my fastest pace for each walk. My average works out to just under 3 miles per hour. My fastest works out to 4. I’ve long believed that my usual walking pace was about 4 miles an hour. The slower average must have something to do with the fact that I’m always walking with Tam, who moves briskly but stops often to sniff or mark a tree. When he stops, I stop but the app doesn’t.

I could test this theory by going for a walk without Tam, but he would have quite a bit to say if I tried it. The Map My Walk app has a Dog Walk setting. Would it compensate for all the stops and starts of walking with a dog? I tried it. The results were identical to the Walk setting, so I guess not.

Several of us local activist types are doing the Run/Walk for RBG challenge and keeping track of our progress (with maps and photos) in a Facebook group. I was the first to reach 87 miles, and #2, very close behind, also has a dog — more than one dog, as a matter of fact. Moral of story: If you want to walk more, get a dog. Truth to tell, though, I did it backwards. I walked regularly, so friends would ask me to take their dogs with me. One thing led to another and eventually Rhodry came into my life. I’ve been walking with a dog ever since.

Thanks to our Facebook group, I finally figured out how to do screenshots with my phone. I get nearly all my tech support from YouTube, but this was a challenge because the technique seems to differ from phone to phone, even those from the same manufacturer. So if you’ve got a Samsung Galaxy J7 and haven’t figured it out yet: Press the volume button (on the left) and the power button (on the right) at exactly the same time. (It seems to help if I press both buttons at their lower ends, but this may be magical thinking on my part.) The edges of the screen will close in a bit — click! — and voilà, the image appears in your Gallery.

Speaking of galleries, here are some photos from my recent walks, some in the neighborhood and others further afield.

The savanna at Waskosims Rock Reservation, October 21

Autumn light on the Dr. Fisher Rd., October 24

Fallen tree at Sepiessa Point, Tisbury Great Pond, October 31

Donkeys on Elias Lane, November 7

Very red tree, Elias Lane, November 7

Afternoon sky at Great Rock Bight, November 15

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Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln . . .

It’s taken rather longer than expected for the ship to come in but come in it has. From what I hear on social media, people not only across the country but around the world are cheering, setting off fireworks, and dancing in the streets. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 was big, but this is bigger, because even more is at stake. Bush II was a terrible president, true, but Trump and the current Republican Party are a serious threat to the Constitution, the rule of law, civil rights, and basic decency.

Election night I went to bed around midnight, read for about five minutes, then fell asleep. I very, very rarely have trouble sleeping, and I’m one of those insufferable people who bounds out of bed in the morning — once I’ve persuaded Tam to get out of my way — wide awake and ready to go.

Tuesday night was looking good for Trump, but I expected that and saw no reason to stay up. Wednesday morning, however, I had to screw up my courage to wake up Matilda (laptop) and check out the news. When I did, it was looking pretty good for Biden-Harris, disappointing for the U.S. Senate, and all too obvious that going on four years of Trump’s incompetence, ignorance, corruption, and hatred-fueling antics haven’t budged his base one bit. They had voted in droves. Fortunately we had too.

Nov. 5, some Americans, including the soon-to-be-ex president, were celebrating Guy Fawkes Day by trying to blow up the election. Trumpers were attempting to intimidate ballot counters in Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Trump, who doesn’t understand how elections work, continues to tweet demands to “stop the count.” What’s interesting about Guy Fawkes is that the bonfires and fireworks celebrate a plot that failed, or, rather, the failure of a plot.

It won’t become official till the Electoral College meets on December 14: the Monday after the second Wednesday in December. Because of the goddamn Electoral College we’ve been biting our nails for weeks, and we were still biting our nails when the Democratic ticket was ahead by 3.5 million in the popular vote. As been said in various ways in recent days, “I didn’t get this far to be tearing my hair [biting my nails, losing my sh*t, etc.] over Pennsylvania.”

Around noon today, once Pennsylvania was called for the Democrats, NBC, MSNBC, and AP projected Biden-Harris the winners. Fox soon followed suit. Arizona and Nevada have been declared firmly blue, with only Georgia and North Carolina still in play. Here’s what the Associated Press (AP) map looks like at 1:30 p.m. ET, Nov. 7. Biden’s ahead by well over 4 million votes.

And here is a cool GIF about where people actually live in this country.

