Week five delivered two major jolts right at its conclusion. Late Friday afternoon, my cell beeped with the CNN news alert that Supreme Court Justice and general all-round-bad-ass-model-for-us-all Ruth Bader Ginsberg had died at 87 of the cancer she has heroically dealt with over the last several years. As if watching the west coast go up in flames isn’t bad enough this week, to suddenly lose a symbol of steely intellect and feminist, humanist fortitude in the Supreme Court forty-nine days before the election somehow seems to forebode the encroachment of hell.

The view up the road toward the Blake Family Cabin, RIP

Just what “the Donald” needed to distract our gaze from his paw print on vaccine distribution, his “patriotic” education initiative and his inability to see that when Princeton vows to fight racism, it isn’t a dog whistle to sue them for the timely act of contrition. (see Anemona Hartocollis’ article in the New York Times)

Then, on Friday night at 11:38PM, came the 4.5 earthquake just SSW of El Monte. This on the same fault that triggered the 5.7 Whittier Earthquake back in 1987. I texted my brother and his wife.

Welcome to California!

There’s something lovely about the human response to an earthquake. Our work Emergency Responders Team on WhatsApp checked in and everyone was all right, though our compatriots in Pasadena lost some things off shelves. I heard from several other friends who were checking in on me. I’d fallen asleep in my fancy bed’s zero gravity position, the massage feature had stopped and I abruptly realized that not just the mattress, but the entire bedroom was massaging me, which got my attention.

While reading about the potential exodus from California due to climate change, I’m not sure I’m ready to move from Los Angeles and forego hearing Dr. Lucy Jones lovingly describe the depth and ardor of earthquakes, spurring the inevitable worry over whether each tremble of the earth is a foreshock for a larger quake. I remembered the Northridge Quake, which happened on my birthday in 1994, (only five months after Justice Ginsberg was first seated as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court) when, as the earthquake protocols prescribed at the time, we jumped out of bed, and grabbed our son to go stand in a doorway. That was a significantly larger quake at 6.7; all of our library books flew off the shelves, and later, as I tried to engage the fully alert 4 1/2 year old to help me pick things up, he looked defiantly up at me:

No! Make earthquake do it!

Which proved to be his response to cleaning up his room for the rest of the time he was domiciled with us. I’m happy to report that he does seem to have mastered that aspect of being a dad now. I get abundant joy watching him work with his daughters to get things tidier.

Friday was eventful, even before those other two jolts, I saw a mountain lion at the reservoir, on the road; I fumbled for my camera – didn’t get off a shot. She was more afraid of me than I was of her, about 100 feet away, looking over her shoulder and then skittering off out of sight. Maybe she felt the impending danger under her paws.

With the Air Quality Index at a surprisingly reasonable 73 Saturday, I headed off to meet my brother. As we began the walk, we talked about the initiation rite that is the first earthquake experience in California. Having just arrived a week or so ago, he and his wife are still unpacking. I remembered seeing the huge mirror in their living room and cautioned him not to hang it over the sofa or bed. These are the things hopefully one doesn’t need to learn the hard way, but without the reminder last night, I’m not sure I’d have reminded him to buy water, keep shoes and a flashlight by the bed, and secure heavy things to the wall. As we chatted amiably, while picking up trash, we witnessed this old buck in the street. He teetered a little unsteadily, and after greeting his pals on the other side of the fence, he turned and started up the hill, pausing to scratch his antlers against a convenient tree. Every time I go to walk I think “I should take some carrots.” And then I forget. Speaking of old bucks…

Enough of the nature interlude, though these days, I find myself longing for more nature interludes. Probably sensing the impending danger under my paws.

Our productions, both acting and production experiences are coming along nicely. When I’ve observed our collaborative non-acting projects, the students with the guidance of their leaders, have forged teams bringing back specific deliverables to the group to share. Their ideas are complex and faceted, like the dew drops on the spider webs I spy some mornings, the integrity of their work built upon each others’ creative collective visions. The actors are also engaged in maker projects equally expressive. You can see those events upcoming here.

I know that things will get really busy in the coming weeks as the students bring these projects to fruition. Stay tuned for more news about our Production Events soon!

In the meantime, a fervent but if I can say not terrifically imaginative drummer has taken up on the corner just outside my apartment. He or she has the stamina of about 10 drummers, though, so it may be that that keeps me up tonight. If I’ve learned one thing in my many months of walking around the reservoir, everyone wants to make their mark. Share their identity.

So in closing, here’s a lovely poem by Mary Oliver that has brought me great peace this week with an eye to the journey ahead.

The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

A graceful egret skimmed across the reservoir earlier this week.

May we all have the fortitude and grace of Justice Ginsberg. RIP.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, March 15, 1933-September 18, 2020

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