to put ourselves in perspective

This image from the James Webb telescope, showing galaxies in a dizzying dance, covers an area of the universe the size of grain of sand held at arm’s length.

Shannon Stirone quotes Carl Sagan in her essay, “Gawking at the Universe.” “‘We are made of star stuff.’

Deep field images show a moment frozen in time — galaxies wrap around one another, swinging past and tearing their dusty, star-riddled arms apart in a violent ballet. Stars are born, birthing new solar systems full of planets; galactic glitter sprinkles the screen as if splattered with a cosmic paintbrush. Each speck of light in that image, each swirling swath of color, contains potentially trillions of planets, many of which are like ours.

‘When we look up, we look for ourselves.’ Sagan once said, ‘We are a way for the cosmos to know itself,’ and that could not be more true. We long to understand why we’re here and to find meaning in a world where meaning is so often difficult to divine.”

I love Stirone’s ending: “Yes, we are made of star stuff, and perhaps much more. We are not just humans bound to a blue rocky planet in a galaxy. We are the universe calling ourselves home.”

Eudora and me and writing

In 1965, a junior in college, I took a creative writing class from Eudora Welty and decided I wanted to be a writer (Eudora’s biographer told me the two of them used to giggle over my efforts). In 2022, our local NPR station interviewed me about my third book, the novel In Common. You can listen here …

Burka or Handmaid as outdoor wear?

As we watch our country being dragged backwards by unelected judges, a reminder (next time you decide you’re fed up with the Democrats) of what the Republicans have given us (from Thom Hartmann)

  1. Republicans said if we cut the top tax rate on the morbidly rich from 74 percent to 27 percent, it would “trickle down” to everybody else. Instead, we ended up with the greatest wealth and income inequality in the world, with over $50 trillion transferred from the bottom 90 percent to the top 1 percent.
  2. Republicans said if we deregulated guns it would clean up our crime problem. “An armed society is a polite society” was the bumper sticker during Reagan’s time. Instead, we ended up with school shootings and a daily rate of gun carnage unmatched anywhere in the world.
  3. Republicans said if we ended sex education in our schools and outlawed abortion, we’d return to “the good old days” when every child was wanted and every marriage happy. Instead, we ended up with epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and now a return to deadly back-alley abortions.
  4. Republicans said if we killed off Civics and History classes in our school, we’d “liberate our young people to focus instead on science and math.” Instead, we’ve raised two generations of americans that can’t even name the three branches of government, and still lag in science and math.”
  5. Republicans said if we cut state and federal aid to higher education, students would have “skin in the game,” taking their studies more seriously. Instead, our nation is groaning under a 2 trillion dollar student debt burden, preventing young people form buying homes, starting businesses or beginning families.
  6. Republicans said if we stopped enforcing the anti-monopoly and anti-trust laws, there would be an explosion of innovation and opportunity. Instead, every industry in America became consolidated, competition died, price gouging and profiteering reign, and it’s impossible to start or find small family-owned businesses anymore.
  7. Republicans said if we changed the laws to let corporations pay their senior executives with stock they’d be “more invested” in the company. Instead, corporate stock buyback programs put billions of dollars into the pockets of the main shareholders and executives, while workers and society suffer the loss.
  8. Republicans said if we let a handful of individual companies and billionaires buy most of our media, we’d have the most diverse media landscape in the world. Now a small group owns our major media/internet companies, radio and TV stations, as well as local newspapers across the country.
  9. Republicans said we should hand our healthcare decisions to bureaucratic insurance industry middlemen to “lower costs and increase choice.” Instead, all the medical bankruptcies on the planet are American.
  10. Republicans said if we got rid of our unions, the companies would give us better pay, more benefits, and real job security. They lied.
  11. Republicans said if we went with NAFTA, the trade agreement of GHW Bush, and then the WTO, that we’d see an explosion of jobs. Instead, 60,000 American factories were torn down and their products moved overseas, along with 10 million good-paying jobs.
  12. Republicans still say global warming is a hoax, a lie that the fossil fuel industry spent hundreds of millions to pull off, delaying action by at least three decades while producing trillions in profits. The climate crisis is killing millions and threatens all life on Earth.
  13. And then of course there’s the biggest GOP lie of them all: “Money is the same thing as Free Speech.” Five Republicans on the Supreme Court threw out 1000 anti-corruption and anti-bribery laws so politicians could take unaccountable billions. American political discourse hasn’t been this filled with conflict and violence since the Civil War; the influence of dark money.

Hartmann says, “…the nation has now had the full Republican experience. We know what it is. We’re no longer listening. A new American is being birthed from the ashes of the Reagan Revolution and you can’t stop it much longer.” I hope he’s right. I may be too old to fight, but I plan to march with other women in our local Fourth of July parade–protesting what is still being taken–a right to our bodies, a right to save the planet, and, potentially, the right to free and fair elections.