The Democrats have won the popular vote in 6 of the last 7 presidential elections (the exception was 2004, when Bush II ran for re-election against John Kerry), but in 2 of the 6 (2000 and 2016) they lost in the Electoral College. To put it politely, 2000 was a hot mess because it all came down to Florida’s electoral votes. Which is how we got the Iraq War, Dick Cheney, and an economic meltdown.

About what we got, and are still getting, and will be living with for quite some time now, from 2016? Let’s see: A raging pandemic, obviously, and a crashed economy. White supremacy unleashed, often with guns. Escalating police violence against people of color. A gutted State Department, EPA, and other agencies. Corruption of the Department of Justice. Courts packed with judicial conservatives, many of them less than competent. Loss of world standing. I could go on.

I won’t say I’m exactly shocked by the number of U.S. voters who are OK with Trump’s incompetence, corruption, ignorance, bellicosity, and hatred, but I am disappointed. I’d hoped for better.

On the Atlantic website, Tom Nichols, a fairly conservative guy, published a piece headlined “A Large Portion of the Electorate Chose the Sociopath.” The headline says it all, but Nichols elaborates:

Nearly half of the voters have seen Trump in all of his splendor—his infantile tirades, his disastrous and lethal policies, his contempt for democracy in all its forms—and they decided that they wanted more of it. His voters can no longer hide behind excuses about the corruption of Hillary Clinton or their willingness to take a chance on an unproven political novice. They cannot feign ignorance about how Trump would rule. They know, and they have embraced him.

That’s not going away. At the moment Trump and his minions are doing everything they can to stop the count, undermine confidence in the process, and fire up “the base” by making legal challenges, circulating disinformation, attempting to intimidate election workers, and even threatening violence.

But we’ve won. We’ve won the opportunity to continue to perfect the democratic experiment, instead of flushing it down the toilet into the Trumpist swamp. The way forward is going to be grueling, a challenge that will almost certainly demand more of us than just defeating Trump. But that is worth celebrating, so celebrate we did, on Eastville Beach last night.

Most of the heart of the Vineyard resistance. From left: Kathy Laskowski, Carla Cooper, me, Lorraine Parish, Holly MacKenzie, Cathy Walthers, and Maria Black.

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October License Plate Report


October is a boring month in the license plate game. A reliable nothing-burger. How reliable? Well, from 2012 through 2019 the only year anything new showed up in October was 2016: the sighting was Montana.

Which makes this October even more stupendous. Look at the scrawl at the bottom of the map: Mississippi and Alaska are #45 and #46 for the year. Mississippi is arguably one of the three hardest-to-spot states, and Alaska isn’t far from the top five.

Could those numbers be significant? 45 is the number of the current U.S. president, and also his undisputed ranking if U.S. presidents are listed in order of competence. The guy who, gods and voters and everyone fighting vote suppression willing, will serve 45’s eviction notice this week will be 46.

Even if the numbers are just the numbers, this is pretty amazing.

I’m not 100% sure where I spotted Mississippi. I think it was at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, in the small lot just off Eastville Ave. that hosts a remarkable variety of plates considering its size. I still pass through it from time to time, although I hadn’t seen anything new there in months. Until, well — Mississippi.

I remember exactly where I spotted Alaska: downtown Edgartown. I was driving, which I try to avoid doing in downtown Edgartown because it’s a maze of one-way streets that seem determined to keep you from getting to wherever you’re going. However, I was picking up yard signs from a friend’s house and I didn’t feel like walking several blocks with signs in hand. At last I found the house. Then, after making a left turn out of my friend’s street onto North Water Street, I found myself behind an SUV with a plate I didn’t immediately recognize.

Alaska.

The SUV’s driver seemed unclear about where he was going; I say this because he looked as bewildered as I had about 10 minutes before. My hunch is that he was looking for the Chappy ferry line, but that’s just a guess.

It turned out that the signs I was supposed to pick up were actually at the airport, but did I begrudge the 20 minutes I spent trying to get to my friend’s house? I did not.

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Stillness in the Wind

Dylan’s “When the Ship Comes In” has been running through my mind for the last several days. I know it well enough to sing it as I walk, fudging some of the lyrics and mis-ordering some of the verses, but these opening lines I know cold:

Oh, the time will come up when the wind will stop
and the breeze will cease to be breathin’
Like the stillness in the wind before the hurricane begins
The hour when the ship comes in

The run-up to the 2020 election isn’t still at all. The last four years have been getting crazier and crazier, and the last couple of months have been way over the top. But I’m feeling that hush, that waiting, that faith that the ship is coming in.

Sometimes I sing this verse right after the first, though that’s not where it comes in the song:

And the words that are used for to get the ship confused
will not be understood as they are spoken
for the chains of the sea will have busted in the night
and be buried at the bottom of the ocean

For years a torrent of words and images have been “used for to get the ship confused,” and their effect has been disastrous, but the ship is coming in anyway. Coming in strong, with all hands setting aside their not inconsiderable differences and pulling together.

For what it’s worth, the “When the Ship Comes In” cover I’ve been playing most often is by Cindy Kallet, Ellen Epstein, and Michael Cicone. I like Peter, Paul & Mary’s but for this moment it feels a little too bouncy, and I like Arlo Guthrie’s, but for this moment it feels too pensive. So here’s Kallet, Epstein, and Cicone:

It’s not quite “all over but the shouting,” of course. The candidates — all the Democratic candidates, from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, to all the Senate and House candidates hoping to flip or hold on to their seats, to all the candidates seeking to do likewise in state legislatures and other down-ballot races — aren’t stopping now. Last-minute volunteers are phone banking and text banking, because in the age of Covid-19 there’s very little door-to-door canvassing.

Also thanks to Covid-19, 27 states and Washington, D.C., have expanded access to “absentee” voting, aka mail-in voting. (Five states were already conducting their elections primarily by mail: Colorado, Washington, Hawaii, Oregon, and Utah.) Many millions of voters are getting used to new systems, or voting early when they haven’t done so before.

And of course the current president and the Vote Suppression Party are doing everything they can to limit turnout and discredit the process, ranging from removing drop boxes to filing lawsuits to sandbagging the U.S. Postal Service.

Nevertheless, I do believe that the ship is coming in, and that the words and lawsuits and general chicanery that have been used to throw it off course or delay its arrival aren’t going to work.

In the last couple of months I’ve written postcards for several down-ballot candidates: Diane Mitsch Bush for Congress from Colorado (CO-03); Cal Cunningham for the U.S. Senate from North Carolina; Jon Ossoff for the U.S. Senate from Georgia; Aimy Steele for the North Carolina house of representatives (district 82); Margaret Good for Congress from Florida (FL-16); and Abby Finkenauer, for re-election to Congress from Iowa (IA-01).

One thing I’ve loved about volunteering with Postcards to Voters (PTV) is learning about the amazing Democrats running for down-ballot offices all across the country, and about the districts they’re running in. It’s also brought a bunch of local activists together to write postcards. For those of us who don’t quilt, it’s the next best thing to a quilting bee.

In an effort organized by Indivisible groups, I also wrote a bunch of postcards supporting Democrats Sheila Lyons and Mark Forest for the Barnstable County Commission. We here on the Vineyard are in Dukes County, but Barnstable is Cape Cod so we take an interest in what happens over the water. Also the two Republicans running (one of whom is an incumbent) are, to put it politely, whack jobs.

Postcards to Voters is already gearing up for new campaigns. That’s another thing I’ve learned: there’s always an election going on somewhere, and candidates who could use our help to get out the vote. Mailing deadline for all 2020 campaigns, however, was this past Tuesday; a day later if you live in the same state or one next door to the candidate, which I didn’t. It’s not too late to sign up!!

So at the moment PTV wants to send handwritten postcards thanking everyone who donated to make this outfit grow exponentially since it began very small in early 2017 to support Jon Ossoff’s run for Congress from Georgia. (He came close, and now he’s running for the U.S. Senate.) I’m all in with that!

Since I started with PTV, I’ve been making my own postcards with the help of Avery templates and postcard stock. (You can find a few of my early efforts here.) For the most part, I’ve used a different template for each campaign, but for my “donor appreciation” cards I went back to the very first design I used: for Doug Jones in his successful campaign in the special election for the U.S. Senate from Alabama in December 2018. That was an upset win, and his bid for re-election to a full term in that deep red state is considered at best a toss-up, but hey, when the ship comes in, all things are possible.

Here’s the card. The ship is coming in, and this is a big part of why.