Thom Hartmann’s Daily Kos excerpts from Crispin Hollinshead’s column in the Fort Bragg Advocate-News, June 30, 2022.

Hatred for one’s heirs …

In the middle of everything else, let’s not forget Ukraine. Russian political scientist and human rights activist Ekaterina Schulmann, speaking at a roundtable discussion on Russian torture, answered a question from the audience; “Why does Putin need this war?”  The following is excerpted from her response–and struck a chord. Is this not what the far right wants? To halt time.

            “He did this to halt time.” 

            “We have noted that violence in society is decreasing; that crime rates are falling; that new generations have a new value system; that video games actually reduce violence, rather than increase it; that, in general, the younger the social stratum, the more pronounced the decline in violent crime and in consumption of hard liquor; that imperial nostalgia is fading into the past.”

            “Now, turn this picture around, and imagine yourself on the other side.  There you sit and watch as the sands of time slip through your fingers.  You will inevitably be succeeded by — let’s use his language — traitors.  Your children are traitors.  They do not share your view of life, they do not share your view of the world, they do not see that which you see with such clarity.  You are the last defender of the fortress.  They will surrender it to the enemy, because they do not even consider him an enemy, and no matter how much you try to convince them, they still won’t consider.”

            “The neighboring country is causing you unease.  It has somehow made progress, which is very disturbing.  And you realize that a little bit longer, and that’s it, your historical time will end.  Your window will shut.  The next ones are coming, and they are unacceptable to you.  From your point of view, they are worse than useless, they will doom everything, they will ruin everything.  This is hatred for one’s heirs; hatred for the living, simply because they shall go on living.”  

            “A reasonable person can accept this, can caress a baby, understanding that while I will turn to dust, you will live on and prosper.  But if you happen to be constituted a little bit differently, and you also happen to hold a great deal of power in your hands, then you can do this trick; onto the heads of all these future generations, you will overturn a heavy concrete slab, which will crush them forever, or least in any foreseeable perspective.  That future that they wanted, they won’t get.  Instead, they will get the future your way, even after you are no longer among the living, because you will do such a thing.”

            “You are inside this fortress that you’re guarding, you will figuratively detonate an atomic bomb.  True, there will be no life left in the fortress, but it will be radioactive and therefore unapproachable, and so it will forever remain unconquered, so to speak.  Anyone who can’t accept the flow of time and come to terms with it, yet possesses power, could do this kind of thing.”

“Hatred and disgust for tomorrow, because it is not what I need.”

            “It’s only a working hypothesis, but that’s how it is.  I do see confirmation from many sources, this sentiment of time flowing away.  The feeling that somehow history is not headed in our direction, this hatred and disgust for tomorrow, because it is not what I need.  What is hard to grasp is that someone would go to such ends in an attempt to drown out these apparently unbearable feelings.”

            Unfortunately, we see the same insane fear and hatred of a changing future in America.  Some yearn for the past; when rich white men controlled everything and women were powerless, quiet, arm candy, simple breeders of the future generation; when people of color were actual minorities, and kept in their place through economics and police systems; when gender roles were rigid and limited by law; when the world was ripe for corporate plundering.

            But that was an unsustainable moment in time, because humanity is in the middle of an evolution of consciousness and the climate crisis is growing.  Those refusing to accept this, stoke rage against the changing reality.  The GQP, claiming Christian patriotic “leadership”, while being neither, is working to destroy democracy and the rule of law to force the future into their distorted perspective.  This is similar to Putin’s work destroying any notion of Ukraine, while risking Russian stability, which is why Fox News is such a Russian mouthpiece.  The question we have to answer is; will we allow this insanity to prevail in America?

by Crispin Hollinshead, published in the Fort Bragg Advocate on May 8, 2022

Men Cause Abortions

courtesy The New Yorker

Excerpts from Kerry Benefield’s interview with Gabrielle Blair, The Press Democrat, Sunday, May 15, 2022.

“I’m a mother of six, and a Mormon,” Blair tweeted four years ago.

“If you want to stop abortion, you need to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And men are 100% responsible for unwanted pregnancies. ALL unwanted pregnancies are caused by the irresponsible ejaculations of men.

A woman’s eggs are fertile one to two days a month, meaning she can get pregnant approximately 24 days out of the year. But a man can cause a pregnancy multiple times a day, 365 days a year.

So to put the onus of birth control on women is patently unfair.

Modern birth control is possibly the greatest invention of the last century and I am very grateful for it. It’s also brutal. The side effects for many women are ridiculously harmful.

… even with horrible side effects, women are still very willing to use birth control. Unfortunately it’s harder to get than it should be. Birth control options for women require a doctor’s appointment and a prescription. It’s not free and often not cheap.

I have tried every form of birth control. I hated all of them. I don’t like how I felt. I didn’t like the side effects. I hate to go to the doctor. I have to refill the prescription and I just hated it all and it’s hard.