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Walking for RBG

I got my first cell phone less than two years ago. During the 10 years that I spent a lot of time out in the woods on horseback, people were amazed — shocked, even — that not only did I not take a cell phone with me when I went riding, I didn’t even own one. “What if something happens?” they asked.

Well, I survived a childhood on horseback and a young adulthood commuting by bicycle in Washington, D.C., not only without a cell phone but without a helmet, so I was willing to take my chances.

It does come in handy, I have to admit. These days I would have a hard time living without the ability to text. But I usually leave it home when I go out unless I don’t know where I’m going. You will not catch me texting or making phone calls while driving.

I also swore that you would not catch me taking my cell phone when I go for a walk, which I do twice a day: long one in the morning, shorter one in the afternoon, always with Tam Lin, my walking buddy. When I want to take pictures, I take my digital point-and-shoot camera. I don’t need to take my goddamn phone.

Until this morning.

It’s all because my friend Carla introduced me to Run for RBG. A scheme to raise funds for four women-focused organizations: Planned Parenthood, NOW, Girls Who Code, and the Foundation for Women’s Cancer. The RBG part was easy: anything to honor the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg was OK with me. But run? Moi?

Well, it turns out you can walk or bike as well as run, and you can do it cumulatively, not all at once. You can choose among a 5K run/walk, an 87-mile walk/run/jog challenge, or an 87-mile bike challenge. Since I walk every day, I went with the 87-mile run/walk challenge.

To track my miles, I downloaded the Map My Walk app to my phone. It tells you all sorts of stuff, like route, mileage, time, and how many steps you took. I tested it yesterday: I delivered two Biden-Harris signs to Carla’s house in Katama, it was a gorgeous afternoon, and she suggested a walk to Edgartown Great Pond. Well, yeah!

Our route looks sort of like someone reclining on the beach with one leg bent. For some reason my phone logged 2.5 miles and Carla’s logged 2.47.

From where we stood on the shore, we glimpsed a bit of the beach that goes with the property the Obamas closed on last December. If you want to know what the whole thing looks like, see this Vineyard Gazette story. Carla has seen Michelle Obama walking by her house, where several pro-Democrat signs are clearly visible from the road. We hope the former First Family knows they’ve got friends in the neighborhood.

Susanna and Tam on the beachTam Lin came along too, and since this was totally new territory for him, he did plenty of sniffing. This may explain why I clocked 0.03 more miles than Carla did. No idea how many steps add up to 0.03 miles, but as the Run for RBG website says, quoting the lady herself: “Real change happens one step at a time” — and every step counts.

Note, of course, the Ditch Mitch T-shirt.

All of the above is to explain why I took my cell phone with me when Tam and I went for our walk this morning.

Turns out our usual route is not the 3+ miles that I’ve been guessing. According to the Map My Walk app, it’s 2.0 on the nose. I’m also told that this was 4,888 steps and my actual walking time was 44 minutes, 11 seconds. This does not include the time I spent visiting with David Whitmon on the bike path: I hit Pause for that. Tam has already figured out what the late Travvy knew: that flashing headlights up the bike path probably mean David’s coming in the orange Velomobile with treats in the cockpit.

The discrepancy between my average pace (22:07) and my maximum pace (13:52) has to be due partly to Tam’s stopping to sniff and/or pee and our pausing to do a little training (sit, down, front, pivot, side step, etc.) along the way.

Here’s what our usual morning walk looks like. Sometimes we do it clockwise, other times counterclockwise. Once in a while we go to the post office instead. That’s in the other direction. It’s 2.22 miles round-trip. I know that because we did it yesterday morning.

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Why You Should Vote YES on Question 2

Question 2 on the Massachusetts general election ballot is about Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV), so this is primarily for Massachusetts voters. I do believe, however, that RCV is an idea whose time has come. It may be coming to your state or municipality sometime soon, so if you want to know more — read on! I am so unabashedly for it that I helped collect signatures to get it on the ballot.

What RCV Is and How It Works

In most elections you only get to vote for your first choice. (If there are two seats open for, say, school board, you can vote for two candidates.) With RCV you can rank the candidates in order of preference. Think of the times you didn’t vote for your favorite candidate because s/he was a longshot and you didn’t want to “throw your vote away.” With RCV, no votes get thrown away.