All that work for women for one or two days of fertility. Where are the men here?


Why don’t men just use condoms every time they have sex? Seems so simple, right? Oh. I remember. Men don’t love condoms.

And therein lies the power struggle.

In that struggle for control and agency, much less power, women lose.

… because we have this culture where we have all been taught that sex is for men.

Women enjoying sex does not equal unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Men enjoying sex and having irresponsible ejaculations is what causes unwanted pregnancies and abortion.”

What’s to be done?

Get angry and get active.


Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino and The Little River Inn sponsored a reading for Ginny Rorby and me last Sunday, the bookshop’s first public event in two years. We are grateful.

Here’s what I said:

By this time in my life, when I write about my past, I’m writing historical fiction. In Common is a novel about women who came of age in the 1930s, and were willing to give up up not only their talents but their very lives for the love of a man who never thought to acknowledge the sacrifice.

Do we remember how little agency women had in those days?  Many of us have had a talented mother, aunt, or grandmother, who never got the opportunity to use those talents outside the house? 

I came of age later, in the early 1950s. I remember how little agency I had. My college counselor told me the only jobs I could expect with an English degree were as a secretary or teacher.  No one suggested leaving the South. No one said, go to graduate school, or go to New York and look for work in publishing. I didn’t know such possibilities existed. 

How little ability we had to direct the course of our lives.

There is a lot of humor in this new book, but what we did and still do to women, is a not funny.  If we continue at the present rate according National Geographic statistics, white women doing the same work as a man will reach pay equity in 34 years. Black women in 112 years, and Latina women in 199 years. 

Coastal cities are predicted to be underwater by 2100, and we’ll still be trying to get equal pay.

In my family we had female relatives who worked, but this was always explained as an accident, almost an error. Yes, Aunt Boo was a lawyer, but only because she went to law school secretly, against her father’s will. Yes, she argued a case before the Supreme Court, but look how she ended. Divorced, living alone, smoking Chesterfields and drinking Scotch.

Yes, Aunt Leigh made a fortune buying and selling oil leases, but she learned her skills from her male Texas boss, and only because he got too busy to cover all the deals. Once she married my uncle Doug, the fact that she had her own money, and knew how to make more, was supposed to be a secret. She taught him the oil business, but once he learned, she was to keep quiet and stay in the background. Each time she bought me a gift she would say: “Don’t tell your Uncle Doug.” 

In those days, to have a wife who worked embarrassed a man. It meant he wasn’t holding up his end of the deal.

Today, when we are still fighting for decent childcare and eldercare, one reason we don’t have them can be traced to those not-so-long-ago attitudes. If we women had stayed at home where we belonged, we could take care of the children . . . and of granny. 

My story is about two women whose lives were accidentally connected. Both have dreams and make choices, and this is a tale of the consequences. There is power in being seen and I want these women to be seen. I don’t want their talents or their sacrifices forgotten. 

A nice review for In Common

from Michelle Coates at net

This moving and darkly humorous novel follows the intertwined lives of women willing to surrender everything to a man more in love with success than any female. Grab yourself a copy of this book! I absolutely loved this! I read this book within a day, I couldn’t put it down.


In Common, my novel of (excessive) love and (undeserved) sacrifice is out.

Order one from your favorite independent bookstore.


Lillian Creekmore grows up at her family’s popular rural spa. She successfully runs an entire hotel, yet longs for a husband. Then she meets Will Hughes. Velma Vernon accepts life on a small, struggling farm until a boy she barely tolerates proposes marriage. To accept means duplicating her parents’ hard life. Alone, she leaves for the city and triumphs, not as a wife, but by being best at her job. Velma is content until the most beautiful man she has ever seen walks into her office. This moving and darkly humorous novel follows the intertwined lives of women willing to surrender everything to a man more in love with success than any female.

“… the great American novel, only this time it’s from the woman’s point of view, and this time it’s set in the South. The dexterity of plot and insights into character are matched by language that surprises and delights … a significant literary achievement.” –Michael Hettich, The Mica Mine; To Start an Orchard

A new book … like giving birth

When I was pregnant with my first child, I used to have a recurrent nightmare: I give birth, but it’s a miniature baby, six inches long with a head like an apple. In the dream, I keep saying, “It’s not my fault.”

On April 14, I give birth to a new book and what emerges is entirely my doing.

I’m experiencing all the usual anxieties: I’m not a writer; I’m a phony; I have nothing to say–and reminding myself of one of the wisdoms John Dufresne shared: None of us is a good judge of our own writing, neither its wonder nor its awfulness.

Hoping for wonder; hoping for laughter and tears.

There is time (before March 31) to sign up for the chance of a free copy from Goodreads.

And time (before April 14) to pre-order a copy from Black Rose and get a 15% discount. Use the code PREORDER2022.

Wish me luck.

My Holiday Offering

(Thanks to Maggie Silverstein)