When the votes are tallied, if no candidate has a majority of the votes cast, the candidate with the lowest total is eliminated. If that candidate was your first choice, your vote will now be reallocated to your second choice. This process continues until one candidate has a majority.

Here’s a handy video about how it works:

Why RCV Is a Good Idea

The 2020 Democratic primary for the 4th Massachusetts Congressional District (MA-04 for you political wonks) provides a great case for Ranked-Choice Voting. The incumbent, Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III, didn’t run for re-election. As often happens in races with no incumbent, the field of hopefuls was large: in this case, seven. Jake Auchincloss won with 22% of the vote. The second-place finisher had 21%. The rest of the votes were scattered among the other five candidates.

Tam Lin supports RCV.

MA-04 is a reliably blue district. (There are currently no Republicans in the Massachusetts congressional delegation. All nine representatives and both senators are Democrats.) It’s highly likely that Auchincloss will win in the general election.

Something similar happened in MA-03 in 2018. Rep. Niki Tsongas didn’t run for re–election. In a field of 9, Lori Trahan won the Democratic primary with 21.7% of the vote. The runner-up had 21.5%. Not surprisingly, there was a hand recount before the results were certified. Trahan was elected to Congress that November.

With Ranked-Choice Voting, no recount would have been required in MA-03 in 2018. In both examples, the Democratic candidate would have advanced to the general election with the support of a majority of primary voters. Primary turnout tends to be pathetic, but 50% plus 1 is a much clearer mandate than 22% or 21.7%.

Maine was the first state to institute RCV in statewide elections. This year it will be expanded to include the presidential election. Why Maine? Well, in 2010 ultra-conservative Paul LePage was elected governor with 37.6% of the vote in a five-person race. In 2014 he was re-elected with 48.2% of the vote because the Democrat (43.4%) and the Independent (8.4%) split the anti-LePage vote. In 2016 Maine voters passed RCV in a ballot initiative. Under Maine law, LePage couldn’t seek a third successive term in 2018, but it’s reported that he’s planning to run again in 2022.

Other Perks of RCV

  • Candidates with similar or compatible platforms and priorities can encourage their supporters to pick the other as #2.
  • Negative campaigning is discouraged because candidates don’t want to turn off voters who might rank them #2 or #3. This might also limit the effect of the big outside money that often fuels the worst attack ads.
  • Voters are encouraged to support lesser-known candidates without fear of splitting the vote (and winding up with a Governor LePage).
  • The GOP, the political party that’s never met a voter-suppression technique it didn’t like, is dead set against Ranked-Choice Voting. The last thing they want is liberals, progressives, and feminists banding together to send those old white guys packing. RCV might also make it harder for “dark money” to drive wedges between various parts of the Democratic coalition.

Vote Vote Vote Vote!

This info is specific to Massachusetts. No matter what state you’re in, you can go to Vote Save America’s interactive States page and find out everything you need to know about voting in your jurisdiction.

Voter registration deadline: Saturday, October 24.

If you’re voting by mail, you should have your ballot by now. Get it in early! When you fill out the ballot envelope, make sure you give the address at which you’re registered. On Martha’s Vineyard and other rural or semi-rural areas, this is often not where we get our mail. Don’t fill in your PO box number.

Many jurisdictions have drop boxes where you can deposit your vote-by-mail ballot instead of putting it in the mail. If you have this option and can take advantage of it, it’s a good idea, especially the closer we get to Election Day.

Early voting is Saturday, October 17, through Friday, October 30. Check with your local election official (in all Vineyard towns it’s the town clerk; see the chart below) for location and hours.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 3. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (I’ll be working the polls in West Tisbury from 7 a.m. to 12 noon.) Think of it as your last chance to vote in the most important election of our lifetimes.

If you’re on Martha’s Vineyard, here’s almost everything you need to know except who and what to vote for. In Tisbury, there’s no drop box, but you can leave your ballot envelope in the town clerk’s office during open hours.  Also note that the registration deadline is October 24, not the 23rd.

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September License Plate Report

If the new map looks a lot like the old map, it’s because it is. No new sightings in September.

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Black Lives Matter @ 5 Corners

I just read Isabel Wilkerson’s new book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. Like her first book, The Warmth of Other Suns, it’s a mind expander. Did you know that in establishing their diabolical caste system, the Nazis looked for guidance to the laws of the Jim Crow South? I didn’t either.

But it’s not just the book’s information that makes the book so gut-level important to me. It’s the way it focuses what I’ve been learning all my adult life, especially the revelations that started to crescendo around the time Barack Obama became president and have become overwhelming during the Trump administration. Out of those insights came the words I wrote on my sign for this past Saturday’s Black Lives Matter rally at Five Corners:

Growing up in Massachusetts I was sheltered from what began to happen in the rest of the country with LBJ’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. President Johnson famously said — or, rather, is famously said to have said — after the signing of the former that “we [the Democrats] have lost the South for a generation.” Whether he said it or not, subsequent decades proved him right but overoptimistic: it’s been two generations, going on three and still counting.

Much has been made of the 53% of white women who voted for Trump in 2016. It’s actually worse than that. Notes Isabel Wilkerson: “Lyndon Johnson was the last Democrat to win the presidency with a majority of the white electorate.” Even southerner Jimmy Carter only got 48%. Bill Clinton got 39% in 1992 and 44% in 1996. I don’t believe Democrats have done half enough to acknowledge where their power is coming from.

Enough IS Enough.

I only registered as a Democrat in January 2017. Asked my political affiliation, I’m apt to respond with “feminist,” not “Democrat. But a few individuals notwithstanding, the anti-choice GOP was no place for a feminist. Being white, it took me longer to figure out it had become such a refuge for people who equated “American” with “white.” Me, I’m choosing democracy.

 

 

 

Here are a few images from Saturday’s rally. Names dominate so many of our signs because the saying of names is so important. Names have power. Names make it real.

Note that the peace flag is flying from a fishing pole.

Finishing up the banner after the rally has started

 

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Coleus Comeback

It’s been a weird year for everything (understatement of the century), so not surprisingly my garden has been disappointing. The cherry tomato seedlings I bought looked spindly, and they pretty much lived up — or down — to their appearance, but they have produced a modest crop of cherries. Thanks to gardeners far more competent than I, I’ve been able to indulge my penchant for cherry tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with kosher salt, and slow-cooked at about 200°F for a couple hours.

More disappointing was the non-performance of my basil. The seeds for my first planting were old and did not sprout. The second planting did better but didn’t get started till the very end of June so not much came of that either. Only one of the seedlings I bought really thrived, and that one wouldn’t yield enough to make even one batch of pesto, so I lost interest.

My two coleus plants, on the other hand, did wonderfully. I love coleus, the way it catches the light at different times of day out on my deck railing.

Both of them looked pretty much like this.

Then, in the high winds of early September, one of them blew off the deck railing. This has happened before. Plants have survived the two-story drop with a few missing leaves but basically OK.

Not this time. It landed on the wooden steps. The fall smashed the clay pot and severed all major stems from their roots.

Hard not to see it as some kind of omen, right?

Well, I put the broken stems in the compost, planted the root, minus its glorious foliage, in a bigger pot, added soil and water, and kept an eye out.

A very few days later, the truncated stem had sprouted a few leaves.

September 11

A few days after that, it was still growing.

September 15

And it’s still at it.

September 26

Now I’m not going to attach any cosmic meaning to this, tempted though I am with the most important election of my lifetime coming up, but any time a living thing shows this much resilience and ability to come back from the almost dead, I’m going to take heed.

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August License Plate Report

License plate reports seem to be getting later and later. I aim for the first of the following month, and usually make it within a few days, but not with the July report (August 12), and August’s is even later. September 1 was primary election day in Massachusetts, I worked at the polls in my town from 7 a.m. to noon, and the election went swimmingly from my point of view: I volunteered for Senator Ed Markey in his fight for renomination against challenger Rep. Joe Kennedy, and he won handily 55% to 46.5%.

I could blame this late report on that, combined with a demanding copyediting job that I’m running behind on thanks to various political activities, but that’s not it. It’s late because I’ve been feeling sludgy about writing in general since the Covid-19 shutdowns started in mid-March. Now working on breaking up the sludge and writing regularly again . . .

So back to the report: August was quite a good month in the license plate game. Washington state and Michigan finally showed up, along with Kentucky and Iowa. So the YTD tally stands at 44. Still AWOL are Alaska, Utah, Oklahoma, Mississippi, West Virginia, and both Dakotas. Haven’t seen any of them so far in September, but a third of the month still remains.

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